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IDST-010 Ignatius Seminar
Fall for 2014-2015
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 '14: Maloof M (web site)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.

Sections:

IDST-010-01 Ignatius Seminar:Consuming Passions in the Ancient, Early Modern, and ModernWorlds
Fall for 2014-2015
From Classical times up to the present day, stories of gods and humans alike who are consumed by unattainable, forbidden, or uncontrollable passions for their objects of desire have fascinated us as few others. Why do we continue to be drawn to such passions that by their very definition—going back to the etymology of the word “passion” itself—are defined by the suffering they induce and perpetuate? What do these passions tell us about the nature of human desire and seduction, of self-deception and self-knowledge, of the existential struggle to deal with mortality and the possibility of its transcendence? How do they help us to navigate both the perils and the epiphanies of an inevitable life challenge: that of unfulfilled experience?

We will study such consuming passions in texts from Greco- Roman mythology, medieval romance, classical theater, 19th and 20th-century short fiction, selected poetry, and film. In so doing we will employ a variety of critical perspectives: from the historical, to the rhetorical, to the psychoanalytic, to the sociolinguistic. Key emphasis will be placed on the development of both oral and written skills in close reading and textual analysis. In addition to more formal writing assignments, seminar participants will submit regular journals to stimulate the process of active reading and engaged class discussion.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
IDST-010-02 Ignatius Seminar:Staging Selves: Identity, Performance, and the Quest for the Contemporary Self
Fall for 2014-2015
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: Religion and Politics: Athens, Jerusalem, and Washington
    Fall for 2014-2015
    Faculty:
  • Langan, John
  • The boundaries and connections between religion and politics are contested territory in most societies, not least in contemporary American politics. Different proposals have been advanced at different times; some of them have led to violent disputes; some have achieved authoritative status in different countries. We will start by reading and discussing three plays which raise important religious and political issues in different eras and different contexts. These are Antigone by Sophocles, a conflict between religious and family feeling and state policy; Saint Joan, by George Bernard Shaw, which shows conflict between nations and raises questions about religious authority and the role of women; and Nathan the Wise, an Enlightenment play about issues raised by and around religious pluralism.

    Members of the seminar will be asked to prepare and discuss two reports, one dealing with a significant figure in Western history and how he/she was affected by conflicts between religious identity and political demands, the other dealing with how the boundaries between religion and politics are understood in different societies in the contemporary world. The seminar will then take up three different theoretical approaches to resolving the problems: a) medieval Christendom (the Bible, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas); b) American legal liberalism (human rights theory, John Rawls); c) contemporary demands for an Islamic state. In summing up the course, members of the seminar will be required to prepare and present a paper on a particular problem in the interaction of politics and religion. They will also be asked to draw up a set of propositions giving their views on the main issues of the course. The course will emphasize discussion and exploration of issues that are both controversial and interdisciplinary.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-04 Ignatius Seminar: African American Food Culture
    Fall for 2014-2015
    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 community gardens, the city’s food trucks, and historic African American restaurants in Washington, DC, including Ben’s Chili Bowl, Florida Avenue Grill, 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 at the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-05 Ignatius Seminar: Italy and Imagination
    Fall for 2014-2015
    Italy is a protean place. Its ribs of unstable mountains and volcanoes reach down from the Alps deep into the Mediterranean creating an astonishing diversity of ecosystems, from the green Tyrolean valleys and gray, snow-covered peaks of the north to the quasi-desert of the Sicilian plains and the enormous black and smoking Mount Etna in the south. In this bewilderingly various and rich place over the centuries many of the most important cultures in Western history have flourished. Going “to” Italy, responding to Italy, being transformed by Italy has become a part of world culture as the swarms of contemporary visitors there from all over the globe affirm. What Italy means to each is necessarily different. Some visitors try to translate what they see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and feel through imagination into various forms of aesthetic expression. This phenomenon—how through experience people come to imagine Italy—is the topic of the seminar.

    We will move chronologically beginning with two Shakespeare plays set in Italy, one a tragedy, one a comedy, and two modern film versions of the same plays. Later in the semester there will be two novellas about later 19th-century tourism by Henry James, and a novel and film version of a story by E. M. Forster. We will also join Byron’s “Childe Harold” for his 1818 trip down the Italian peninsula and a consideration of the traditional Grand Tour and hear Robert Browning imagining a wide diversity of Italian voices in his dramatic monologues. The course will end with Michael Ondaatje’s novel The English Patient set in Tuscany at the end of World War II and the Minghella film of that novel. From day one we will be developing the analytic skills to permit us to respond to and to discuss and write about plays, poems, novels, and films.

    During the semester seminar participants will write frequent short papers, and we will devote an important part of our time to improving student writing. Seminar participants contribute to each session through discussing their interpretive ideas and adding to course blogs we will build on Blackboard.

    There will be a series of visits to places and events around Washington linked to the course content including a couple of to-die-for Italian meals.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-06 Ignatius Seminar: Artificial Intelligence: From NAND to Consciousness
    Fall for 2014-2015
    Faculty:
  • Maloof, Marcus
  • 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, who 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 former 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, ethical, and theological impact. This Ignatius Seminar is a combination of computer science, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, cognitive science, philosophy, and theology. 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, ethical, and theological 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,” a statement often attributed to Edsger Dijkstra. 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: The Other Washington
    Fall for 2014-2015
    Washington, DC is “a city where the American dream and the American nightmare, pass each other daily, on the street and do not speak,” wrote an anonymous American some time back. Today she could be speaking about the plight of many in the nation’s capital: African Americans, Latin Americans, the homeless, many of them veterans, and others who had not benefited from the American dream, in this city. In fact, DC is the only capital city in the world where voters do not select their own voting representative to the national Congress.

    In this class, we will explore the “other Washington” not just the city of grand monuments and the capital of the nation. We will study the city where Duke Ellington was born, and where Frederick Douglass died. We will look first at Washington, DC, as a city of slaves, and then as a city of freedmen and women and home to the Freedman’s Bureau. Then we will look at how the city and its population developed over the 20th and into the 21st century. We will explore issues of race, class, sex, the riots of 1835, 1919, and 1968, education, gentrification, and political activity. We will study the migration of blacks from the American South, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, (some of whom came to work and others to attend Howard University and other schools) all of whom brought something special to the makeup of Washington, DC.

    We will visit social clubs, eateries, and select museums and from time to time will have very special guests. The end results will be a research paper on a topic of your choosing.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-08 Ignatius Seminar: The Gifts of the Greeks
    Fall for 2014-2015
    Faculty:
  • O'Donnell, James
  • The ancient Greeks are read all over the world, by a kind of secret society of curious, imaginative people who want to use the past to understand the present and future. Plato, it turns out, is hot in China, dangerous and fascinating and inspiring and subversive all at once.

    This seminar brings you three Greeks, arguably the most powerful and influential writers in all Western history. What can they teach us? What does this kind of reading teach us in the digital age?

    The first is the most magically original and powerful: Homer in his Iliad. If everybody could read this book, there would be no wars. But so then we read Thucydides’s history of the Peloponnesian War. Many moderns use him as a bible for why and how it is necessary to fight wars. So then for reflection and perspective, two books of Plato: his Symposium and its hymn to love and his Republic and its passionate plea for the rational society.

    We will also make a few pilgrimages together outside class time to temples of the culture the Greeks inspired: to the special collections division of Lauinger Library, to the Library of Congress, and to the special and very gemlike library a few blocks away in Georgetown at Dumbarton Oaks, where they know the Greek tradition in a unique way unmatched anywhere in the world.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
    IDST-010-09 Ignatius Seminar: The City of the Sun:Catching Fire. Utopia/Dystopia in Literature/Film
    Fall for 2014-2015
    “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 Platonov’s Foundation Pit. 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 healthcare 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-010-10 Ignatius Seminar: Serving the Common Good
    Fall for 2014-2015
    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 non-governmental 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 toughminded 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-010-11 Ignatius Seminar: Living Responsibilities
    Fall for 2014-2015
    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 2014-2015
    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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