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IDST-010 Ignatius Seminar
Fall for 2015-2016
Drawing on the educational insights of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, these courses seek to cultivate the Ignatian ideal of cura personalis: care for each person's individuality and care for his or her integral wholeness. Like other Renaissance educators, Jesuits sought to educate the whole person--mind, body and spirit--a tradition alive at Georgetown College today. The Ignatius Seminars focus not only on conveying information and intellectual content, but also on building a home for wisdom and enriching all dimensions of our students' lives.

Designed for the intellectually curious student interested in an integrative and personal approach to learning, the small class setting of these first-year seminars enables students to get to know their professors and each other well. In this atmosphere, the faculty can recognize the strengths and educational needs of each student, creating a teaching and mentoring environment. Each professor's expression of his or her particular scholarly pursuit provides students with a tangible example of the interplay of mind and spirit, of disciplined work and intellectual excitement, of academic rigor and creative play.

The Ignatius Seminars initiate opportunities early in your time at Georgetown to cultivate basic skills that faculty identify as important: reading a text with thought and insight, speaking clearly and persuasively in an academic discussion, and writing a structured and sustained argument. This is a chance to experience Georgetown College and university learning at its best.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None

Course syllabi
The following syllabi may help you learn more about this course (login required):
Fall '15: Pireddu, N (description)
Fall '15: Stohr, K (description)
Fall '15: Maloof M (web site)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.

Sections:

IDST-010-01 Ignatius Seminar: Borders: Self, Nation, and Beyond
Fall for 2015-2016
Each of us in particular circumstances has probably had difficulty conforming to rigid categories and has felt the need to trespass demarcating boundaries to give space to the multiplicity of elements that compose us. As the French poet Arthur Rimbaud claimed, “I is someone else.” In our seminar we will explore the relationships between sameness and alterity through the image of the border. Borders can be bulwarks and sites of conflict, but also bridges reconciling contrasting constituents of the self, or connecting people, nations, and cultures, allowing us to account for the complexity within and around ourselves.

The works of leading authors from different areas of the world—such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Amitav Ghosh, Primo Levi, Jamaica Kincaid, Jules Verne, Milan Kundera, and Adonis, among others—will help us appreciate the role of borders in the construction of individual and collective identity, and in our approach to “the other.” Through borders we will discuss crucial topics such as gender, moral values, exile and migration, internationalism and globalization. What leads to the creation of borders and why do we need them? What has changed in the conceptualization of borders across space and time? Why and how do we cross dividing lines—be they geographical, ethnic, linguistic boundaries, national frontiers, the confines of subjectivity, or ideological and ethical limits?

In our interconnected age, borders may generate clashes of traditions, practices, and beliefs, as much as foster negotiations and exchanges between “us” and “them.” Our seminar will make us reflect upon the challenges and rewards of cultural dialogue, focusing not only on the desire to break down borders but also on the complex relationship between individual freedom and intolerance, and, ultimately, on the responsibility to draw new frontiers against ideological extremism.

We will cross disciplinary boundaries in class by working with multiple literary genres, the visual arts, cinema, history, anthropology, and sociology. And we will also traverse the borders of our classroom
by enriching our syllabus with several field trips to DC museums, get-togethers in front of good food; Italian... and beyond!
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
IDST-010-02 Ignatius Seminar:Staging Selves: Identity, Performance, and the Quest for the Contemporary Self
Fall for 2015-2016
Faculty:
  • Fink, Jennifer
  • All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.
    — William Shakespeare

    Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. — Oscar Wilde

    What is a self? Is the “real” self something that lies beneath our social/theatrical performances, or is it a product of such stagings? Can the stage not merely represent but actually create the postmodern self? How do spirit and body inhabit
    the stage, and what might this coupling have to do with the formation of anti-normative identities? In this seminar, we will probe, parse, and perform the relationship between theater and identity-formation. Pairing key theoretical and critical texts with play and performance texts, we’ll explore how theatrical performance reflects, refracts, and refutes diverse notions of personhood. The fraught relationship between performance, body, and spirit will be a key site of our investigation. Also making a guest appearance will be the relationship between theory and practice. Key critical lenses such as feminism, post-structuralism, queer theory, and post-colonialism will be employed.

    We’ll be particularly concerned with how our contemporary notions of identity are enmeshed with those of the stage. Beginning with Oscar Wilde’s notorious The Importance of Being Earnest and ending with Moisés Kaufman’s revisiting of Wilde in The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, we’ll examine the special relationship between so-called minoritarian identities and the stage, and consider how these minoritarian performances transform and challenge normative notions of identity. We’ll make performance theory tango with theatrical practice. We’ll see shows, both on campus and off, and respond to them through conversation, criticism, critical writing, and performance. While theatrical talent and experience are optional, passion for the theater is the only prerequisite.

    Expect to read, write, and reflect with rigor and passion. Expect to write critically and creatively; expect to perform your identity. Expect to be challenged. Expect to be shocked. Expect to play. Expect to perform yourself… and stage your self/selves as a performance!

    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-03 Ignatius Seminar: Shakespeare in His Time and Ours
    Fall for 2015-2016
    Faculty:
  • Collins, Michael
  • We shall look closely at five plays by Shakespeare: Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, and two others. At least one of the five will be playing in Washington in the fall. We shall consider the plays primarily as scripts that were written to be performed, and we shall therefore look closely at the words of the plays to discover the various ways they might be brought to life on a stage and the various impacts they might make on their audiences and their readers. We shall try to make those discoveries by imagining the choices the words might offer an actor, by observing the work of actors in recorded performances (Al Pacino’s Shylock, for example), and by analyzing, rehearsing, and performing the words ourselves. (You do not need any acting experience to take the course or, for that matter, to do well in it, but you do need to be willing to learn about the plays by doing the work that actors and directors do).

    We shall try as well to understand something of the world in which Shakespeare lived: we shall consider what the plays might have said to Shakespeare’s contemporaries (how the plays might reflect the world in which Shakespeare lived); we shall look at the various theaters for which he wrote his plays. We shall visit the spectacular Folger Shakespeare Library here in Washington to examine some books from Shakespeare’s time (including the Folio of 1623, the first collection of his plays) and to learn how the plays were printed and, through the work of countless editors, preserved and transmitted to our own time. We also shall go to the theater ourselves to see how contemporary actors understand and work with Shakespeare’s scripts and to talk to an actor or director about the way he or she approaches and articulates, through voice and movement, a script by Shakespeare.

    Finally, we shall try to answer a crucial question—one that might explain why we still read the plays and see them performed today (and why Georgetown continues to offer courses on them)—what do the plays of Shakespeare say to us and do for us at the beginning of the 21st century.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-04 Ignatius Seminar: African American Food Culture
    Fall for 2015-2016
    African American chef and cookbook writer Edna Lewis once said, “As a child… I thought all food tasted delicious… After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.” What role does food play in our lives? How does food connect us to our pasts, our culture, and our own lifelong efforts? How do we understand ourselves as members of a family and citizens of a nation through the food we make and enjoy?

    These questions guide African American Food Culture, an interdisciplinary course that focuses on African American foodways, with particular emphasis on the construction of diets from slavery to freedom, the development of black cuisine, and the role race has played in how food is marketed and distributed in the United States.

    Students will have the opportunity to reconsider the everyday act of producing and consuming food by looking at how race shapes what is grown, cooked, and eaten. In a small seminar setting, we will explore how black identities have been tied to food, how civil rights legislation and food policies have impacted African American health, and debate the various controversies surrounding related food issues, including access to healthy foods in communities of color.

    Students will read an array of texts, including Jessica Harris’s High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America and Rebecca Sharpless’s Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South. We will read critical food writing, studies about the relationship between race and health, and a variety of cookbooks from late 1800s to the present.

    The course will include field trips to historic African American-owned restaurants in Washington, DC, including Ben’s Chili Bowl, Florida Avenue Grill, Eatonville, and Cake Love. We will also welcome speakers in food history and local chefs to contextualize our explorations of the political and social nature of eating and making food. Students will have an opportunity to explore food-related archives online.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-05 Ignatius Seminar: Seeking the Good at Hogwarts
    Fall for 2015-2016
    Faculty:
  • Stohr, Karen
  • The beloved Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling has captured the imagination of children and adults around the world. Like all great storytellers, Rowling takes her readers deep into the most beautiful and challenging places in human life. Her characters face a world threatened by evil, evil that they fight through an abiding commitment to each other and to the good.

    We’ll begin our course where the first book begins—with love. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we learn that the most powerful force in this magical universe is not magical at all. It is ordinary, sacrificial human love. This love mysteriously saves Harry from death and Harry’s own capacity for it sustains him on his perilous quest and makes that quest worthwhile. By contrast, Voldemort’s unwillingness (or inability?) to love is the source of his evil and his eventual downfall.

    The nature of love and its relationship to good and evil are longstanding themes in philosophy, literature, and theology. We’ll deepen our understanding of them with the help of Plato’s Symposium, St. Augustine’s Confessions, Dante’s Inferno, Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem. We’ll debate the ways in which Rowling’s characters are virtuous and vicious. (Is Dolores Umbridge even more evil than Voldemort? Is Sirius Black right that we all have both light and dark in us?) We’ll consider how people come to have the moral characters they do, and the extent to which this is, as Sirius tells Harry, a matter of our choices. To help us think about moral character, we’ll read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. How do Harry, Hermione, and Ron turn from ordinary kids into heroes? What role does friendship—one of Aristotle’s central concerns—play in their moral development? Is it true, as Aristotle thinks, that in order to have any virtue, you have to have them all? (If so, how do we explain Severus Snape? Or the enslavement of house-elves at Hogwarts?)

    In this class, you should expect to talk and write a lot. We’ll also watch movies, take a field trip or two, and perhaps play Quidditch.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-06 Ignatius Seminar: Artificial Intelligence: From NAND to Consciousness
    Fall for 2015-2016
    Faculty:
  • Maloof, Mark
  • The notion of mechanized thought traces back to Aristotle’s categorical syllogisms. In the 1830s, Lady Lovelace’s work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a mechanical computer that was never built, compelled her to remark that the machine “has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths.” And yet in 2005, Stanley, a self-driving car, drove a 175-mile course in the Mojave Desert unaided by humans and had only two-hours prior notice of the route. Stanley used terrain maps to plan its overall route, but as it drove, it relied on its own analysis of “analytical relations and truths” to anticipate what lay ahead, by navigating the road itself, assessing its condition, and avoiding obstacles. In 2011 on Jeopardy!, an IBM computer named Watson played as a human would and beat Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, two previous winners.

    Whether machines can think, be intelligent, and be conscious are some of the greatest questions of our time, questions that, if answered positively, will have profound societal and ethical impact. This seminar is a combination of computer science, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, cognitive science, and philosophy. We start the seminar with voltage and proceed through logic gates, machine language, high-level programming languages, algorithms, models of computation, and the limits of computation. Building upon this foundation, we examine computational methods of reasoning logically, simulating neural networks, and learning. We conclude the seminar by turning our attention to and grappling with the philosophical and ethical implications of this work through readings and discussions supplemented by guest lectures.

    Michael Fellows said, “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.” In the spirit of this statement and to encourage broad participation, the seminar intentionally eschews using programming to explore concepts, focusing instead on discussion, thought experiments, exercises, and analysis of books and articles from the primary and secondary literature. In addition to homework assignments and midterm and final exams, there is a semester project on a relevant topic of the student’s choosing.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-07 Ignatius Seminar:You and GU: A Cultural Encounter
    Fall for 2015-2016
    Why is it that American college students increasingly consider themselves happy, decisive, unique, and destined for success, on one hand, and suffer from stress and depression, on the other? Why do they volunteer their time more and maintain long-term friendships less? Why do they think of themselves as highly independent despite their limited experience with practical independence skills? In what ways do college environments respond to and shape these tendencies? How does our Georgetown cultural context shape us and how is it, in turn, shaped by us? In this course, we will consider your transition to Georgetown and your encounters with the wider DC community as an acculturative process. You will reflect on your past experiences with your own cultural context(s), collect and discuss data, watch documentaries, and read works of fiction, nonfiction, and research to examine historical shifts and cross-cultural differences in the models of young adulthood. We will focus on topics such as changes in the cultural models of autonomy, uniqueness, choice, and happiness, as well as shifting models of relationships. Materials will draw on the fields of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and communications.

    In turn, we will examine Georgetown as a cultural context with its Jesuit values, and the ways in which they are reflected in the practices, institutions, cultural products, and daily encounters that are fostered by our community. We will examine Georgetown’s cultural models of work ethics and fun, emotions and relationships. We will also consider the ways in which Georgetown incorporates class, religion, race, and ethnicity into its identity. Finally, we will examine Georgetown’s place in the local Washington community.

    Bridging these themes, we will discuss the ways in which people respond to cultural transitions, such as transitions to college. We will use an acculturative framework to talk about the diverse ways in which we respond to encounters with the novel cultural models of the self, emotions and relationships, with special emphasis on intergroup contact, negotiating biculturalism, cultural deviance, as well as acculturative stress and coping.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-08 Ignatius Seminar: The City of the Sun:Catching Fire. Utopia/Dystopia in Literature/Film
    Fall for 2015-2016
    “Dystopias are usually described as the opposite of utopias… But scratch the surface a little, and you see something more like a yin and yang pattern; within each utopia, a concealed dystopia; within each dystopia, a hidden utopia.” — Margaret Atwood


    In this course we will acquaint ourselves with the centuries-old forms and fears that humanity’s projects for an ideal future have evoked across different cultures. We will learn that what some epochs perceive as utopian others may see as dystopian. What some praise as equality, brotherhood, and justice, others—shifting their angle of vision—may disparage as dehumanizing unification, and total state control. In the 20th century, both socialism and capitalism brought to life similar anxieties and similar dystopian images.

    We will discuss both literary and visual representations of utopia and dystopia and analyze various genres from classical treatises to recent films, from Campanella’s The City of the Sun, to the recent blockbuster Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Our primary focus will be three major 20th-century novels—Orwell’s 1984, Zamiatin’s We, and Huxley’s Brave New World. We will practice slow reading and detailed textual and cinematic analysis and will discuss what language these representations of the ideal and the terrible require. We will study the connections between urbanism and utopian thinking, compare various city plans for the future, and try to create our own plans. Students will practice writing analytical papers as well as fictional excerpts.

    How is family life, education, and health care organized in these ideal or bad societies? How do we ensure equality if people are not physically and intellectually equal from birth? Is it possible to achieve a balance between freedom, spontaneity, and order? We will contemplate all these questions together in our quest to move beyond binary oppositions.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-09 Ignatius Seminar: Serving the Common Good
    Fall for 2015-2016
    Faculty:
  • Jacobs, Bette
  • What can we do to make the world a better place? Philosophers, scientists, theologians, economists, poets, lawyers, and politicians have all struggled to find compelling, effective answers to that question. We make progress, but we have a long way to go.

    Do we do our best by working as hard as we can to make as much money as we can and trust the system we work in will provide? Or do we devote our entire lives to selfless charitable work for others? What choices lie between those extremes? Your university years are a critical time for you to think about your responsibilities to others and the opportunities you face. If you use them well, you can learn the discipline associated with reflection, interior freedom, and discernment. This seminar can be your place to start.

    We will concentrate on learning and thinking about organizations directly intended to serve the common good: not-for-profit and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Volunteers devote time, donors provide funds, and governments give grants to capture this special spirit and its capacities. The range of problems and intended scope of impact are vast and tap untold generosity and good will. Achievements and aspirations are stunning and are growing rapidly.

    But these complex organizations are also big business. The not-for-profit sector in the United States exceeds $2.5 trillion; in India alone there are more than two million NGOs. Leaders in this field need to be as smart, pragmatic, resourceful, and tough-minded about what works as anybody in the for-profit sector.

    The old models of “charity” are changing. What is the common good? How much impact do organizations have? What are best practices? Why have a huge sector of the economy called “not” and “non”? What is the role of philanthropy? What are the human and political complexities inherent in mission driven organizations? How do you assess the value proposition in this area? What is my role in serving the common good?

    This course will be unique in its critical analysis of the not-for-profit industry and fair assessment of the ways the public and commercial sectors also contribute to the common good. There is space where shared skills and harmony would optimize social goals. Readings are selected from history, theology, business, science, and policy. Case studies and conversations with leaders in the field will illustrate how values translate to action, discernment of options and opportunities, and ethical decision-making.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-10 Ignatius Seminar: Telling Truth
    Fall for 2015-2016
    Faculty:
  • DeGioia, John
  • Wrestling with what Truth “is” has preoccupied human beings as long as we have gathered remnants of our ancestors’ thinking; the topic continues into current discourse, as we attempt to assemble “facts” that determine our views of the world and our places in it today.

    To be in possession of such truth is to assert a confidence about the knowledge that we have attained. This knowledge has a standing that privileges it above other kinds of statements we make. We make guesses, we make hypotheses, we test, we evaluate. When do we get to Truth? How do we know?

    A defining characteristic of the university is the pursuit of truth. We organize the life of the Academy around approaches to grasping the truth, and understanding what “it” is. The natural sciences ask questions about truth in the world around us; the social sciences seek to understand the truth in our interactions with one another; the humanities seek to support our quest for our inner truth—the telling of our own, personal truth. These categories themselves often blur, as we shall see in Telling Truth. But questions “of” truth remain sharp.

    In this seminar, we will examine the received understanding of truth, beginning with how the natural sciences grapple with their investigations, and where, for many people, science is often equated to objectivity, and Truth is revealed by the explorations of nature that such scientists undertake. But we will push beyond that exploration to
    look at how Truth is pursued by those who, through their own personal explorations—of worlds they create in their imaginations and in their personal work of establishing meaning of their own lives, set forth for themselves and for others Truth in different senses.

    As such, Telling Truth helps us think through what is “telling” about Truth, what Truth itself “tells,” and how we, and others, “tell,” in our attempts to find and express Truth, the truth we’ve discovered.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-11 Ignatius Seminar: Living Responsibilities
    Offered academic year 2016-2017
    Faculty:
  • DeGioia, John
  • “Globalization has its own logic, but not its own ethic,” notes J. Bryan Hehir, Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of Religion and Public Life at Harvard’s Kennedy School. In this course we will grapple with that statement, asking ourselves some difficult questions and struggling with the complexities that arise in attempting to answer them.

    The popular phrase is that “we live in a globalized world.” Does that imply that we acknowledge the needs of others as legitimate on their own—and as legitimate demands on ourselves? How, in fact, would we identify, understand, and ultimately accept moral responsibilities to one another—even to strangers? What would enable us to embrace a sense of obligation to those around us? Are there limits to our obligations?

    We will begin by broadly examining how we, individually and collectively, manage our everyday existence, in particular, our access to the basics of life—water and food. Lying behind that “management” is a host of assumptions about organization, development, improvement, innovation, and growth. We, in so-called developed societies, take for granted access to not only these essentials of life but to an ever increasing array of consumer “goods.” Meanwhile, we are warned that even in our privileged cases, access to both the basics and the “goods” can be jeopardized by disruptions spurred by global warming. Given a potential scarcity of resources, how do we think about our responsibilities—to ourselves, to others? A deeper question is whether this scarcity changes our self-understanding of our responsibilities to others.

    At the core of these questions is a fundamental tension between respect for the individual and the demands made on each of us to acknowledge responsibilities to each other. In this seminar we will explore this tension and seek to understand how best to balance our individual freedom with the needs of others.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-12 Ignatius Seminar: Living Global
    Fall for 2015-2016
    Faculty:
  • DeGioia, John
  • We live in a world we inherit yet also create. Enabling us to make sense of it is a “horizon of significance” that provides us with concepts, values, practices, and customs that we constantly challenge as we continually reckon with our own, individual place in this global world. In this seminar, we will see how this horizon is becoming a global vision, a venue for exchanging experiences and reflections about how we are both common and separate.

    In this seminar we will address what that horizon encompasses and how we, individually and collectively, are to act given such awareness. How are we to live given this broader horizon? How does this impact our responsibilities to one another? Is there an ethic that guides us?

    First, we will begin to orient ourselves in “global” terms today by looking at the significance of “global” achievements in the past. There have been multiple attempts to create an interconnectedness of peoples and social orders that achieved highly integrated states. How is our current form of globalization similar and different? How do we understand the very term, “globalization?” today and historically?

    Second, we will look at the manifestations of globalization taking place in our world today. We will explore issues that define our contemporary world—climate change, HIV/AIDS, hunger, labor and trade, migration, and growing inequality. We’ll also look at the wonderful connections that the technology of globalization enables. The political demonstrations mobilized through facebook, the music that spans the planet, even the videos of dancing babies and funny pets that go viral instantly—all this is “global,” too: the joy of being together, if only on Youtube. How do we understand the challenges—and pleasures—that emerge in the context of our expanding horizon? In particular, does this expansion create new moral responsibilities? If so, what are they?

    So, in the third part of the seminar, we will wrestle with the idea of whether the globalization we are experiencing demands something else—in particular, whether it asks of us a self-understanding that would activate responsibilities to the “others” of whom we have become so intimately aware. What would a self-awareness of our place in this world of others demand of us? Overall, through this seminar we will live with some very important questions and explore the nature of our selves, our place, and the responsibilities that emerge from a widening global horizon and our way of life within that larger view.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    More information
    Look for this course in the schedule of classes.

    The academic department web site for this program may provide other details about this course.

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