Shared Passages

The Shared Passages Program is a curricular thread that integrates features of the K-Plan. Required in the first, sophomore, and senior years, Shared Passages courses provide a developmental, pedagogical, and intellectual arc to the liberal arts experience and create a "backbone" to an effective, flexible liberal arts education in which the whole is greater than the sum of its component parts.

First-Year Seminars

First-Year Seminars constitute the gateway to the K-Plan and to college life for entering studentsand serve as the foundation of the Shared Passages Program. Offered in the fall quarter, these Semianrs are designed to orient students to college-level learning practices, with particular emphasis on critical thinking, writing, speaking, information literacty, and intercultural engagement.

First-Year seminars

SEMN131FYS: Rock & Roll to RapWhat do rock and roll and rap "mean"- culturally, musically, and personally? How has popular music reflected and shaped American life? What role does race play? Why was Elvis considered safer than Big Mama Thornton? Is Eminem the "Elvis of hip-hop" (as Bakari Kitwana observes)? What does Marvin Gaye say about "What's goin' on?" What gender issues do Aretha, Madonna, Ani di Franco, and Lady Gaga raise? What's the message of punk-and funk? Is heavy metal dangerous? How have Jay-Z, Kanye, and other rappers found their voices and helped us find ours? We will consider how music comforts, angers, and delights us, and how it expresses our deepest thoughts and feelings. We will watch Pirate Radio, 8 Mile, and other films. We will read Jay-Z's Decoded, Kitwana's Why White Kids Love Hip Hop, Frank Zappa on censorship, excerpts from Tricia Rose's Black Noise and Robert Walzer's Running with the Devil, and more. This course is for people who love music and are fascinated by how it works in contemporary American culture.
SEMN132FYS: Paradigm ShiftsIn 1962 Thomas Kuhn proposed a daring new way to understand science. Kuhn thought of science not as a rational, steady, accumulation of knowledge but rather as "a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions" in which "one conceptual world view is replaced by another." Today The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has sold over one million copies, has been translated into sixteen languages, and is regarded as one of the most influential works of history and philosophy in the twentieth century. It continues to influence scientists, economists, historians, sociologists and philosophers. We will read this exciting treatise and ask if Kuhn's ideas can be helpful in understanding ourselves and the changes in our world view as a "paradigm shifts." We will also try to detect signs of paradigm shift in such areas as American race relations, education and the Internet, and popular music.
SEMN133FYS: Against the CurrentThis course uses works by American playwrights to study issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and social class in American society, with particular attention to dramatic authors who have sometimes struggled "against the current" to make their voices heard in the mainstream values of the dominant culture. We will read works from among Diane Glancy, David Henry Hwang, Moisés Kaufman, Cherrie Moraga, Marsha Norman, Clifford Odets, Luis Valdez, and August Wilson. Along the way we will discuss such trends in the American Theatre as realism and political theatre, including feminist theatre, African-American theatre, Hispanic theatre, Asian-American theatre, Native American theatre, and gay/lesbian theatre.
SEMN134FYS: Telling SecretsIn this seminar we will read and write nonfiction: true stories of real life in all its grit, gruesomeness, and glory. For models, we'll look to some of the preeminent nonfiction writers of our time, all of them putting into words what many might find "unspeakable": Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here, an account of two boys growing up in the Chicago projects; Jennifer Finney Boylan's She's Not There, an autobiographical account of a man's journey into womanhood; Sue William Silverman's Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, an award-winning memoir of child abuse; and Dave Eggers's Zeitoun, the astonishing story of a local hero in the wake of Hurricane Katrina who was imprisoned without cause by the Department of Homeland Security because he was an Arab. Students will also write their own stories and those of others, gaining confidence in their ability to structure a story, to convey emotion clearly, to listen to their own memories and those of others, and to write the truth bravely. This is a seminar for students who are fascinated by human diversity, eager to share ideas, and dedicated to knowing--and writing--the truth.
SEMN135FYS: Cultivating CommunityNovelist and environmentalist Wendell Berry has written, "A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one's accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. . . . Eating with the fullest pleasure-pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance-is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world." And yet, in today's world of fast, processed food, many of us have lost our connection to where our food comes from. Is it possible to rebuild relationships between those who grow food and those who eat it and gain an accurate consciousness of the connection between plate and planet, cuisine and culture? In this seminar, we will learn about the industrial food system and explore the ways that people today are developing alternatives that use food as an instrument of social justice and a way to build strong communities. We'll see how the local food movement is producing what one activist called a "revolution for self-determination" in Detroit and other cities by addressing hunger and food deserts through urban farming. We'll read Michael Pollan's influential exposé The Omnivore's Dilemma as our starting point, but we will study this issue from a variety of perspectives. We will talk with local farmers, community organizers, farmworkers' advocates, entrepreneurs, and anti-hunger activists and get to know the Kalamazoo community by experiencing its harvest. We will also engage in a service-learning project that will work to provide access to healthy, fresh, locally-grown food for everyone in our community. And along the way we will share delicious local food with one another, experiencing the full pleasure of eating!
SEMN136FYS: Crossing BordersOver a decade or so ago, many people had not heard of autism-or, if they did, it was through the academy-award winning film, Rainman, or perhaps fleeting images of withdrawn children rocking alone in a corner. To say that our understanding of this way of knowing has been transformed during recent years is a profound understatement. More public awareness, however, does not guarantee a broad and complex understanding. In this class, we will explore autobiographies, essays, clinical studies, and films about or by those with autism or Asperger's in order to gain an informed understanding of this widely-diagnosed spectrum disorder. We will move outside the borders of the class to see students within AI (autistic-impaired) classrooms and participate in service-learning work in the Kalamazoo community. For this work, groups of students will be matched and spend time with a person on the spectrum and their family. In an effort to understand this way of knowing, we will consider how expectations about communication and social relationships "impair" and/or enhance an ability to live in a "neurodiverse" world. If you have a reason for wishing to take this seminar (i.e., if you have a sibling with autism, worked with or befriended someone on the spectrum, etc.), please contact Bruce Mills at bmills@kzoo.edu as soon as possible. Though it will not guarantee a place in the class, this contact will enable us to consider specific interests or circumstances more closely.
SEMN137FYS: Co-Authoring Your LifeThe autonomous, self-made individual is a powerful American myth. But no person is entirely self-made; all of us are embedded in various families and communities and ideologies, and we also find ourselves marked by cultural conditions such as our race, class, religion, gender and sexual orientation, all of which influence who we are in various ways. The clash between the desire for autonomy and the shaping power of these social conditions makes the process of coming up with an identity extremely difficult and complex. How can we maintain a sense of autonomy while acknowledging influences? How can we be ourselves while learning from others? How do we write our own lives when so many other hands seem to hold, or to want to hold, the pen with us? Through novels, stories, autobiographies, essays and films, this course will explore different situations in which people struggle to form identities under intense "co-authoring" pressures. You will write analytical essays about the texts of others and personal essays about yourself.
SEMN138FYS: Warning: Graphic LitWe'll analyze exemplars of graphic literary fiction, memoir, essay and journalism. Across the myriads of genres and forms, we'll do close readings of the texts' verbal and visual layers to see how they work, each on their own and together. In addition, we'll discuss themes and socio-cultural and other contexts. The cartoon form and comics format of course are widely considered "low" or "popular," so we'll look at criticism that seeks to distinguish "serious" from "low," "elite" from "popular," taking note of writers and artists from outside the field of graphic literature who've mixed seemingly disparate aesthetics. For instance, the cartoon form has influenced serious painters, and prose artists have long mixed high and low forms. In all, we will consider how the cartoon form and the comics format, in a dance with serious intent and interesting writing, can turn into something we don't mind calling graphic literature. Reading list (subject to change): Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud; An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories, Vol. 1, ed. Ivan Brunetti; French Milk, by Lucy Knisley; The Impostor's Daughter, by Laurie Sandell; Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel; Farm 54, by Galit Seliktar and Gilad Seliktar; Palestine, by Joe Sacco; The Complete Maus, by Art Spiegelman; The Complete Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi; and Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale, by Belle Yang.
SEMN139Fys: Our Shakespeares, OurselvesCultures often retell stories from the past as a way of thinking through the present: perhaps because using already existing material makes it easier to explore difficult issues, perhaps because we feel the need to "talk back" to the writers who have so deeply inflected our culture. In this course, we?ll be focusing on how modern cultures have reworked Shakespeare's plays into a 1950's sci-fi film, an MTV inspired movie, Afro-Carribean drama, rock and rap music, and a Julia Stiles movie set in the deep South. In exploring how Shakespeare has been adapted to these radically different contexts, we?ll also be exploring the difficult issues these adaptations focus on--race, gender, sexuality, colonialism and class. What a culture does with Shakespeare?s plays can tell you a lot about that culture; so we'll be asking a number of questions: Why is Shakespeare so popular in the United States today? What does he mean to us? What are we doing with his plays and why? What do our adaptations of his work tell us about our own views about racism or sexism in America, for example?
SEMN140FYS: Religion & EmpireThis course explores the role of religion in the expansion of political regimes such as the British Empire of the 17th through 20th centuries and the contemporary United States. We also examine the shifts that religions undergo as political regimes shift, as we saw the crystallization of Muslim and Hindu identities during the period of partition in India during the 1940s. Finally, we look closely at the ways in which political reformers have utilized religion as a resource to catalyze political resistance to empires, primarily in the work of Mahatma Gandhi. Authors we read include Arundhati Roy, Bapsi Sidwa, and Amitav Ghosh.
SEMN141FYS: One in ThreeThe incidence of cancer is rising in the industrialized world and awareness of the disease has never been greater. What is the cause of the increased risk of cancer? Population changes? Decreased infectious disease? Environmental changes? Lifestyle changes? Can we know? What is cancer? How has knowledge and treatment of the disease changed? How have our understanding and response to cancer changed over time? What is the psychological and financial impact of cancer? How does this differ in various cultures and social classes? How is cancer used as analogy in language, literature, art, and politics? This course will explore the origins of cancer, the impact of cancer in the modern world, and the legacy of the "40 year war" on cancer. Through reading and analysis of short reviews, newspaper articles, books, and book chapters this course will examine different aspects of cancer as a disease, modern affliction, and personal or political cause. Students will also interview a local cancer survivor and prepare a written profile piece.
SEMN142FYS: Paradox of DiversityToday is an age of velocity and change. In the modern world there is rapid mixture between formerly isolated communities of plants, animals, and people. Species, ideas, diseases, cultures, and corporations now flow and mix across the planet as never before. For ecologists this is such a singular force that the term "The Homogecene" has been proposed to define our age in geological time; we live in the age of unprecedented homogenization. This force is the major threat to many ecological communities. In human societies, through many of the same processes, globalizing forces are leading to the rapid extinction of local languages and cultures. This seminar explores the profound cultural, ecological, and political consequences of this age of global migrations. We will also focus on a fundamental paradox: globalizing forces bring diverse cultures, organisms, and individuals into a vibrant mix, yet they also threaten the integrity of fragile local diversity with invasive species, novel diseases, and cultural, economic and linguistic domination. We will use a range of texts and writings about recent events, historical accounts, accessible scientific papers, legal casework defining diversity, films that explore these issues, and students' own experiences in order to develop a deeper and more rigorous understanding of our rapidly changing world.
SEMN143FYS: Design IntelligenceDesign can make a difference. Imagine Apple without the iPod, the iPhone, or the MacBook Air. Could IKEA succeed selling Chippendale knock-offs? How does Facebook differ from MySpace? Is suburban life sterile by design? This course will look at the role of design in the world around us. Our emphasis will be on features, feel and function rather than on the aesthetics of design. We will consider why some designs work well and others work poorly. We will think about how and why things are designed in particular ways. Design choices have economic and business implications. We will analyze the impact of design on retailers, marketing, land use, packages, and websites. Observing and understanding design can help us better understand the world.
SEMN144FYS: It's a Free CountryIn the U.S., freedom is perhaps our oldest and most consistently claimed political value; we have long prided ourselves on being "the land of the free." Yet when it comes to defining exactly what we mean by freedom, to whom and over what areas of life it pertains, and how it is best weighed against other values such as security and equality, there is widespread disagreement. Today, this disagreement can be seen in many of our most heated debates. For instance, does Obamacare diminish our liberty or enhance it? To what extent should the kinds of freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights apply to non-citizens, including terrorism suspects and undocumented immigrants? How willing are we to give up some of our personal freedoms, such as the right to privacy and the right to speak one's mind, in exchange for security? The course will begin with an examination of the idea of freedom during the Revolutionary period, when Patriots and Loyalists alike employed the political thinking of John Locke (and others) to argue for their differing visions of American liberty, a conversation we still hear strong echoes of today. We will then move to the contemporary period, where we will explore competing uses of the idea of freedom in current debates. In the last part of the course we will shift our focus to the often fuzzy line between socialization (or social construction) and coercion: How can we think and act freely-and what is our responsibility to do so-given that we find ourselves situated within complex political, social, economic, and discursive contexts not of our own making?
SEMN145FYS: CreativityThe psychology of creativity is as complex and mysterious as it is intriguing. Creativity is expressed in many forms. Whether choreographing a dance, writing a poem or musical composition, launching a new advertising campaign, inventing a nifty gadget, or making a breakthrough at the frontiers of science, some form of creative thinking is involved. In this seminar, we will examine how creativity is expressed in art, music, dance, film, science, business, and invention. Classic and contemporary theorists' ideas and rich research findings will provide materials for discussions, essays, and a symposium exploring creativity around the world. Students will also apply imagination and creative problem-solving skills to a variety of puzzles and projects. This seminar will challenge your assumptions about the nature of creativity and expand your horizons as we explore the richness and diversity of creative expression. A good choice for anyone who has a real passion for the arts or sciences, and enjoys an intellectual challenge!
SEMN146FYS: Africa and GlobalizationGlobalization is viewed differently by scholars and policy practitioners. Humanists and Social Scientists agree that globalization is the precipitous movement of people, goods, free market and capital flows among countries. Sub-Saharan Africa's experience with globalization started in the 13th century. Since the 1990s, diasporan Africans have largely influenced public policy through tools of globalization. What is the direct impact of this phenomenon on Africa's economic development? What is the effect of globalization on the socio-cultural lives of Africans in the 21st century? This course addresses these questions and seeks to explore the influence of tools of globalization, such as communication equipment, automobile, computer services, transnational corporations (TNCs), among others in African societies. We will use primary and secondary sources, such as newspaper articles, government records, UN reports, journal articles and scholarly monographs to probe the above questions.
SEMN147FYS: Living on the LineThe U.S-Mexico border is one of the most complex and contentious places in the world. It is, in performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña's formulation, the "Fourth World", where notions of the First World and Third World collide, dissolve, and become something new. In this course, we will approach and analyze the border as both a real physical place and a source of identity and culture. Using film, literature, music, and research from the social sciences, we will peer through the border as a window into contemporary social issues of migration, economic and cultural globalization, and transnationalism, as well as the spirit of human creativity, adaptation, and resistance. Note: While no knowledge of Spanish is required, students who have some familiarity with the language or who plan to study it at "K" will find this course especially valuable.
SEMN148FYS: Written on the BodyIn this seminar we will explore the relationship between illness and identity and focus on the transformational power of storytelling, of defining ourselves rather than being defined by our bodies. How do people face their mortality and what happens to one's conception of the self in the processes of survival? We will challenge the notion of a "normal" body and explore the landscapes traversed by what Arthur Frank calls "wounded storytellers" who return from the far lands of cancer and AIDS, illnesses that have been (and continue to be) politicized and used as metaphors. Through film, plays, poems, novels, essays and works of creative nonfiction, we will talk and write about issues of identity, question the culture and politics of the body, challenge the meanings and metaphors imprinted on our bodies, and celebrate those who speak their truth by shaping trauma into narrative.
SEMN149FYS: The Best of IntentionsIt has been said that culture is to people what water is to fish; that is, it's an invisible medium through which we glide without even being aware of it until we take a dip in someone else's pond, or someone hops into ours! In this course, we'll arrive at a working definition of culture, and see how cultural and psychological mindsets can keep us from really seeing people who are not like us. Looking at encounters among Europeans, Africans, Asians, and those from the Middle East, we'll see how even good intentions can cause cultural train wrecks, and how misperceptions can lead humans to treat one another in inhumane ways. Venues for study will include academic texts, essays, literature and film.
SEMN150FYS: Monsters!We will examine the figure of the monster, a wildly popular creature in literature and media. What can it actually mean to be labeled a monster? How does the construction of monstrosity help us in positing counter-claims of normativity, and where do these claims in turn find their origins? While stories and tales of monsters date back to the virtual beginnings of human history, this course will focus on the critical nexus of Enlightenment, technology, and body aesthetics as seen through the rise of Modernity. To that end, we will begin by critically examining the discourse on Enlightenment articulated by Moses Mendelssohn and Immanuel Kant, and later engaged again by Michel Foucault. This course aims to teach a variety of approaches to reading literature and media, so texts will include fiction by Shelley (Frankenstein) and Kafka (The Metamorphosis); poetry by Goethe and music by Schubert (Erlkonig); film by Murnau (Nosferatu) and Riefenstahl (Triumph of the Will); and critical theory by Marie-Helene Huet and the Frankfurt School.
SEMN151FYS: The Empire Writes BackBefore you watch Star Wars one more time, read further. In this seminar, we will talk about a different empire, about a real empire. Reading works by writers from Jamaica, Vietnam, South Africa, and Australia, we will consider the lingering impact of colonial expansion in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. What does it mean to be a writer of formerly colonized country who writes about her vision of the legacy of colonialism? In Salman Rushdie's words, what does it mean for the "empire to write back"? How does the fact of having been colonized continue to shape the identities of large segments of the world's population? What does it mean to be from the world of the former colonizers? We will read the fiction of these postcolonial writers as well as some theories about the lingering impact of colonialism even into the 21st century. And we will also ask ourselves about the possibility of America as an empire and what that means for us as citizens of this nation and for those who feel the impacts of America's international policies.
SEMN152FYS: Roots in the EarthEven in the most developed and densely populated of cities, we are connected to nature. As essayist John Burroughs wrote, "We are rooted to the air through our lungs and to the soil through our stomachs." In this seminar we'll examine our relationship with the natural world. What belief systems have influenced human interactions with nature throughout history and across cultures? Is our current relationship to the non-human world serving us as individuals and as members of a global community or can we envision new ways of relating that might be both more sustainable and more satisfying? Through readings beginning with Bill McKibben's American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, films, discussions, writings, and explorations of our local environment, we'll grapple with these questions and current environmental issues such as climate change, local vs. industrial food production systems, and the value of preserving wilderness in a time of dwindling natural resources.
SEMN153FYS: Liberating ArtsThis Seminar blends intercultural communication with the reflection on the meaning of a liberal arts education and lifelong learning, valuing the community, and education for its own sake. Students explore their own and other cultures through the observation and discussion of intercultural dynamics, group identities and stereotypes, conflicts, gestures, and specific language use. Students share their learning experience at Kalamazoo College through a variety of media, mainly literary, interviews and visual arts. Activities include discussions that explore intercultural influences in Kalamazoo and its vicinity (Grand Rapids, Holland and South Bend). This course is designed to offer extra support for those coming from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
SEMN154FYS: Who Are the Samurai?On a dark, chilly night in the city of Edo, Japan in 1703, 46 men broke into the home of a government official and murdered him. The story of these men, best known as the 47 ronin (and yes, you read the number correctly), has been retold countless times since that night. Outlaws to some and heroes to many, the 47 ronin have often been lauded as exemplars of true samurai. But what exactly is a "true samurai?" When you think of the samurai, what do you imagine? Is the image you have in mind the product of fact or fiction, or perhaps a little of both? Since most people are not familiar with the history of Japan's famous warriors, in this seminar we will draw from a variety of sources to explore how this warrior class-men, women, and children-lived, and how they have been viewed both within and outside Japan. We will combine our historical examinations of the emergence, evolution, demise, and reinvention of the samurai with analyses of representations of "samurai" in literature, film, sports, and business in order to gain a better sense of who the samurai are, how they have been portrayed, and why the samurai-and especially the 47 ronin -have become such an enduring and popular symbol of Japan.
SEMN155FYS: CyberpsychologyIn little more than a decade, new digital-cyber-virtual technologies have changed how nearly everyone on the planet lives - probably the fastest societal and psychological transformation in human history. What are cybertechnologies doing to us? What are we using cybertechnologies to make of ourselves? Do we know which is the correct question? We'll read studies and speculations about the effects of computers, Web 2.0, smart phones, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, World of Warcraft, Silk Road, etc. on our psyches, selves, and relationships, and compare these with theories of the effects of earlier technological and media revolutions. We'll conduct our own research on campus, write "cybermemoirs" about our personal histories with digital devices, and compose utopian and dystopian essays about the future these technologies may bring us.
SEMN156FYS: Almost HumanWe will explore what it means to be human, by first looking at fictional accounts of those that are "almost human," namely--robots. Karel Capek, considered to be the greatest Czech author of the first half of the twentieth century, was the first to use the word "robot," which appears in the title of his play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots). In this play it is difficult to distinguish "human" from "robot." Capek explores a host of philosophical and social issues in this play and his short stories and essays. Fast forward to the 1960's, and we have Philip Dick's novel, Do androids dream of electric sheep? which explores similar issues. This story is the basis for the 1982 movie Blade Runner. Other readings will discuss a variety of relevant philosophical issues, the cognitive differences between humans and other animals, and the role of culture. Our goal is to explore the essence of being human. Is it love, empathy, intelligence, or something else? Or maybe there is no essence!
SEMN157FYS: Business Ethics: An Oxymoron?Is there a place for ethics in business and society? What does "ethics" or ethical behavior mean to you? Do the scandals that we hear about from financial, political, environmental, and other sectors really matter? This course explores ethics in today?s organizational world, and seeks to expand your awareness of its role in business. The subject will be explored (a) as the concept itself, (b) as it is applied by the individual, (c) as it relates to business and business management, and (d) its place in a global business context. We will use a variety of sources to investigate and discuss business ethics (or "organizational ethics"), including a textbook, current articles/events, formal research-based articles, videos, etc. Frequent written assignments will be integrated with student-led discussions. A core outcome will be development of your realizations and own perspective to how ethical behavior does/will impact our lives.
SEMN158First-Year SeminarThis course will look at just a few of the many facets of animal-human interaction. Many societies have long assumed and enforced the singularity of the human being, placing our species in a position of superiority and all others at our disposal. However the uniqueness of humans is an idea that has long existed in tension with phenomena and discourses that complicate and enrich our coexistence with other animal species. The course would begin with a section with which students would already have some familiarity; that is, the allegorical use of human-animal interactions in traditional culture (fables, children's literature, folklore). The course will then look to modernization and industrialization to focus on problems and challenges (habitat "management," factory farming and fisheries, and research test subjects). The last section will consider how animal-human interactions are proposing new disciplinary intersections: the limits of consciousness and cognition in animals and humans; interspecies communication; new moral debates on the treatment of other animals; and new spaces for co-operation.
SEMN159FYS: History RepeatsThis course will explore the recent resurgence of the 19th century in novelistic adaptations and fictionalized biographies of the 21st century. Crucial to this course will be an understanding of major literary texts and authors of the 19th century, which will allow for an investigation as to why the 19th century serves as a vital literary inspiration for the 21st century, specifically how these textual re-imaginings might provide a particular insight into the contemporary national moment. Why does the 19th century continue to persist? What fuels this return to the past? Is this resurgence merely a nostalgic literary trend, or does it reveal a larger significance, both for American literature as a field of study, as well as for an American nation-space we presume to be so markedly different from that of the 19th century. This course begins with "The Emancipation Proclamation," one of the formative historical texts that shaped and defined the U.S., and will be read in tandem with Seth Grahame-Smith's Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. In many ways, these texts introduce the main thematic trajectory for this course: the Civil War and slavery. As such, we will also read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain's satire of antebellum southern society which focuses on Huck's journey to "free" a slave, and Jon Clinch's Finn, told from the perspective of Huck's father, Pap. Likewise, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women finds the March women at home, waiting for their patriarch, Mr. March, to return from his role in aiding the Union's war efforts; while that novel only presents letters about Mr. March's activities, Geraldine Brooks's March presents Mr. March's story, those never relayed in his letters home. In addition to reading these novels, we will also investigate the socio-political underpinnings of race and "freedom" in the 21st century, specifically how the social and political spectrum of both terms function in the contemporary U.S.
SEMN160FYS: Visions of the EndPlague and hellfire; crumbling cities and avenging angels; a heavenly kingdom, golden and eternal-these apocalyptic images are among the most stirring moments in the Bible. They have inspired countless works of art with their devastating portrayal of the world's end. They have also maintained a constant, pervasive influence on theology, philosophy, political theory, and popular culture. In this seminar, we will carefully read the biblical apocalypses and consider how these foundational texts have been interpreted by Jewish and Christian theologians over the years. We will then explore a range of literary works such as Spenser's Faerie Queene and the Poetic Edda which deliberately mimic the style of the biblical apocalypse. And finally we will turn to some contemporary "post-apocalyptic" works such as Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and Cormac McCarthy's The Road in order to reflect on how current events and anxieties have radically transformed our modern visions of the end.
SEMN161FYS: An Awfully Big AdventureThe seminar will examine narratives of childhood and its end in a range of texts, from the films The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, Pan's Labyrinth and Beasts of the Southern Wild to selected Grimm's fairy tales and the novels Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Once Upon a River to the graphic novels Stitches and Fun Home. The course will provide a range of writing opportunities, including the students' own stories and an oral history project. We will look back-at the mythic landscape of the students' own childhoods-and forward-to the transformational potential of their four years at Kalamazoo College.
SEMN162FYS: A Hope in the UnseenHave you ever wondered how something so abstract as mathematics manages to find such concrete application? Or why so many people have such strong feelings about something apparently so far removed from emotion? Did you once love mathematics, and do you now wish for a return to that happy state? Have you wondered what it was about mathematics that drew you to it? Or how it is that new mathematics is discovered? Have you wondered whether gender, culture, or class might have something to do with mathematical facility? Have you felt like an imposter for being thought of as "smart" because math came easily? (Be honest!) Have you seen mathematics used in a way that marginalizes some students and keeps them from opportunities offered to others? If any of these questions has awakened a response in you, consider choosing this seminar. We will consider how gender affects perceptions of truth in mathematical discovery by reading David Auburn's Pulitzer-Prize-winning play Proof. This play examines the doubts that arise when a young woman claims authorship of a sophisticated mathematical result. We will think about the role that intellectual discipline plays in helping an under-prepared college freshman grow into academic excellence, as described in Ron Suskind's A Hope in the Unseen. We will learn about the liberating power of mathematics by reading excerpts from Robert Moses? Radical Equations (2001). The Service-Learning component will include weekly meetings with students from Kalamazoo Public Schools. In order to take this seminar, you must have studied calculus in high school or be concurrently enrolled in a mathematics course at Kalamazoo College. You also must be interested in working with middle school students. If you have a reason for taking this seminar, please contact John Fink at fink@kzoo.edu. Though it will not guarantee a place in the class, this contact will help us to consider your circumstances more closely
SEMN163FYS: Role of Family in SocietyIn this seminar we will explore different types of family structures in the U.S. and worldwide, talking about the role of men, women, and children within such structures and within society. The focus will be on American families, but students will be encouraged and expected to discuss their thoughts on and experiences with the families and societies of their home countries. We will read about the American family and family life from a variety of sources. There will be exposure to many different types of writing, including journaling, summarizing, and short essays. This course is designed for students who come from a bilingual household or community.
SEMN164FYS: Building KalamazooThe city of Kalamazoo serves as the textbook for this seminar, as we survey the built environment of the 20th century via the architecture of this post-industrial Midwest city. Beginning with turn-of-the-century Victorian-era homes and ending with Kalamazoo College's dramatic new building, the Studio Gang-designed Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Building Kalamazoo surveys this dynamic period through site visits, primary readings, and individual research. Throughout, the seminar will seek to understand how site and space have shaped diverse experiences of a rapidly changing modern world.
SEMN165FYS: Stalin & the Art of FearFrom the 1920s until his death in 1953, Joseph Stalin wielded an extraordinary amount of control over the newly-created Soviet state. He interpreted the proper implementation of Socialist economic policy, he silenced his critics with unimaginable savagery, and he took an especially keen interest in dictating the terms by which art should be made - above all, music. To whom does art belong? What was it like to create art in an atmosphere of censorship? Could artists - like composer Dmitri Shostakovich, for example - navigate these treacherous waters without sacrificing their creativity and artistic integrity? We will examine these and related questions through reading memoir, fiction, and historical accounts of the time; watching films; and closely listening to the music that spoke to and reflected this tumultuous time. No prior experience in music is required.
SEMN166FYS: Closet NegotiationsLet's face it: no matter who we are or what our orientation is, our sexuality is a process of negotiation. Aside from the questions of what we're doing (or not) and with whom, defining our sexual identity is one of the most fundamental ways that we engage with other people and the world. In this seminar, we will be focusing specifically on the negotiation that is "coming-out of the closet" by analyzing a number of novels and films that represent the experience of declaring oneself to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer in variety of historical and cultural contexts. By looking at sexuality and its intersections with other identity categories, including gender, race, religion, class, age, and nationality, we will interrogate what "coming out" means and examine the extent to which public visibility makes a GLBTQ person "free." In addition to a reader of critical essays and historical documents, our texts will include: Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Sarah Waters's Tipping the Velvet, Jeanette Winterson's Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby, and Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy. Films will include: Pariah, Beginners, and Outrage.
SEMN167FYS: The Immigration DebatePeople often say they are either for or against greater levels of immigration. But immigration is a broad concept. In simply saying "yay" or "nay" we neglect to address a lot of important, nuanced questions. This course examines some of these questions. What is the difference between a regular immigrant and an asylum seeker or refugee? Do we owe different kinds of treatment to individuals in these categories? What happens when someone is attempting to immigrate but is stopped in international waters? How do concerns of "internal" equality and the preservation of culture impact immigration? Is it permissible for wealthy countries to actively encourage doctors and nurses from poor countries to immigrate-even though this will lead to a shortfall of skilled healthcare workers in poorer countries? What tensions are created by the conflict between social and global justice as applied to immigration? We will investigate these questions and many more through readings in political philosophy, documentaries and short films (all documentaries and short films will be screened outside of class).
SEMN168FYS: Salem PossessedIn 1692, the people of Salem, Massachusetts grew terrified when a small group of girls accused an enslaved woman, an impoverished woman, and a woman of questionable morals of bewitching them. Ultimately, twenty men and women were hung or pressed to death with stones and over a hundred others found themselves imprisoned. Historians have long considered the Salem Witch Trials a pivotal moment in American history. Countless works have offered countless reasons for the strange happenings in Salem, trying to explain why a small community in Colonial America would succumb to witchcraft hysteria long after it had died down in Europe. The Salem Witch Trials have haunted American culture. Starting in the nineteenth century and continuing into the present, writers and artists have grappled with the various meanings of the witch hunts and the persecution of innocent persons, seeing connections between "the furies of fanaticism and paranoia" of 1692 and their own time. Most famously, Arthur Miller in The Crucible used the trials to examine the persecution of alleged Communists in the 1950s. This course will examine and seek to understand the events of 1692 and the subsequent legacies of the trials in American culture through the actual documents from the trials, the writings of historians, and the imaginative works of novelists, playwrights, poets, and film makers.
SEMN169FYS: Civil Disobedience & RelgionIn 1849, Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?" In this class we will look at how these words have impacted various religious leaders in the 20th century. We will be reading selections from Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Oscar Romero, and watching three movies based on their lives. Using primary documents, media and secondary sources, we will examine their social, religious, political and economic worlds, the changes they inspired, their failures, and their local/global impact. A significant task of this class will entail keeping up with current events and tracking how people locally, nationally and globally are resisting capitalism, protesting various inequities and struggling for justice (as you start your career at Kalamazoo College). What can we learn about how social justice works and happens? What are the reasons for resistance against capitalism, the state or an empire? Is it better to work for small changes over time or go for whole-sale revolution? Is peaceful protest and non-violence the best method for achieving justice?
SEMN170FYS: The GeishaThis seminar will look at the figure of the Japanese geisha and the various ways she has been and continues to be imagined. We will ask such questions as why the figure of the geisha has been so fascinating to the West and what that tells us about constructions of gender as well as of the East as "other." We will read Memoirs of a Geisha, watch Madame Butterfly and M Butterfly, and delve into the complicated interpretations of this mesmerizing figure.
SEMN171FYS: Social Bee-ingsHoneybees and humans are supremely social. But what does it mean to be social? Why are some species social while others are solitary? Do social group members work for the common good or to fulfill selfish interests? Perhaps they can do both, but what happens when these goals conflict - how is social order maintained? We will explore the origins and maintenance of social living across the animal kingdom and ask to what extent human societies represent larger scale models of other animal societies -- insects and non-human primates in particular -- and to what extent humans are unique. We will explore the political, economic, biological, cultural, sociological and philosophical elements of social life through a variety of media and genres. In doing so, we will inevitably explore the human condition.
SEMN172FYS: Life with Two LanguagesAlmost half of the world's population uses two or more languages as they go about their daily lives. In this seminar, we will explore what it means to be a bilingual or multilingual person - how this affects our brains, our ways of learning and communicating, and our perspective on the world. We will also investigate how different societies organize life with two or more languages. Finally, we will reflect on attitudes of bilingual and monolingual speakers towards bilingualism. Yookoso! Bienvenido! Bienvenue! Hwan-yung-hahm-ni-da! Chao mung! This course is designed for students from a multilingual household or community or those whose primary residence is outside of the United States.
SEMN173FYS: Migration, Community, & SelfGoing to college and immigrating to a new country have much in common. Moving to a new place presents many challenges. The immigrant (or first-year student) can experience loneliness and displacement, a yearning for home, and bewilderment at his/her new surroundings. Yet, a new environment also offers opportunities for personal growth that force immigrants to reconcile "Old" with "New." Through reading, writing, and discussion, students will seek to relate their own "migration" to Kalamazoo College to the experiences of European Jews moving to the United States. Along the way, the class will explore many of the universal questions raised by relocation. What motivates people to pick up their lives and move to a new place, and what happens to them when they arrive? How does the migration experience shape their view of the world they left behind and their view of their new environment? How do immigrants construct communities for themselves? Do women and men experience migration in similar or different ways? Finally, how does moving to a new place shape one's sense of self? We will explore these questions using historical and cultural sources, fiction, and film.
SEMN174FYS: Heart of Mathematics Have you ever wondered how something so abstract as mathematics manages to be so admirably appropriate to the concrete objects of reality? Or why so many people have such strong feelings about something that seems so feeling-less? Did you once love mathematics and do you now wish for a return to that happy state? Or have you always loved mathematics and do you now want to know what it really is? Have you ever wondered how new mathematics is discovered? Or whether gender, culture, or class might have something to do with it? If any of these questions has awakened a response in you, consider choosing this seminar. We will explore some of the central ideas of mathematics by reading portions of the book, Heart of Mathematics, by Ed Burger and Mike Starbird. We will consider how gender affects perceptions of truth in mathematical discovery by reading David Auburn's Pulitzer-Prize-winning play Proof. We will think about the role that intellectual discipline plays in helping an under-prepared college freshman grow into academic excellence, by reading portions of Ron Suskind's A Hope in the Unseen. The only prerequisites for this course are an open and curious mind and a willingness to put aside any preconceived notions about what mathematics is (or is not.)
SEMN175FYS: Who Gets to Do Science?We all think science is "the truth." But is it really objective? How do women and people of color BRING SOMETHING to science that it needs? How has science treated these populations? In this seminar, we will discuss some of the major scientific contributions of these groups, and will discuss how our changing definitions of science often exclude these populations, and the implications this may have on our futures. For instance, if certain groups of people are excluded, how might this affect medical research, or software development? We will examine what roles that stereotypes, standardized tests (such as IQ tests and SATs), and science education play in dissuading children in these groups from pursuing scientific fields of study.
SEMN176FYS: Managing Across CulturesSuppose you have an opportunity to live and work (study) in a foreign culture, what will you need to know in order to get along and be effective? How will the locals think and act? How will you feel and react? How will you resolve a conflict, or negotiate a favorable outcome? What will you do if you need to give a presentation? What if you had a leadership role, how will you motivate your team? How will you manage team members that are different from you? Will you one day be an effective global citizen and, perhaps, a global manager? This seminar explores your assumptions about the best way to think and behave as we learn about ourselves and about others from different backgrounds. A good choice for anyone who has an interest in living and working abroad.
SEMN177FYS: Changing Our MindsWhat do hysteria, miasma, slavery, and hand-washing have in common? And, what was learned through fields of inquiry like anthropology, biology, psychology, and sociology that caused people to view these phenomena, and others we will encounter, in a new light? Together we will explore what causes humans, individually and collectively, to give up notions about how the world works, "tip" toward new ways of thinking, and then use those new mindsets to shape how they perceive their world. Through that exploration - by reading, watching, discussing, and writing about works including The Ghost Map, "Hysteria," Tipping Point, "Amazing Grace," Better, and "Lincoln" - we will develop a clearer and deeper understanding of ourselves and what causes us to change our minds.
SEMN178FYS: Nutrition Trends & IdeasThis seminar will examine how our food supply has become increasingly industrialized, and in the real sense has become a factory food distribution system, usurping history, tradition, and cultural foodways. Although this has had an effect on health in the very broadest sense of the word, this course by design is neither a health survey nor a nutrition science course. Rather, it is an attempt to learn about eating from history, culture and tradition. We will explore local movements and strategies for escaping the conventional American food system - the resurgence of farmers' markets, the rise of the organic movement, and the renaissance of local agriculture in the country - that has made it possible to step outside this system. This course is designed for international students whose first language is not English.
SEMN179FYS: What's Out There?How did the ancient Greeks and Romans map their world? What did they imagine the earth looked like? What was the center of the world? What were the ends of the earth? What lay beyond them? In this course, we will travel to the limits of the ancient imagination through works such as Homer's Odyssey and Herodotus' Histories. We will discover how ancient Mediterranean societies understood the geography of their world and the people and creatures that inhabited its most distant corners, such as headless Blemmyes and one-footed Skiapods. While Roman emperors sought to control the known world, Roman authors imagined and described what lay beyond. From Silk Road trade routes to Sub-Saharan African ports, and from a descent into hell to a trip to the Moon, this course explores issues of culture, geography, and the unknown in the ancient Mediterranean world. Through such an exploration, we will also consider how ideas of geography and cultural difference have changed over time, and how our own society constructs geographic boundaries and imagines the final frontier.
SEMN180FYS: Reading the CityBy bringing a diverse array of people together into common spaces, cities offer countless opportunities to create different forms of community and provide access to an incredible amount of cultural experiences and resources. At the same time, cities can also be impersonal, intimidating, and difficult to navigate, and their structures frequently exacerbate already devastating inequalities based on race, class, gender and sexuality. These contradictions are inherent to the way city spaces have been designed and organized-where a privileged few live in the luxury and wealth while others must subsist in appalling conditions of poverty. In this course, we will explore how these dynamics have played out in London, Los Angeles, and the two major cities nearest to Kalamazoo: Detroit and Chicago. We will begin by comparing London and Chicago at the turn of the twentieth century, and look at how migration patterns, urban development and public policy shaped what we have come to know as "the modern city." In the second half of the quarter, we will turn to contemporary Los Angeles and Detroit, and interrogate how these structures have been perpetuated and resisted around key flashpoints of crisis. To do so, we will read work by poets and fiction writers alongside sociologists and historians, travel to a number of important sites in Detroit and Chicago themselves, and use critical writing assignments to bring these two experiences together.

Sophomore Seminars

The sophomore seminar is the second component of the Shared Passages and comes at a critical moment of challenge and opportunity in students' journeys through the K Plan. They provide a vital link between students' entry to the K experience and their other landmark K experiences - advanced work in the major, study abroad, and a SIP.

Sophomore seminars

SEMN201/ANSO 266/RELG 266Culture, Religion, and NationalityDesigned as a Sophomore Seminar, this course focuses on the connections and disjunctures between culture, religion, and nationality. By conducting ethnographic research with religious communities in the Kalamazoo area, students will develop a set of intercultural knowledge, attitudes, and skills that can be applied during their study abroad and will leave the course with an understanding of the ways that the processes of culture, religion and nationalism, transnationalism, and immigration play out in their own lives and in the dynamics of faith communities in the U.S. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores only.
SEMN202Who Is 'the other'?This seminar will focus on how we create and label others in our societies. Students will explore the various ways in which this occurs and along what lines: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, socioeconomic circumstances, and others. The reading of the seminar will be novels from across global cultures and our own: South Africa, Australia, India, and others. There will also be theoretical readings on the creation of others, including "whiteness". The work of the course will consist of student discussions of the novels and readings, presentations by students on the background of the various readings, student journals on their readings and own reflections on otherness, and papers of analysis and reflection on the readings.Prerequisite: Sophomores only.
SEMN/CLAS203How the Romans Did It: Globalizing Yourself Through FactYoung men and women who came of age during the heyday of the Roman Empire in the second century CE faced many of the same challenges now confronting Kalamazoo College sophomores as they prepare for study abroad: how can you best harness the transformative potential of international, experiential education to become productive citizens and leaders in a global, multicultural world? What theoretical foundations can help you negotiate issues of self-definition and representation that emerge from encounters with cultural diversity? How will performing rites of passage into adulthood on a world stage, while learning new dialogues of national, ethnic, class, gender and sexual politics, affect your own sense of public and private identity? This course is designed to interrogate the impact of international education on personal identity by fostering reflective connections between the lived reality of 21st-century American students and their academic study of the Classical past.Prerequisite: Sophomores only.
SEMN/ARTX204Drawing Today: Uncommon VisionsDrawing Today introduces current themes in drawing and provides an innovative approach to basic skill development required to produce images in a contemporary context. Students will read and discuss issues related to art and visual culture from around the world. Class time will be divided between discussion of important issues in contemporary art and hands on drawing instruction. Homework will include daily readings and weekly drawing projects that will allow students the opportunity to reflect upon theory and their assumptions of what drawing is and who it is that produces it. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/RELG/ARTX205Religious Art/Material CultureThis course explores the relationship between religion and art. The arts, whether in the form of painting, sculpture, architecture or kitsch, are often vehicles for religious devotion and expression. At the same time, devotion to a divine figure has inspired some of the world's most beautiful pieces of art. Religion and art form a symbiotic relationship which can simultaneously be in tension and/or cohesive. Looking at various primary and secondary sources from a variety of religious traditions, we explore this tension and cohesion, which can be a window into larger societal and cultural issues. Given that we live in a mechanical age, special attention will be paid to the material production of religious kitsch and the place of religious art in the market. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ARTX206Ceramics: World PotteryWorld Pottery is a hands-on studio course with a significant research component. This course is intended as a pre-study abroad seminar. Class time will be used to introduce students to a variety of clay bodies and clay-forming techniques from historical and regional perspectives. Creative assignments ask students to consider and critique the role of cultural exchange and image appropriation within historical ceramics and in their own creative work. Projects will also investigate the roles of different types of pottery within contemporary American society, as a point of reference and departure. Each student will propose, execute and present a research project related to their study abroad site. Lectures, critiques, and discussions will focus on individual and societal assumptions about pottery. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: ARTX 120, ARTX-220, ARTX 125, or permission. Sophomores Only
SEMN207Antibiotics: Global Health & Social JusticeThis course will explore the world of antibiotics. When and how they should be used, and the limitations of their use. The chemical structural variability of antibiotics will be discuss, and the reason for their differences will be addressed. A good portion of this course will focus on discussing the ethics of the global availability of antibiotics, especially in light of emerging and growing microbial resistance. The course will be focused on comparing issues affecting infectious health and treatment in Central/South America, in Asia, and in Africa to those in the USA.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL208Food and TravelIn this writing-intensive class we will study the possibilities of journalism and creative nonfiction through the various forms of food writing and its relationship to place. Through reading and writing, we will explore food as sustenance, as a route through memory, as a reflection of culture and place, as both personal and public, and as history and politics. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: ENGL-105 or ENGL-107 and Sophomores Only.
SEMN209Politics of Rights & ImmigrationAccording to the UN Charter of Fundamental Rights, one has a fundamental right to leave one's country of origin (1948, Article 13), yet there is no corresponding right to enter another country. This sophomore seminar considers the consequence of this tension with attention to normative questions of who should be allowed entry to and citizenship within (other) states. In addition, we explore the empirical complexities that inform and result from these judgments. This seminar privileges states, laws (domestic and international) and actual policy over the last sixty years, with particular attention to North America and Western Europe - key destinations for migrants and thus crucial laboratories to investigate the myths, realities, policies and consequences of immigration. At a time when there are growing pressures for increased immigration in Western Europe (e.g., most recently the Arab Spring), we conclude by noting recent developments within the European Union to harmonize asylum and immigration policies. We ask - what are the ethical challenges and what might the future look like?Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ARTX214Framing DifferenceThis course will combine research and studio components, split more or less evenly. The research topic, broadly painted, will be fine art documentary practices, grounded with an entry-level hands-on studio component (using both film and digital photography). There are two motivations for this course: to give students creative control of photographic tools (technical, formal, conceptual) prior to their leaving for study away, but also to explore the issues and ethics of photographic documentary practice. While the broad research topic is documentary practice (theory/tradition), this course will place particular emphasis on the ethics of photographing outside of one's own group. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/PHIL215Human Rights & International LawPeople often invoke human rights and international law in the course of debate. However, these are highly contested concepts. This course introduces some theoretical clarity with respect to their conceptual grounding, history and contemporary practice. Our primary focus will be on different philosophical theories of human rights, with secondary attention to international human rights law. We start with an orientation on human rights practice and try to move past some of the so-called "challenges" to human rights. This is followed by a look at the main contemporary approaches for conceptualizing human rights: the basic human-interest approach, the capabilities approach and the newer "political" approach (among others). We will spend a few weeks on various debates within the human rights literature as well: Whether there is such a thing as "group rights", whether and how there is a distinction between civil and political human rights on the one hand versus social and economic human rights on the other, when human rights violations might trigger external, international intervention, etc. Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL217World Indigenous Literatures: The People and the LandA selective study of the literary traditions and contemporary texts of indigenous peoples around the world, focusing on indigenous communities in regions where Kalamazoo College students study and with a particular emphasis on texts that explore the complex relationships between indigenous communities and the land they claim as their own. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL218Post-Colonial LiteratureThis course will investigate some of the central issues in the field of post-colonial literature and theory, such as how literature written in the colonial era represented the colonized and impacted those who were depicted and how writers and readers deployed literature as a method of exploring new possibilities of identity. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL219Magical RealismMagical realism is a genre that combines elements of the fantastic with realism often in order to imagine utopias or resist restrictive aspects of society. This course will examine the genre, interrogate its relationship to other genres of fantasy, and consider the relationship between the aesthetic patterns of the genre and its potential for social advocacy. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/CHIN220Chinese Food CultureChinese culture is among the most food-conscious ones. Through China's long history, food has always been a means of communication, a symbol of good life, and at the same time a target of criticism for its indulgence and improper distribution. Additionally, it has been a provision for healthcare, and a rich resource of linguistic expressions and literary allusions and metaphors. These will be the topics of the seminar, which should be a meaningful and effective pathway to the core of Chinese life and philosophy. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL227Opium & the Making of the Modern WorldThis course traces the social and literary history of opium across the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. In addition to exploring the drug as a trope of the "exotic East," this course also understands opium as an important catalyst of imperial development and global domination. Analyzing autobiography, poetry, and fiction, the course focuses on depictions of travel and circulation to understand how opium has activated anxieties about gender, sexuality, and race over the last two centuries and to recognize how the illicit drug trade continues to shape current patterns of diasporic movement and global exchange.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/RELG230Same Sex, Gender, and ReligionThis sophomore seminar explores the intersection of religions, same-sex affection/love/relations, and the category of gender. At the most basic level we examine what different religions have to say about sexuality, in particular, non-heterosexualities. We look at the role that gender plays in these constructions of these sexualities, and we return to our starting point to analyze the role of religions in these constructions of gender and same-sex sexualities, affections, love, and/or relations. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ANSO233Capitalisms and SocialismsThis course will look at different political and economic systems around the world and across times. Ideological debates tend to idealize and simplify the notions of capitalism and socialism, thus ignoring the fact that neither of those systems exists in the vacuum of its "pure" theoretical form. We will explore various elements of capitalist and socialist systems and how these elements mix together in different countries. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN234/HIST 236End of Christendom: Piety, Ritual, and Religious Upheaval in the Sixteenth CenturyThis course examines the complex social, cultural, religious, and political repercussions of religious reform over the course of the long sixteenth century, from the earliest glimmers of discontent among Hussites and Lollards to the violent wars of religion that characterized the seventeenth century. Topics include lay piety and religious ritual, the reform of daily life, confessional antagonism, print culture and propaganda. Primary sources on this topic are plentiful, and we pay particular attention to the exceptionally rich visual sources of this period. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN236/FREN 301SIntroduction to French and Francophone StudiesIntroduction to literary, cultural, and historical topics. An interactive, discussion-based course helps students acquire skill in the reading and interpretation of French and African texts, presented in their cultural and historical contexts. The seminar will focus on cultural and literary texts from the French-speaking study abroad destinations of Alsace, Auvergne, and Sénégal. Course offers opportunities for refinement of written and presentational skills. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: FREN-203 or Placement Test & Sophomores Only
SEMN/PSYC/ANSO238Culture and Psychology of Arab-Muslim SocietiesThis course provides an introduction to Arab-Muslim societies and cultures. It draws on readings from multiple disciplines to cover social structure and family organization in tribal, village, and urban communities, core value systems associated with the etiquettes of honor-and-modesty and with the beliefs and practices of Islam, and influences on psychological development through the life-span. It also will examine the processes of "modernization" and "underdevelopment," the conflict between Westernization and authentic "tradition," the "Islamic revival," and the crisis of identity experienced by youth.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ECON240Economics of Global TravelersThis Sophomore Seminar examines how economics can contribute to a better understanding of the world and our place in it. We will look at differences, similarities, and linkages among the economies of various nations. We will study flow of money, products, people, technologies, and ideas across national borders. The approach will be non-technical with an emphasis on understanding economic ideas. We will spend more time writing and discussing than on models or equations. Does not count towards economics or business major. Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN241/GERM 202Reading European Cities: Istanbul, Vienna, BerlinThis course, taught in English, will address the questions of how we may understand a culture by learning to "read" its cities. Texts range from maps, travel guides, histories and architecture to films, memoirs, and fiction - an array of genres that highlights the status of the modern city as both a physical place and an imaginary construct. Istanbul, Vienna, and Berlin will serve as case studies for the practice of reading and interpreting urban narratives, and the course will culminate with student research projects and presentations on the cities in which they plan to study abroad, or a city of their choice. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/JAPN242Contested HistoryThis course will examine two major sites of contested history: the controversies surrounding the proposed exhibit of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian and those related to Yasukuni Shrine, which enshrines the war dead in Tokyo Japan. Our goal is not to arrive at a definitive judgment on any of these events or sites, whether on political, military, or ethical grounds. Instead, we will interrogate various perspectives, placing them in the context in which they operated and critically analyzing their argumentation. By doing so, we will achieve not only a complex view of the events and sites but of the frames of understanding through which people -- participants and witnesses, scholars, politicians -- arrive at their conclusions. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN244Infectious Diseases & Global HealthThis sophomore seminar will cover infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases, microbes as agents of bioterror and contemporary infectious diseases. Factors contributing to their emergence, from biological, historical and cultural points of view, and will be discussed and applied to daily life and to study abroad. Controversial topics such as the anti-vaccine movement will also be covered. This course adopts an interdisciplinary approach by incorporating guest speakers from other departments, and through partnering with the senior seminar "Topics in Health Studies" for your major project. By the conclusion, you should be armed with the skills needed to analyze infectious disease reporting as it arises in the future.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ANSO255You Are What You Eat: Food and Identity In a Global PerspectiveThe goal of this course is to examine the social, symbolic, and political-economic roles of what and how we eat. While eating is essential to our survival, we rarely pay attention to what we eat and why. We will look at the significance of food and eating with particular attention to how people define themselves differently through their foodways. We will also study food's role in maintaining economic and social relations, cultural conceptions of health, and religion. Finally, the class examines the complex economic and political changes in food systems and the persistence of food's role as an expression of identity, social and ethnic markers. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN256/MUSC 205Music and IdentityMusic serves multiple roles: a force for social transformation, a flag of resistance, a proclamation of cultural identity, a catalyst for expressing emotion, an avenue to experiencing the sacred. Students will look at identity through the lens of contemporary and traditional American music and will consider how race, ethnicity, age, gender, national identity, and other factors express themselves in and are shaped by music. The ability to read music or understand basic music theory is not required; a love of music and an interest in American culture are essential. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ENGL264Global ShakespearesShakespeare is the most translated, adapted, performed, and published Western Author. Just what this means to Western and non-Western cultures is at the heart of this course. What does it mean to think of Shakespeare as a colonizing force? What additional ways are there to see the influence of his works? Many cultures have written back to Shakespeare, addressing race, sexuality, gender, and religion from their own cultural perspectives. What do exchanges between differently empowered cultures produce and reproduce? We'll tackle such questions as we read works by Shakespeare and literary/film adaptations from around the globe. And, closer to home, how do different communities in the United States receive and write back to Shakespeare? How do issues of race and class, especially, affect access to Shakespeare? A service learning project with the Intensive Learning Center of the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home will allow your students there, and our class, to consider those questions. As we work with these students to write their own adaptations of Othello, we'll all consider how writing back to Shakespeare might be a good way to empower students to question the assumptions his plays make. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/THEA265First TheatresThis sophomore seminar will survey the "first theatres" of many different areas of the pre-modern world -- including the Abydos Passion Play of ancient Egypt, Yoruba ritual, ancient Greek & Rome, Japanese Noh Theatre, early Chinese music drama, Sanskrit theatre of India, and European Medieval theatre. Through research, discussion, and critical thinking exercises, students will be encouraged to view performance as an intercultural and continually developing phenomenon in both art and daily life. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/AFST/HIST271Nelson Mandela & the Anti-Apartheid MovementThere are times when specific people, places and moments in history capture the imagination of the world. This occurs when that specificity speaks volumes to the human condition and offers lessons that we all sense are important. Such has been the case with Nelson Mandela and anti-apartheid movement. This course will use Mandela and the evolution of, and struggle against, apartheid as a window into some of the 20th century's most complex issues. Prerequisite: Sophomores Only
SEMN/ANSO278Space, Place, and LandscapeThis course is an introduction to core concepts in cultural geography. Students will develop skills in spatial analysis as a useful, critical way of investigating the dynamics of culture and social structure. The course places particular emphasis on how power dynamics around race, gender, sexuality, class, nationalism, and colonialism are geographically embedded and constituted. This course is a Shared Passages Sophomore Seminar.Prerequisite: Sophomores Only

Senior Capstones

Senior Capstones are the culmination of the Shared Passages Program. They provide a unique opportunity for students to reflect on their K-Plan, craft a narrative of their education, and explore the relevance of the knowledge and skills they've developed for their post-graduation lived.

Senior seminars

SEMN402Complex World ProblemsComplex system theory leads to new ways of thinking about world problems, and new observations about competition and cooperation (or lack thereof) in worldwide efforts to address global and local challenges. Topics of discussion will include: evolutionary perspectives on language; cultural and social norms; biological and social epidemics; risk management; and hnumanoid robots. While the class is not technical, it is based on a scientific approach. The class is appropriate for any seniors interested in our complex world and for juniors, if space is available.
SEMN403Global ViolenceThis course takes up the problem of global conflict and violence, asking participants to frame these phenomena in personal terms: what does the present (and historical) fact of global violence demand of us as individuals? How can a modern life take on meaning in a world that is constantly circumscribed by acts of violence (domestic, political, local and international)? Taking examples from both classic texts on violence (Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem; Akira Kurosawa's film Roshomon) and the most recent commentary (Slavov Zizek's Violence and First as Tragedy, Then as Farce) and filmmaking on the subject (Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine) as our guide, this class will explore the systemic origins of and range of possible responses to violence, ultimately asking students to reflect upon the meaning of violence in their own lives and their strategies for responding to this omnipresent phenomenon.
SEMN405Persuasion: Written, Oral & Non-VerbalThis senior seminar will utilize the knowledge students have obtained in previous coursework and will demonstrate how these areas of their learning come together to answer two questions: 1. What are the factors that affect decision-making including: human brain physiology (biology), culture (anthropology), social values (sociology and philosophy), and personality (psychology). 2. How can ideas be presented in a manner likely to persuade others through the use of logic (philosophy) word choice and sentence structure (English) and presentation (theater).Prerequisite: Senior Standing
SEMN406Male Volience Against Women: Movements & BacklashThis course focuses on male violence against and sexual exploitation of women. Students will examine the historical development of these related issues that feminism identifies as central (prostitution, pornography, sexual harassment, rape and battery). More specifically, we will explore how the story of that oppression and the efforts taken against it have been continuously ignored and/or undermined. Students will, for example, consider the ways in which the feminist fight against "male violence" is currently referred to as "domestic" or "gender" violence. Those working to end rape are portrayed as anti-sex while those who have survived it are said to have merely had a sexual experience they later regretted. Additionally, feminists fighting against pornography are depicted as "pro-censorship," prostitution is defended as an "occupational alternative," and rape-genocide now offers an artistic backdrop for the telling of a 'love story' between a soldier and his captive. Such topics are up for lively discussion in this senior capstone.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN407The Quest for Happiness: Living the Good and Gracious LifeThis course will draw on Psychological principles to explore how people can make their lives more fulfilling and meaningful. The course will focus on discussion and development of important life skills, including gratitude, resilience, and optimism, that are important for emotional well-being. Course assignments and discussions will emphasize reflection about one's own experiences at K as well as one's own goals for life post-graduation. Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN/POLS410From Social Movements to Non-ProfitsWe will compare and contrast the politics of "social movements" across different countries and in the context of "globalization". We open with an overview concerning the decline of traditional mass based political institutions (e.g., parties and unions) and consider the rise of alternative forms of political expression - including movements and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). After focusing on contemporary debates about movements (e.g., the efficacy of social movements for positive social change) we will reflect on the often-vibrant debates that occur within them (e.g., priorities, identities, alliances, strategies, funding and institutionalization). Prerequisite: Senior Standing
SEMN415Creating Sustainable Cities in the Post-Industrial EraThis course focuses on understanding America's present land use policies and practices and exploring new ways cities and suburbs can become thriving communities today and in the future. The course will also investigate options available to students as citizens and/or professionals in order to affect change through urban revitalization, attention to social and economic development, energy resources, and local food.
SEMN492/IAST 490National IdentityThis course, an interdisciplinary senior seminar on the subject of national identity, asks students to consider what it means to be a citizen of a nation. Our course will begin with a discussion of basic concepts such as nation, national identity, and nationalism, as well as an introduction to important theoretical frameworks and recent scholarship. This will be followed by case studies in which we will examine the nature, sources, and consequences of national identity on individual nations. In each instance, we will analyze the characteristics of national identity as it relates to other forms of collective identity (i.e., religious, ethnic, territorial, etc.). We will also discuss the relationship between national and individual identity, and the role that national identity plays in modern politics and society. The overarching question we will be exploring is: What does the existence of national identity say about us? And how can an understanding of the meaning of national identity help us to better communicate with the governments and peoples of other nations in an age of globalization? This course is a Shared Passages Senior Capstone.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN/ENGL495Bulding the Archive: Baldwin & His LegacyIn February of 1960, James Baldwin delivered an address, "In Search of a Majority," at Stetson Chapel which he later included in his collection of essays, Nobody Knows my Name. This seminar will approach this visit (and Baldwin) as a site of analysis. As an actual event, the occasion left artifacts (correspondence, publicity, newspaper accounts, published essay). The event also can be read within the legacy of other Civil Rights era visitors to the college, including Charles V. Hamilton (co-author of Black Power: The Politics of Liberation) and others. Moreover, as a writer who addressed national and international identity, racial politics (personal and cultural), and sexuality, Baldwin's various writings remain relevant even as they locate themselves within particular historical moments. Through close attention to Baldwin and his milieu, this course will invite students to engage their own experiences and disciplinary knowledge within what has been termed the "archival turn" in recent scholarship.
SEMN/ARTX496S.P.A.C.E.A senior-level service-learning course that explores the relationship between art and activism, social justice, community and/or civic engagement. Students from both art AND non-art disciplines/majors will work together in small groups similar to mini "think tanks" to develop ideas for interdisciplinary artworks and/or events that could be created with community partners. Project design is primarily theoretical--groups will draft (as their final product) a formal proposal and/or project grant based on their project concept. Among the questions students will investigate during the term are: How can art facilitate our experiences in public and private spaces? Who has access to a space? How do we share space and interact within it? Class and project workspace is housed off-campus in the Park Trades Center. Professional skills such as responsible partnering, grant seeking/writing, and project design will also be covered. This course is a Shared Passages Senior Capstone.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Special Topic Senior CapstoneSenior Shared Passages Capstone special topics course. Topics will vary from course to course. SEMN-499 courses may be added to the curriculum throughout the year.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Sustainable and Community Supported AgricultureThis course will offer students the opportunity to apply previous knowledge and experiences with food systems, agriculture, community building, education, economics, business, and/or food justice to an increasingly popular alternative to the mainstream food economy. Students will explore the history, present incarnations, and future possibilities of community supported agriculture (CSA) while working and learning at a local CSA farm and engaging in a student-generated collaborative project which enhances the sustainability of the Kalamazoo College community's relationship to food and agriculture. Students must attend an informational session or have instructor approval prior to enrolling in this course."Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Energy and Environmental Policy- World WideNational patterns of energy use and approaches to environmental policy vary over a wide range around the World. A grand experiment, with unfortunate consequences, is being conducted before us, as some large nations pollute with reckless abandon, and largely ignore environmental issues, while others, mostly in Europe, have made significant changes in behavior, seemingly to everyone's benefit. Who should pay for all this? Should the United Nations intervene on the big polluters? What policy should the U.S. follow? An intelligent discussion of these issues needs input from the fields of Science, Political Science, and Economics, and is also informed by international experiences. The course is designed to bring together viewpoints from several different majors, and personal perspectives gained through international experiences are also valuable. Possible careers involving environmental science, engineering and politics/policy will be discussed. Personal environmental impact and various choices/options will also be discussed.Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499The Quest for Happiness: Living a Good and Gracious LifeThis course will explore the field of Positive Psychology, or how people can make their lives more fulfilling and meaningful. Topics may include the role of health, religion, romantic love, money, and social activism in emotional well-being. Course is student directed, such that much of the content will be determined by student interest. Course assignments and discussions will emphasize reflection about one's own experiences at K as well as one's own goals for life post-graduation. Prerequisite: Seniors Only
SEMN499Students As Colleagues: Creating Curriculum for Civic EngagementIn this Shared Passages Senior Capstone, seniors who are current or former Civic Engagement Scholars will draw on their K Plan, especially service-learning leadership and SIPS, along with their coursework, to collaboratively design a Sophomore Seminar for the next generation of CESs, which will be offered next year.Prerequisite: Seniors Only and Instructor Permission
SEMN499Cultivating KommunityThis is a student-generated Shared Passages Senior Capstone. The topic and substance of the course has been selected by a group of interested students after significant planning and deliberation. Prerequisite: Seniors Only and Instructor Permission