Rank your DSEM choices!


Drew Seminar Course Descriptions

All first year students are invited to rank your top five Drew Seminar (DSEM) choices. The following is a list of DSEM courses for the Fall 2022 term.

Personal Identity and Immortality
If I traded bodies with someone else, would I still be the same person? Would I continue to be the same person if my brain were transplanted into another human body or into the body of an android? Would a human being or an android with copies of my thoughts be me? These are vexing philosophical questions that are apt to give rise to widespread disagreement. However, there are at least two facts about which everyone is in agreement: 1) for every person there is some time at which that person is born and 2) there is some later time at which that person dies. This seminar is concerned with the question of what it is for some person who is born at one time to be the same person who dies at some later time. This investigation places us in a position to address the question of what it would be for a person to survive one’s death, or to be immortal. Readings include classical works by John Locke and David Hume, as well as works by contemporary philosophers Bernard Williams, Sydney Shoemaker, and Derek Parfit.

Forty Studies that Changed Psychology
Psychology is the science of mental processes and behaviors. Effective treatments for depression and anxiety, improved child rearing practices, and enhanced educational techniques are just a few examples of how psychological research has directly and profoundly improved our quality of life. This seminar will explore some of the most influential studies in psychology — topics that include the influence of nature versus nurture, conformity, sexuality, and false memories. In the process of discussing the methods and results of the particular studies, we will address the controversies, ethical dilemmas, and long-term implications of the findings on understanding what makes us tick.

An Earth Restored: Intersectional Environmental Approaches
Our very identities shape our relationship with the earth and earth systems. This course explores how who we are as people, both as individuals and participants in human systems, affects how we view, understand and transform our planet. Introducing and studying intersectional approaches challenge industrial, modernist and universalizing ways of living and being in earth systems, offering creative, diverse and pragmatic adaptations that can promote health, wellness and meaning. By centering Black and Native scholarship in our work, this class examines how inclusive framing of our origins invites a (re)envisioning of possible futures, where both human and natural systems thrive.

Study Says: Chocolate Makes you Smarter! Separating Science from Sensationalism in Claims about Food
Carbs are bad for you! Intermittent fasting will help you lose weight! Coffee causes cancer! Protein powder will build muscle fast! Health claims about foods and diets are everywhere and seem to change on a daily basis: eat this, don’t eat that, oh, never mind, that food’s okay after all. How do you know what to believe? In this seminar, you’ll learn how to evaluate claims about food and health, and where to look for information that is reliable and trustworthy. We will spend time exploring the studies that have led to confusing and contradictory claims about such foods as red meat, sugar, alcohol, and coffee. As we are faced with more and more choices about what to eat, we will discuss the basis of a healthy, nutritious diet, while evaluating the relative merits of low-carb, keto, vegetarian, and other diets.

Sugar: Looking at our favorite molecule in food, culture and the media
We all love sugar! Let’s study it from the point of view of it being one of the most influential molecules in history. We will take a look at the structures of different types of sugar (glucose vs fructose), and how people have tried to mimic aspects of its structure to make other sweeteners. Why can some sweeteners be used in cooking while others cannot? Why are the health concerns different for some artificial sweeteners as compared to natural sugar? We will even test out these different sugar substitutes in a class bake-off! We will explore different types of media and learn how to “fact check” with original primary research articles. We will explore all of this with the context of those who are curious about science without necessarily having a strong chemistry background.

New York Voices: Literature of New York
This course explores a broad array of literature written in and about New York City as well as the scenes and circles from which it emerges. From the transnational energies that put the early Dutch colony of New Amsterdam on the map to the poetry scene that inspired punk in the 1970’s, New York communities have provided inspiration for new modes of expression, literary innovation, and cultural belonging. Tracking the histories of several of these communities, we’ll consider geographically specific movements like the Harlem Renaissance and Greenwich Village bohemianism as well as broader topics like cosmopolitanism, class stratification, print culture, and performance.

From Amélie to Emily in Paris: Myth and Reality in the City of Lights
Paris is both the setting and the theme of numerous films and recent Netflix series. This seminar explores the representation of the French capital in these productions both as mythic and real through an analysis of plot construction, themes, and cinematography. In exploring a few “classics” as well as more recent examples (both French and non-French), we will discuss such questions as: How do narratives and cinematography perpetuate Paris as a mythic place? What myths does Paris embody on screen? How do individuals and groups relate to and respond to these myths versus real urban experiences? How do gender, race, and class affect Parisians’, Provincials’, immigrants’ and tourists’ experience of this city? Cinematographic techniques, city maps, urban history, and contemporary issues are employed to contextualize these representations.

International Health Politics
This seminar focuses on international health development and challenges. It understands public health outcomes with an intersectoral approach that incorporates complex relationships between international politics, colonial legacies, globalization, human security, and social justice. In particular, the course examines the global burden of diseases and the contributing factors to health inequalities between and within the Global North and South. It also explores how governmental and non-governmental organizations can cooperate more effectively to address global health issues in the post-COVID world.

From West Africa to America: Food, Music, and Culture of the Plantation
This DREW seminar (DSEM) will explore how the different cultures—African, Indigenous and European—that made the societies of the Americas came together to create something new, whole and vibrant in the New World despite the brutality of slavery. From the US to Cuba, from Brazil to Argentina, we’ll examine the food, music and popular culture that grew out of the unique circumstances of the plantation and reflect upon what this can tell us about contemporary ‘American’ society.

The Sixties: Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, Rock and Roll
The sixties is a period in American history that shaped the way we think about nearly everything; war & peace, race & gender, (in)equality & (in)justice, and culture & politics, to name only a few. In the years following World War II, the U.S. experienced profound change in nearly every facet of life. On the heels of 15 years of depression and global war, the American people now enjoyed relative peace, economic security, a flourishing middle class, and a vastly expanded role in the affairs of the world. This dramatically changed set of circumstances made Americans think in different ways about the persistence of injustice and racism, of freedom and democracy. By the sixties, a younger generation insisted on rapid change, even amid violent opposition to that change. The resulting tensions characterized what is likely the most tumultuous period of American history in the 20th century. This course will explore this period focusing on the Civil Rights/Black Power Movement, the Vietnam War, the Counterculture and Rock music, in an attempt to understand these tensions and conflicts in the nation’s recent past and to come to terms with their implications for the nation today

Oh, the Horror: Scary Movies and Cultural Unease
Horror films were among the early successes of silent film. Throughout the history of the medium the genre has endured, proving time and again the cultural thirst for fright. What does this desire to be scared through on-screen representations say about us? Horror is a genre that constantly straddles the line between provocation and exploitation. Many argue these films provide a cathartic outlet for viewers, while others see representations of violence as exploitative and a ‘piling on’ to a culture already rife with trauma. How do we as viewers and citizens make this distinction? Furthermore, are we better off with or without these films? These questions and others are addressed while focusing on three major themes in horror: the body, race, and gender. Students view required films with emphasis on modern and contemporary American horror and read seminal essays on issues within the genre along with studying newer forms of media such as podcasts devoted to the genre.

History in Graphic Literature: Adventures in the Pictorial Past
This DSEM explores graphic literature, a unique artistic medium that combines images with words. Most people are familiar with graphic literature through comic books and comic strips featuring superheroes, talking animals, and fantasy figures. In this course, however, we will explore a genre of graphic literature that receives less attention: history. Yet, we will not focus on the history of graphic literature, but rather on history in graphic literature. The way that the past is imagined is crucial since it shapes our understanding of the present. Indeed, graphic depictions of history play an important role in contributing to national and cultural identities.

Food for Thought, Thought for Food: Chinese Foodways
There is nothing more basic than food. Food is not only essential to human life, it also constructs human life through its production, distribution, and consumption. Food is also cultural and historical; diferent cultures and different historical periods give food different meanings. Chinese food is famous for its great varieties of delicious fare. There is a highly developed culinary culture inside China and abroad. Indeed, Chinese Food in the US is at the core of Chinese immigrants’ experiences. This seminar is an interdisciplinary study on food in general, and a cross-cultural study on Chinese food culture in particular. While students learn the basics of making Chinese food, and appreciating different styles of Chinese food, they will explore food’s complex and competing relations to cultural identity and gender identity, to matters of convenience, and to the consequences of what we eat in this world of growing population and diminishing resources.

Latinos in Hollywood: Representations, Stereotypes, and Identities
From West Side Story to In the Heights, from I Love Lucy to Jane the Virgin, from the Latin Lover to Jennifer López and Sofía Vergara… This Drew seminar examines U.S. Latinx images and representations in film and television from the silent era to the present day, along with their historical and sociopolitical frameworks. We explore the construction and perpetuation of Latinx stereotypes in mainstream media productions, and also consider how film and television have been used as political tools to subvert some depictions and promote others. In examining the history of U.S. Latinx participation both behind and in front of the camera, the seminar analyzes the interconnections between Latinx representations on the big and small screen and the shifting discourses on class, gender, ethnicity, and multicultural identities in the United States.

More than a Game: Sports Stories and Why They Matter
This is a class about sports. But not sports understood through wins and losses, stats and metrics, or highlights and box scores. Rather, it’s about sports understood through stories. From the resoundingly epic and unforgettable to the deeply personal and intimate, sports make for great human drama. Together as a class, we’ll explore this drama in all its cultural, political, and artistic glory. Bottom line: You’ll enjoy this class if you like sports, but you’ll enjoy it even more if you like books, articles, podcasts, and films about sports.

In Good Taste: Food, Culture, and Sustainability in Italy
The seminar will examine the role that food has played and plays in defining and shaping Italian identity and society. By reading literary texts of different genres and time periods, and by watching movies, students will learn how gastronomy and Italian arts are deeply interwoven, and how the rich Italian culinary tradition has had an impact on many different areas of study such as literature, folklore, history, anthropology and cinema. The course will also explore some areas of Food Studies like food choices, sustainability and environment, the importance and world impact of the Mediterranean Diet and of the Italian Slow Food movement.

Strangers at the Shore: Immigration and the Nation
Immigration has been one of the most vexing problems in American society. This seminar is focused on the complex relationship between immigration and the nation. The United States has traditionally been seen as a nation created by different waves of immigrants over a long period of time. Welcoming immigrants is considered a part of the founding myth of the nation captured in the lines from the poem by Emma Lazarus etched on the pedestal of the iconic Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” At the same time, the presence of immigrants has been a source of deep anxiety and contention reflected in the long history of exclusion and stigmatization of multiple groups of immigrants. Hostility against immigrants have impacted groups including European migrants in the 19th and the early 20th century as well as Asian and Latino migrants from multiple countries. This history of inclusion and exclusion of migrants continues to deeply influence the current debates on immigration. Drawing upon historical insights, the seminar engages with this complex question to understand the polarizing debates on immigration at the current moment. The course will analyze the dynamic impact of immigrant population on politics, culture, and social lives of the nation through readings and films that underline the vibrant tapestry created by immigrants as well as anxieties triggered by religious, racial, and cultural differences represented by these communities.

The Scents of Smell
In this seminar, we’ll examine our sense of smell and the ways in which odor contributes to the richness of our experience and to our quality of life. We’ll examine the psychophysics of olfaction as well as what is known about how the brain supports our ability to detect, discriminate, and identify odors. We’ll consider how the sense of smell contributes to our perception of food flavor, and we’ll examine the development of expertise in the evaluation of particular foodstuffs, such as coffee and wine. In addition, we’ll reflect upon the role of odor in our construction and recollection of memories and upon the links between olfaction and emotion. We’ll learn about some of the causes and features of olfactory deficits in anosmias, infectious diseases such as coronavirus disease (COVID-19), developmental disorders, and dementias, as well as what is known about the pathology that underlies these deficits. We’ll investigate the role that olfaction plays in the restorative effects of nature experience, and we’ll evaluate the potential health benefits of aromatherapy. Finally, we’ll take advantage of proximity to New York City to explore how odor contributes to our experience of urban environments, including buildings, streets, and neighborhoods, and we’ll learn about and contribute to efforts to map urban “scentscapes.”

Acting through the Ages: The Actor and the Truth
What has dictated and defined the actor’s role in theatrical art from ancient to modern times, and what has constituted artistic success? We will study methods by which actors of various eras, in various parts of the globe, have been asked to “hold the mirror up to nature,” and by what standards they have been judged. Using historical documents, manifestos, critical responses, photographs and films (and by trying out various techniques ourselves) we will chart the principal artistic, cultural and philosophical movements that have guided these human chameleons from the masked thespians of the ancient world to the thoroughly unmasked performers of our own moment in theatrical time. Along the way, we will consider dominant issues of race, gender, archetype and stereotype as they have influenced artistic and critical endeavor surrounding the actor’s art.

Madmen in Authority, Defunct Economists, and their Quarrels: An Exploration and Critique of Ideas about Capitalist Development
The seminar explores the conflicting visions and material interests underlying competing economic ideas and policies. It examines how and why different economists offer different definitions and accounts of economic prosperity and poverty, income & wealth equality and inequality, financial stability and instability, and economic efficiency and inefficiency. It draws on both historical and contemporary debates on the role of markets, governments, and organized private interests in the development and functioning of capitalist economies, and the role that economists have played in explaining, justifying, or critiquing capitalist development.

Rank your DSEM Choices!

You can rank your top five choices on the 2022 Summer Advising and Registration Information - Scheduling Planning Guide found in your Student Portal.