The Human Body and Identity: Race, Gender and Genetics

This interdiciplinary course will be offered Spring Semester, 2009. I will be teaching this with Dr. Renee Dickinson from the Department of English. This course meets the General Education requirements for three credits of Humanities and four credits of Science.

In this class students will explore through readings of the literature, lecture, discussion, writing and laboratory experiments what defines us - as humans, as race and as gender.  We will examine how social precepts are reflected in literature and science, how literature is reflected in the scientific questions being asked and how scientific practices and discoveries can influence literature. For example, students may use statistics to describe human variation and compare this to the descriptions in British Literature such as Othello and Heart of Darkness. Students will consider such questions as: What is the genetic basis of race and ethnicity? How are these transformed into cultural and literary contexts? What are the concerns surrounding genetics, race and gender and identity? How are these questions pursued in science and in literature?  How are these two seemingly disparate worlds intimately connected? Possible readings may include: The Mismeasure of Man, Guns, Germs and Steel, Othello, The Ancestors Tale, Frankenstein, Heart of Darkness and The English Patient. Possible films may include: GATTACA, Mountains of the Moon and King Kong. Possible projects may include: DNA isolation and tracing genetic origins, DNA fingerprinting,  Human Chromosome Analysis, position papers and rhetorical analysis of multiple texts (including the student him/herself).