Weissman School of Arts and Sciences

Feit Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities
Fall 2013

IDC 4050H / PTRH
Tuesday-Thursday 5:50-7:05
War and the Arc of Human Experience
Glenn Petersen, Anthropology
Glenn Albright, Psychology

In this seminar we aim to examine some of the social, psychological, and cultural forces that predispose young men and woman to join the military and seek out combat and other forms of military service; the nature of war and its effects on those caught up in it (including both warriors, noncombatants and their families); and the impacts war has on the later lives of those who survive it. Much of Glenn Albright’s current work as a psychologist is on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and war trauma and he is deeply involved in developing support services for veterans at Baruch. Glenn Petersen is a Vietnam vet, has recently been writing on war-related issues, and teaches on the anthropology of peace and war. We will draw on materials from our respective fields as well as on literature and the other humanities and social sciences. We are eager to have some of Baruch’s veterans participate in this seminar.

IDC 4050H / CMWH
Monday-Wednesday 11:10-12:25
Humor Matters
Don Waisanen, School of Public Affairs (Communications)
Linda Weiser-Friedman, (Zicklin School of Business)

This course takes a deep and broad exploration of humor as a pervasive feature of human existence. The class covers types of humor and comedy, including wit, wordplay, satire, parody, irony, and more—and theories of why we laugh, why humor is a learnable skill, and how the art and science of humor benefits the body and soul. The course will use New York City as a vibrant laboratory for exploring the comic side of life, including outings to watch stand-up comedy performances and shows like The Book of Mormon. The class will also cover how humor has been applied across many areas of human endeavor, for example, the therapeutic uses of humor in healthcare and social service settings. Additionally, the course will focus on the use of humor in cross-cultural communication, especially in breaking down taboos, and issues related to race, ethnicity, and religion. Course materials will include academic and professional works on humor, clips from a variety of media, and collaborative, practical assignments. In examining what makes people laugh and why, the course attempts to connect participants with many of the things that make us most fully human.

IDC 4050H / ETRH
Tuesday-Thursday 2:30-3:45
Animal Communication/Human Conversation
Ellen Block (English)
Valerie Schawaroch (Natural Science/Biology)

“Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it” as songwriter Cole Porter wrote.  He wasn’t referring to language and communication – but he could have been. Is language unique to humans or do other organisms have their own languages? How do animals communicate without speech? Is intelligence a prerequisite for language?  Can language be acquired at any age? Does written language change the way people think? Explore these questions with an evolutionary biologist and a linguist and determine for yourself what constitutes language.  Topics we plan to examine include: bacterial quorum sensing, bee dances, bird songs, primate communication, feral children, and human language development, oral and written.  We will screen relevant videos including Project NIM, Animal Einsteins and Animal Minds and read a variety of articles drawn from the scientific literature and relevant books, including Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct and Susan Curtiss, Genie: A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern Day “Wild Child”. Students will be expected to participate actively and to produce independent research

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