Seminar in Scholarly Inquiry I

Advising Placement Questionnaire, Question 12

Important Note:  The following offerings are current as of March 15, 2017. Changes to these offerings may occur, and will be reflected in choices available online through Puget Sound's seminar selection tool. Residential seminars (seminars whose students live together on the same floor of a residence hall) are denoted as "RS" in the course title.

First-Year Seminars at Puget Sound introduce students into our academic community and engage them in the process of scholarly inquiry. In these discussion-based seminars, students develop the intellectual habits necessary to write and speak effectively and with integrity. Students increase their ability to develop effective arguments by learning to frame questions around a focused topic, to assess and support claims, and to present their work to an academic audience both orally and in writing. As part of understanding scholarly conversations, students learn to identify the most appropriate sources of information and to evaluate those sources critically. Students take a Seminar in Scholarly Inquiry I (SSI-1) in the fall semester, with the Seminar in Scholarly Inquiry II (SSI-2) taken in the spring, pending successful completion of SSI-1.

In the first seminar in this sequence, students engage challenging texts and ideas through guided inquiry led by the faculty member. Students begin to develop the academic abilities of reading, writing, and oral argument necessary to enter into academic conversations. Assignments in this seminar largely involve sources prescribed by the instructor, rather than sources students search for and identify themselves. Each seminar is focused around a scholarly topic, set of questions, or theme. These seminars may be taken only to fulfill core requirements.

SSI-1 101: Dionysus and the Art of Theatre (RS)
(Professor Geoffrey Proehl)
Ancient Greeks had the same name for the god of theater, wine, and chaos: Dionysus. They used this god to try to understand life’s craziness, for the ways in which human joy and suffering are so often intertwined. Why, for example, do human beings so regularly destroy what they most love? In this seminar, students study theater as literature and art: analyzing plays, reading commentary, attending live theater, and performing scenes from the dramas they have read—all in service of developing the intellectual habits necessary to write and speak effectively and with integrity. Affiliate department: Theatre Arts.

SSI-1 103: Alexander the Great
Advising seminar only
(Professor William Barry)
Alexander the Great has been endlessly studied, celebrated, demonized, heroized, and satirized. Some have viewed him as a unifier of mankind, others as a destroyer of civilization. Who was Alexander the Great? What are the realities behind the popular images? Through close reading and evaluation of primary sources and secondary literature, students develop a deep understanding of Alexander and his world and sharpen their skills of critical reading, writing, and research. Affiliate department: Classics.

SSI-1 104: Why Travel? Tales from Far and Wide (RS)
(Professor Priti Joshi)
Because the field of travel writing is so extensive, students hone in on a smaller slice of the topic: the relations between dominant and dominated peoples that originated during the colonial expansion of Europe. The theoretical frameworks students engage in in the early part of the term draw on this encounter and are the shared foundation for the semester. As the semester progresses, students develop independent topics and projects that lie within the orbit of the larger topic. Affiliate department: English.

SSI-1 105: Imagining the American West
(Professor Tiffany MacBain)
Throughout the history of the United States, the physical and human resources of the American West have been imagined in numerous, often contradictory ways—as a place to increase the voting power of pro-slavery and abolition forces in the years leading up to the Civil War, and as a place where freed slaves might own their own land; as a place where middle-class families could own their own productive farms, and as the “Great American Desert”; as a place with unlimited natural resources to be exploited, and as the birthplace of the modern environmental movement. The American West spans a huge area of land and has meant many things to many people—at the same time, though, “the West” is a meaningful concept within American culture. In this course, students begin developing the intellectual habits necessary to write and speak effectively and with integrity, through focusing on interdisciplinary perspectives on the American West as an “imagined” place. Affiliate department: English.

SSI-1 113: Imagining a New World
(Professor Denise Despres)
This course explores how early modern writers grappled with new texts, experiences, and existing paradigms of reality to rethink ontology, including ideas about geography, nature, religion, gender, and race. Students read early historical and literary discovery narratives (Raleigh, Shakespeare, Montaigne), as well as revisionist works by contemporary postcolonial writers. Affiliate program: Humanities.

SSI-1 115: Imaging Blackness
The study of film is a key aspect of visual rhetoric, a growing area of academic interest linking film studies and rhetorical theory. This seminar focuses on the study of popular visual images as public argument. Students examine the political economy (ownership, production, dissemination), engage in a textual/visual analysis (what meanings are embedded), and examine audience reception of black film (how do audiences understand and use these media images). Students explore how these films function as public argument advocating particular views of black identity while contesting counter arguments as part of a larger agenda of promoting blacks and shaping U.S. public life. Affiliate program: African American Studies.

SSI-1 120: Hagia Sophia: From the Emperor’s Church to the Sultan’s Mosque
(Professor Kriszta Kotsis)
The church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was not only a daring architectural achievement at the time of its completion in 537, but also a significant religious and political statement. As the primary church of Constantinople, it was the meeting ground of the emperor, the patriarch, and the populace, and a treasure trove of holy relics sought out by pilgrims who flocked to the Byzantine capital. After the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, Hagia Sophia was refurbished and rededicated as a mosque, and it functioned as such until it became a museum in 1935. This course explores ideas related to this single but fundamental monument of world heritage across multiple cultures and periods and from the perspective of multiple disciplines in order to provide students an opportunity to engage with the process of scholarly inquiry. By completing extensive reading and writing assignments, students amplify their skills in creating effective arguments, synthesizing complex ideas based on multiple sources, and deepen their skills in critiquing primary and secondary sources. Affiliate department: Art and Art History.

SSI-1 122: Ecotopia? Landscape, History, and Identity in the Pacific Northwest
Two sections – one advising and one traditional seminar
(Professor Doug Sackman)
In his novel Ecotopia, Ernest Callenbach envisioned Northern California, Oregon, and Washington separating from the USA to become a breakaway “green” republic. Using this vision of the Northwest as a sustainable society as a touchstone, this course explores the multifaceted relationship between human identity and landscape (or place) in the region over the last century. Probing historical documents, visual representations, and literature, students investigate how different peoples have encountered, experienced, and represented the environment in the Pacific Northwest and how, in turn, the environment has shaped their sense of who they are. Additional topics may include the wilderness idea, globalization, and the way that social divisions such as gender and race have intersected with the process of making and remaking places in the region. Affiliate department: History.

SSI-1 123: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo – Lives of Art and Politics
Advising seminar only
(Professor John Lear)
During the first half of the 20th century, Diego Rivera was known as Mexico’s most famous and influential living artist, and Frida Kahlo was known mostly as his wife. Soon after their deaths in the mid-20th century, Kahlo became known as Mexico’s most famous and influential artist, and Rivera was known mostly as her husband. This first-year seminar examines Mexico’s most famous modern couple and their changing critical fortunes at three levels: biographical; artistic; and political. The questions the course asks and the answers pursued are informed by the disciplines of history, art history and the interdisciplinary endeavor of the humanities. Questions include: Who were these two individuals, and how were their lives as a couple shaped by socially constructed gender roles? What was the nature of their distinct artistic production, and how was the work of each shaped by gender and by the work of the other? How did they participate in the politics and the cultural movements following the 1910 Mexican Revolution, and how did “the revolution” shape their lives, art, and political roles? And finally, why did the life and art of Kahlo overshadow that of her husband after their deaths? Affiliate department: History.

SSI-1 126: Gender, Literacy, and International Development (RS)
Advising seminar only
(Professor Julie Christoph)
Everyone knows the saying, “If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” What if the “man” being taught is a woman? What if the “fishing” being learned is a form of literacy (whether alphabetic literacy, health literacy, or economic literacy)? For many reasons, women are disproportionately represented among the world’s poor and illiterate populations, and gender roles for both men and women contribute to social inequities, as well as possibilities for successful international development. Increasingly, development experts agree that efforts to reduce poverty must take into account cultural norms and gender roles—for both men and women—and that literacy education is key to this process. But what forms of literacy should be learned? Who should make the choice? How do rising literacy rates affect gender roles, religious traditions, health expectations, and resource usage? Students in this course engage in discussions of varied reading materials, including a novel, policy documents, theory about the effects and nature of literacy, and ethnographic studies of men and women engaged in literacy learning around the world. Through focusing on interdisciplinary perspectives on gender, literacy, and international development, students in this course begin developing intellectual habits necessary to write and speak effectively and with integrity in college. Affiliate department: English.

SSI-1 127: Why Beethoven?
(Professor Geoffrey Block)
“Why Beethoven?” was a question the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein asked himself in an imaginary conversation published in his book, The Joy of Music. More than half a century later we are still asking the same question. Why has Beethoven played such a pivotal role in the history of classical music, the world of ideas as a whole, and in popular culture? Why is he “a ubiquitous icon in all corners of American society,” as described by the scholar Michael Broyles? This seminar attempts to offer some answers about this towering figure in Western culture. Through critical examination of representative works and through important biographical studies, film, and a Broadway play, this course will explore issues that include the nature of genius, the compositional process of Beethoven’s music, the connections between creativity and suffering, and the presence of Beethoven in American culture. Affiliate school: School of Music.

SSI-1 128: The Philosophy and Science of Human Nature
Advising seminar only
(Professor Sara Protasi)
Is there a universal human nature, and if so what defines it? For millennia now philosophers have debated this question, proposing a number of starkly different accounts of human nature in the process. More recently scientists have gotten in on the action as well, bringing empirical results to bear on various hypotheses regarding what human beings are like. This course examines the interaction between philosophical and scientific approaches to the study of human nature. Topics include the following: Which features of human minds are innate? What is the relation between the language a person speaks and the way in which that person conceptualizes the world? What does evolution entail about human nature? Is the existence of free will compatible with various scientific findings regarding human beings? What are the moral and political implications of different views of human nature? Do men and women have fundamentally different natures? What is the relation between human nature and religion? The course examines works by Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, Darwin, and Mead, as well as many contemporary philosophers and scientists. Affiliate department: Philosophy.

SSI-1 129: Mao’s China – A Country in Revolution
(Professor Jennifer Neighbors)
In 1949 the People’s Republic of China was established, with Mao Zedong at its helm. For the past 40 years, China has been in almost constant political and cultural turmoil, experiencing the dawn of a republican era, warlord rule, invasion by Japan, and a bloody civil war. The Communists brought an end to the warfare but inaugurated an era of great change to both state and society. This course examines Chinese history under Mao Zedong, focusing on the process and experience of the Chinese Communist Revolution. Topics explored include Mao’s life history, the philosophical underpinnings of the revolution, the ways in which the revolution was experienced by people of different backgrounds, and the social and cultural legacy of Mao’s vision. Affiliate department: History.

SSI-1 131: Athens, Freedom, and the Liberal Arts (RS)
(Professor Brett Rogers)
In this course students explore the first development of the idea of “freedom” in classical Greece, with a particular focus on Athens and its radical democracy in the late fifth century BCE. Freedom requires practice, discipline, and an understanding of “the rules,” so that one may use, manipulate, and break the rules; thus students study the arts of grammar, rhetoric, and logic—the foundational skills of the liberal arts—so that they may speak, reason, and practice freedom more effectively. Students test their newly acquired skills through close reading and analysis of texts from the Greek tragedy, comedy, history, rhetoric, and philosophy. Students put new skills into action through daily discussions, weekly debates, and performances of Greek drama. Students also participate in a four-week role-playing simulation of the Athenian assembly in which students have to decide on the best form of government, putting their notions of freedom into practice. This course thus offers students an authentic foundation in the liberal arts and in doing so prepares them for their lives as free persons. Affiliate department: Classics.

SSI-1 132: Wild Things (RS)
(Professor Darcy Irwin)
The concept of wilderness—and the related category of the wild—has proved a central imaginative paradigm for much of the environmental literature produced in and about the United States and Canada since the time of European settlement. By examining a varied selection of ecologically minded texts, this seminar explores how and why writers have argued for particular understandings of the concepts of wilderness and wild. Drawing on nature writing in several genres, the course further explores the social, political, and cultural issues at stake in these contested definitions. Among the questions the course considers: Is wilderness a useful conceptual category for current ecocritical analysis, or is it fraught with excess ideological baggage? Is wild a more productive concept for a critical practice that might inform effective resistance to current environmental degradation? How do wild and wilderness intersect with the familiar critical issues of race, gender, and colonial legacy? Affiliate department: English.

SSI-1 133: Not Just Fun and Games: Sport and Society in the Americas
Advising section only
(Professor Michael Benveniste)
Many people turn to sport as an escape from the pressures and concerns of everyday life, a space apart from society’s daily grind. This course, however, explores the myriad ways that sport is enmeshed in the social world: the interplay of sports and sporting culture with sociopolitical conflict and ideology. Honing in on the three major sports of the Americas—baseball, soccer, and boxing—students examine the interaction of these sports with shifting historical and social contexts in order to query the role of identity, economy, class, and politics both on and off the field. Drawing on writings and films about sport, as well as sporting events themselves, students learn the rudiments of critical analysis and argumentation as they explore just how permeable are the boundaries between sport and society. Affiliate department: English.

SSI-1 134: Dreams and Desire – The Liminal World
Two sections – one advising and one traditional seminar
(Professor Ann Putnam—advising) (Professor Beverly Conner)
The theme of this course is the exploration of the liminal world—the terrain for which there is evidence but no proof. For example, what do religion, anthropology, philosophy, medicine, psychology, and literature have to say about the seen and the unseen, the threshold between life and death—issues that shoot to the core of human existence and exert the strongest hold on the human spirit? Students explore the validity of claims about belief and unbelief, the world beyond the senses, made by prophets, priests, poets, shamans, scientists, and philosophers. As both writers and speakers, students construct persuasive arguments based on an evaluation of sources that either contradict or defend given assumptions about the role of liminality in culture, history, identity, and the natural world. Students begin with texts that insist upon controversial readings, such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Louis Owen’s Wolfsong, and Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. Affiliate department: English.

SSI-1 141: Architectures of Power (RS)
(Professor Regina Duthely)
Using words as its building blocks instead of bricks or stones, writing has power to evoke or create socially coded (and sometimes socially subversive) meanings for its readers. The title of this seminar, “Architectures of Power,” suggests that there is some kind of mechanism, be it actual or theoretical, that structures power and one’s ability to act effectively. Focusing on the power dynamics that structure writing, cultural interactions, and individual mindsets, this course is composed of a series of units that, building on one another, move students from the basic questions one asks of writing to more complex written assignments that require integration of a number of provided source materials. In analyzing a variety of texts (linguistic, visual, and even aural), students explore, develop, and analyze the kinds of social and communicative powers that writing can construct. Affiliate department: English.

SSI-1 144: Constitutional Controversies (RS)
(Professor James Jasinski)
This course focuses on the U.S. Constitution in order to introduce students to frameworks for analyzing both policy and interpretive arguments on issues such as bicameralism, presidential veto, equal protection, and racial preferences. In the SSI-1 version, students develop their analytical skills using texts provided by the instructor. In the SSI-2 version, students research an ongoing legal controversy and prepare arguments on it. Students also gather materials concerning an amendment debate and analyze them. Students examine and assess arguments from authority, with particular attention to what makes for credible authority in a particular area. Through a series of short writing assignments, students prepare to undertake the major writing assignment emphasizing the various analytical perspectives. Affiliate department: Communication Studies.

SSI-1 161: Social Order and Human Freedom
Advising seminar only
(Professor Richard Anderson-Connolly)
This seminar examines the apparent, and perhaps genuine, contradiction between the concepts of social order and individual freedom. An ordered society implies that people generally do what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it. Our casual observation of society confirms persistent patterns to human behavior. At the same time, however, most of us cling to the notion of our individual freedom and our legal system is indeed premised upon this assumption. The central question then is this: Are we truly free or do we simply follow the patterns our society has constructed for us? The relationship between the individual and society has captured the attention of some of the greatest sociologists, philosophers, historians, and literary figures. With only slight exaggeration one might say it is the central question of Western Civilization, especially since the Enlightenment. This course provides an introduction to this important area of human inquiry. Affiliate department: Sociology and Anthropology.

SSI-1 162: Colonialism and Films
(Professor Derek Buescher)
This course begins with the assumption that cinema plays a constitutive role in discursive formations about race, class, gender, sexuality, nation, empire, and so forth. Working from this assumption the course explores representations of colonialism, and empire across a history of Western feature film. Although, the course focuses on a particular genre of films, the course aims to teach students the basic language of film more broadly through interpretation and close analysis of film as argument and public arguments about film. The course workshops student’s written work that culminates with the production of a video essay presenting a completed argument about a specific film. Affiliate department: Communication Studies.

SSI-1 174: Lethal Othering – Critiquing Genocidal Prejudice
(Professor Margi Nowak)
The anthropological study of prejudice looks critically at the process of “othering”—that is, the fear-based tendency to regard groups who are “different from us” in ways that emphasize (their) threat versus (our) safety. Logically, this perspective can lead to attitudes, policies, and actions that aim to annihilate the difference between “us” (the in-group) and “them” (the dangerous outsiders)—either by forced assimilation or even by genocide. This course examines the ways that prejudice has been a part of such murderous and inhumane activity, beginning with a sustained exploration of the role of anti-Semitic prejudice in pogroms that took place almost immediately after the Holocaust. Following the first section of the course, students will be guided to examine other situations of prejudicial, even murderous, thinking and actions against Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, and Arab and Muslim Americans. Students will choose one of these five groups as the subject of further, more independent scholarly exploration, while concluding the course with a consideration of yet another kind of “othering”: the practice, in some U.S. locales, of local governments enacting legislation to exclude certain types of people from certain neighborhoods. Affiliate department: Sociology and Anthropology.

SSI-1 176: American Autobiography from Franklin to Facebook
The urge to tell one’s life story has a long and illustrious history in American literature. Benjamin Franklin wrote one of the first American autobiographies, a life story and at the same time a blueprint for Franklin’s vision of a new kind of person, an American. Frederick Douglass’ devastating first-person slave narrative worked to establish the humanity of African Americans and attacked the system of chattel slavery. Maxine Hong Kingston’s experimental memoir told of another new kind of American, the urban immigrant. These masters of the genre used their personal stories for varied rhetorical aims. In the process, each helped create a distinctively American literary genre: biography of self-as-nation, slave narrative, and immigrant story. Over the course of this seminar, students read American autobiographies, addressing a set of linked questions: What is autobiography? Why have Americans chosen to write it? How have its rhetorical functions in American life altered over time? What does it mean to be an American, and how are American autobiographies shapers of and shaped by this notion? The varied conclusions students reach will help them achieve a clearer understanding of both the uses of literature and the complexities of American identity. Course texts include autobiographical works by Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Art Spiegelman, as well as social media. Affiliate department: English.

SSI-1 181: Science and Theatre
(Professor James Evans)
This course examines the ways in which new science, or scientific controversy, is presented on stage. How have playwrights grappled with the challenges to worldviews and to social order that science can pose? How successful is theater in presenting the social, intellectual, and moral dilemmas raised by science? Students will read and analyze a number of plays with science themes or with scientists as characters. Near the end of the semester, each student will also participate in writing scenes for an original play with a science focus. Affiliate program: Science, Technology and Society.

SSI-1 187: Controversies of Communication – The American Dream
Every day individuals are bombarded by various messages, advertisements, songs, and even everyday conversations that are trying to persuade them to think or behave in particular ways. Often individuals accept these arguments as facts, truth(s), and reality. In this course, students explore the rhetorical techniques (persuasive communication) of such messages and understand that they can resist, challenge, and question them. In particular, this course explores persuasion and controversial topics related to the American Dream. The mythos of the American Dream permeates daily life in the United States; this course centers on discussion topics that include the ways that the American Dream influences politics, education, and workplaces; understandings of families and relationships; and even individuals’ desires and goals. In addition to reading about developing and structuring arguments, students view relevant media and read popular press and academic articles about the various framings of, and issues relating to, communication and the American Dream. While critically examining these controversies, students encounter two central aspects of the humanistic tradition of rhetorical education: argumentation and effective oral and written expression. Students engage in a variety of activities and exercises to develop fluency in written composition and oral expression. Affiliate department: Communication Studies.

SSI-1 195: Honors – The Scientific and Romantic Revolutions
Honors students only
(Professor George Erving) (Professor Nese Devenot)
This course explores the causes and consequences of two decisive turning points in Western history—the Scientific Revolution of the early 17th century, and the Romantic Movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The course examines these periods of upheaval in their social, political, economic, philosophical, and aesthetic dimensions, and traces their legacies in contemporary Western cultures. Affiliate program: Honors.