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Humanities Course Descriptions

Humanities students will choose two core courses from the list below. Course selection is done on the online registration site which opens on May 30 at 9 a.m.

Creative Writing
April Asbury
This course will allow students to experiment with poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.  Students will create and revise their own work, as well as read and discuss a variety of published works.  Together we will try a number of “getting started” exercises designed to surprise and inspire.  We will explore key elements of creative writing, such as crafting strong characters, telling details, and effective dialogue, but we won't stop there.  We will also discuss publication, contests, and other opportunities for creative writers outside of the classroom. 

Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies
Dr. Alan Forrest and Dr. Ann Mary Roberts
Peace Studies is commonly defined as the systematic, interdisciplinary study of the causes of war and the conditions of peace.  This course addresses the origins of war, social oppression and violence and the challenges of promoting peace and justice personally, domestically, and internationally.  It also introduces more equitable, cooperative and nonviolent methods that can be used to transform unjust, violent or oppressive situations. The class provides students with a conceptual overview of the peace and conflict resolution discipline.  The course is designed to familiarize students with the historical background of various peace movements, to analyze principles used to resolve conflict, and to provide a view of how peace and conflict resolution are being pursued today. Students will study the philosophy, sociology, psychology, and spirituality of war and peace. There will be an emphasis on putting student knowledge and awareness into action by building internal peace-making skills and applying these skills and concepts to real-world situations. The question that will serve as a focal point for the course is: to what extent can we achieve peace? The discourse of the class will examine all aspects of peace, such as: peacemakers, historical peace, environment and peace, gender and peace, inner peace, peace activism, peace and music, and more.  Students will be provided the opportunity to co-construct the course in an effort to gain deeper awareness and understanding of peace and conflict resolution.

Communication Theory: Analysis and Practice
Betty Kennan
In this course, students will analyze basic communication concepts such as interpersonal and electronic identity management, gender differences in language and nonverbal communication, relationship initiation-maintenance-termination, and communicating effectively at work, in families, and friendships.  By analyzing communication theories and practicing presentation skills, students will gain a competitive edge to influence others through effective message delivery.  Students will use Radford University’s D2L (Desire to Learn) program, contemporary presentation software, and media (primarily film) to develop individual and team projects designed to demonstrate how various communication theories are applicable to daily life.

Lenses of Literary Perspective
Laura Dicker
In this course, we will examine author’s style and the manner in which style creates meaning.  We will look beyond basic elements of fiction (such as plot, setting, conflict, etc.). Instead, we will explore author’s style, tone, voice, and diction. We will read as writers, as we attempt to incorporate different styles into our own writing. We will also study different schools of literary theory and look at famous works through those lenses. Students will learn how to approach texts from another perspective in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of a work. Likely authors will be F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Toni Morrison, among others.

Security verses Freedom: Where is the Balance
Ronald Kolenbrander
This course will examine the nexus between preserving personal freedom and fighting “a war on terrorism.” The course addresses the meaning of personal freedom in a society which believes it is under threat. It will ask the following types of questions: What is the meaning of personal freedom?  What does personal freedom mean when trying to preserve the state? What is the roll of the media and particularly the new media in this conflict? How has our society dealt with personal freedom in past conflicts? How can the right of privacy be maintained? Does anyone benefit from an on-going “war on terrorism”?  

The course will be conducted largely through small and large group discussion.  Students will examine all aspects of maintaining a free society in light of current events and history during threatening times. What is the proper balance in the area of speech, press, assembly, rights of the accused and the innocent. Public attitudes preserving freedom verses safety will be analyzed by creating and conducting a poll on attitudes toward fighting terrorism. Students will co-construct the class through their questions and responses; build their skills in critical thinking and research, explore solutions and weigh their consequences for maintaining a free society.

The Body and the Machine in Film and Literature
Dr. Erin L. Webster Garrett
This course will be taught from a Women’s Studies perspective and will look specifically at issues related to technology and gender construction. While together we will question how technology shapes and informs identity formation, and we will ask practical questions about why women and girls in science and technology “remain a rare breed.” Through screening films, reading short fiction, and pursuing hands-on activities, such as repurposing a computer into jewelry, we will look at the ways in which technology has been used in story and myth to define, differentiate, and discriminate the nature of human consciousness into male/technology and female/humanities spheres of influence. As a final point but as an overarching area of discovery, we will take a specific look at a digital archive of women’s journals composed as part of Radford University’s laboratory school in the early 20th century.

Students will be asked to develop projects related to the issues raised in class or otherwise relevant to the ways in which the presence or absence of women in technological fields has shaped those disciplines. Our semester will end with conversations about the ways in which the increasing absence of women in the sciences can be redressed, and the ways in which these fields can be both reenergized and reconfigured to better include women as creators and authors.

Materials and Preparation
Students enrolled in this course should have access to a laptop with either Windows Movie Maker or iMovie installed. In addition, students should read Frankenstein prior to attending class. Other reading materials will be distributed electronically during the course.

Possible Readings
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Shirley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl, Poe’s “The Man Who was Used Up,” Cheever’s “The Babysitter,” chapters from Gender Circuits

Possible Films
Blade Runner, Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, The Iron Giant, Star Wars, Caprica, Metropolis, Iron Jawed Angels, Gender Codes, Stepford Wives

Students and parents should be aware that sensitive matters such as violence against women, human sexuality, and gender roles will be components of class discussion and consideration.

The Story of Movies
Ted McKoskey
A guided tour through the aesthetic, economic, social and technological development of this global phenomena we call the Movies. Travelers will be exposed to the greats, not so greats, the ground breakers, the eccentrics, artists, engineers, censors and free thinkers who led us to those seats we take in front of the big screen. Critical viewing, thinking, and expression will be required. Be warned, film embraces all of life and we will embrace all of film.

Exploring the Geospatial Revolution: An Intro to GIS Applications for Renewable Energy, Natural Disaster Response and Government
Dr. Andrew Foy
Location-based technologies and geospatial information are rapidly changing the way we think, behave, and interact because we live in a global high-tech society. Think about the question “Where am I?” In today’s world that question is being replaced by “Where am I in relation to everything else?” This change in thinking is a result of new information from GIS, GPS-enabled devices and constant connection to the internet. This class will cover the history, recent applications, related privacy and legal issues, and the potential future of location-based and geo-enabled technologies. For example, cellphones, Twitter, GIS, and Google Earth were tremendous resources for the cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and in the disaster relief efforts for Haiti. In this class we will use similar topics to guide activities and discussions focused around spatial problem solving. We will use a GIS computer lab for learning the essentials of GIS and have outdoor labs using GPS, a remote sensing balloon, thermal infrared camera, and LIDAR.

Ancient Worlds:  Archaeology of the Maya, the Inkas, and the Aztecs
Dr. Jake Fox
The Pre-Colombian Americas were home to a wide range of fascinating cultures, but few have captured modern imaginations more than the ancient Maya, Inka, and Aztec states. In the past several centuries, many of our understandings of these societies have been shaped by perceptions of the Conquistadors, missionaries, historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and popular media. In too many cases, these perceptions have vacillated between the extreme notions of innocent noble savages on the one hand, or blood-thirsty infanticidal cannibals on the other.
In this class, we’ll explore the state of the art in archaeological and ethnographic information to develop a more nuanced and accurate view of these societies and their living descendants. We’ll pay particular attention to the origins and evolution of lifeways as well as how the living peoples of Latin America continue to maintain strong cultural continuities with these supposedly “vanished” civilizations.

Digital Video: From the Studio to the Web
Dr. Matthew Turner
This course allows students the opportunity to experience the entire creative process of writing, producing, performing, editing, and posting their video on the Web. Students start with instruction in a television studio with several performance exercises. Production teams are formed and individual students are assigned jobs according to their interests and abilities. They work as teams to create a project where they write a script and then work in the studio and the field to record their stories. Students will then edit their videos in the lab and export the final product which they will post on the Web. Students will learn media performance techniques, how to work as a team, and basic video production skills. They will also be introduced to the post-production process and learn basic editing skills and the editing workflow all the way to export and distribution.

The Bible and its marvelous narratives
Russell Gregory
This course, or I’d rather call it an adventure, introduces the marvelous narratives of the Bible and beyond.  To be sure, the Bible is scripture to various groups; however, our focus will be on the literary quality.  Techniques of ancient storytelling (oral and written literature) will be discussed for they are the tools we will be applying to our “archaeological dig” into these narratives.  As we do our study, we will find layers of narratives from other, older cultures which influenced the composition of the Biblical stories.  Indeed, some of the foundational stories (myths) found in the Bible transform accounts from other cultures whose polytheism disgusts the Hebrews.  Therefore, the primary goal of the course is awareness of the rich artistry of composition which results in a marvelous array of meanings, some which challenge present understandings, and, ultimately provides practice in the interpretation of biblical narrative and of other facets of life.