Spring 2021 First Year Seminar

FSEM 100-OL (CRN 5082) Concepts of the Human: Freaks, Others, and In Groups)

This course explores various conceptions of what it is to be human-and what it is to be viewed as less than human (thus, a freak). Academics label such outcast status "otherness." Fundamentally, to be 'other' is to be different from the norm. Indeed, in viewing human beings as persons with dignity and worth, we often exclude those we view as different as not deserving of equal treatment. In order to come to an understanding of what we as a society value, however, we must understand otherness. And it is only by deconstructing difference, by understanding what constitutes the 'other' and how it is defined by the in-group, that we can ultimately become a truly multicultural and diverse community. Deconstructing difference promotes awareness of diverse peoples by deconstructing the concept of the 'other' and the role it plays in fostering fear and discrimination. In order best to understand how discrimination works, its historical and literary origins in western culture, its enduring conceptual power, and its pervasive presence in modern America, we intend to pursue a multilevel analysis. This course will begin with an examination of prejudice in Harry Potter's world, then turn to classical Greek origins of identity and the concept of otherness, and finish with a deconstruction of contemporary attitudes toward the various '-isms.' The class aims to embolden students to reconsider the significance of contemporary models of the human, as supplied by various religious, scientific, philosophical, and pop-cultural sources.

Your Professor

Susan Peppers-Bates, PhD, attended Davidson College as an undergraduate and received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000. She has published on figures in early modern philosophy, topics in the philosophy of religion, friendship in Harry Potter, and on existentialist vampires. She has two fabulous daughters, Anne-Marie (8) and Sophia (3). She is fond of science fiction, medieval murder mysteries, gardening, and all things philosophical.

FSEM 100-OL1 (CRN 8257) Social, Spiritual Intelligence

Can u raed this? Do you bilveeptassinaloey in the pweor of iedas to cnagheateitudts, lveisandumtillaety, the wrlod? If so, you may wish to ponder over why so many life-changing ideas are ignored or downright rejected in the world. We agree that humans are rational, intelligent beings, but why do we often act against our intelligence? To what degree do we live our lives in an economically, socially, emotionally and spiritually thoughtless manner? Is it possible that despite our intellectual dominance, we live like goslings imprinting upon the first role model (economically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually) that we come across, blindly following it to the death of our human intelligence? Students registering for this course will read and analyze books in economics, psychology, sociology and religious studies to contemplate these questions and more. However, as you prepare to think outside the box, be wary of jumping into the frying pan.

Your Professor

Ranjini Thaver was born and raised like a gosling in South Africa. She completed her BA degree in Economics and Psychology at the University of Durban-Westville, a BA (Hons.) degree in Economics at the University of Cape Town, and then completed her MA and PhD in Economics at the University of Notre Dame. She has taught at Stetson since 1992 and co-created the AFS program and developed the first university-based microcredit program in the world. This program is located in poverty-stricken Spring Hill in DeLand, and in a small village in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. She has also teamed up with organizations such as the United Way, the FDIC and the IRS to offer business development workshops and personal finance classes to low-income families. She has taught courses in Economics, Africana Studies, Women and Gender Studies and the Honors Program.

FSEM 100-OL2 (CRN 6716) Healthy Religion and Sick Religion

This course will help you think intelligently about religion and its role in today's world. Religion serves both to heal, empower and to promote violence in the name of God. We will examine key topics including religion and self-transformation, religion and violence, and freedom of religion as a human right. The class is organized as a seminar, meaning that during most classes we sit around a table and discuss assigned readings and films. You are actively engaged in discussions, debates, presentations and questioning. You will enhance your ability to make professional oral presentations and to write with clarity and persuasiveness. You also will refine your ability to think critically so that you can discern whether an argument rests on solid evidence or not. Religion has long been a controversial topic in human life. Wars have been fought over religious disagreements. In this class, we examine religion's power to heal and transform lives and to divide, oppress and destroy. Finally, we examine why freedom of religion is considered a universal human right and why that right is often under siege in the contemporary world.

Your Professor

Phillip Lucas, Professor of Religious Studies, enjoys teaching, spirituality, baseball, India, guitars, travel to sacred sites around the world and gardening. He received his MA and PhD from the University of California at Santa Barbara and has published four books and numerous articles in the fields of new and minority religions, religious freedom, comparative spirituality and American religious history. He is regularly interviewed in newspapers and television news and is the founding General Editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. This academic publication is the leading international journal in the field of new and minority religions. At Stetson University, he teaches courses on world religions, American religious history, comparative spirituality and new religions. He received the William Hugh McEniry Award for excellence in teaching from Stetson in 2002 and the Homer and Dolly Hand Award for Excellence in Scholarship in 1995 and 2007. In 2011, he became the university director of the First-Year Seminar program at Stetson. He has lived and/or traveled in India, Nepal, Taiwan, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Central America and Canada.

FSEM 100-HY (CRN 8246) Freedom's Turn: The Axis Age of 500 BC and its Legacy

After the Second World War, one European famously compared the defeat of fascism to a moment in time around 500BC. In the 1940s, many of your great grandfathers and great grandmothers helped establish the liberty that we and many others still enjoy. The same thing happened 2500 years ago – only for the very first time, and it was by no means easy: the golden rule had to be invented from scratch. During this “Axis Age,” the likes of Confucius (in China), Socrates (in Greece), and the Buddha (in India) took on social stratification, rapid technological change, and civil war which they believed were the results of a “pre-moral world” dominated by the supernatural. (Can you imagine a world where individual humans had no say over what was happening to them?) But this courageous pivot towards a more reasonable path to liberty and stability soon met its authoritarian match: the rise of emperors and empires and popular monotheisms perfected by St. Augustine (Christianity) and Muhammad (Islam) by the 600s AD. After reading, speaking with each other, and writing about the biographies of such people, our journey will conclude by highlighting Martin Luther's sixteenth-century challenge to the Pope and his unintentional kindling of today's democracy. We'll end by asking this deceptively simple question: “Can we continue this ‘pause for liberty' which many of your ancestors helped ensure, or are we destined for some other fate?”

Your Professor

Dr. Martin Blackwell is a specialist on Eurasian history, having lived in cities like Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kyiv, and Almaty (Kazakhstan) for almost a decade and speaking fluent Russian. His recent book Kyiv as Regime City: The Return of Soviet Power after the Nazi Occupation (University of Rochester Press, 2016) uncovered the anti-Semitic and conservatively statist reasons behind Joseph Stalin's popularity following the Second World War. While deeply involved in seeking to understand Soviet Communism's unprecedented collapse, Dr. Blackwell is also interested in the cyclical nature of history and has taught many survey courses on the ancient and medieval worlds. In his free time, Dr. Blackwell especially enjoys hanging out with his wife and six-year-old daughter and cooking Indian food.