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A total of 37 courses have been found.
This course is designed to introduce students from a variety of majors to the social and cultural history of African Americans through the framework of religious history.  It will provide students with the opportunity to explore how African- American religious communities developed and changed in response to various struggles for freedom in black America, and how these freedom struggles transformed religious consciousness and social and political values in the United States from the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade to the present.  The course will engage students in critical and creative thinking about the cultural, historical, and political issues that have constructed the African American religious experience and the relationships between religion, race, and society in the United States.  Class sessions will follow a lecture discussion format, and occasionally, interactive study groups will be utilized. Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
The United States in historical, contemporary, and transnational perspective; social and cultural diversity and conflict in American life; debates on concepts of America, the American Dream, national culture, citizenship.

Across the world, globalization, ethno-nationalism, and multiculturalism, among other social forces, have broken down national identities that dominated the post-World War II order. In the United States, these trends often manifest in “culture wars” over history and public memorials provoke just as much heated debate as scientific studies of COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and LGBTQI rights. In AMST:1010 we will study the hidden histories behind these contemporary problems. We will uncover the many meanings of words such as “culture” and the values that derive from them. After learning various theories of culture, we will examine several distinct component parts of that American culture. We will ask you to develop your analytical skills in a variety of contexts, from small group discussions to video logs and short, reflective essays. 

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Critical and historical introduction to representation of human sexuality in American popular culture from World War II to the present.

Hookup culture, body positivity, sex wars, desire, love, pleasure. Sex is fundamental to the cultural, economic, political, and social organization of the United States.  In this class, students explore struggles to define and control sex through laws, policy, rituals and social practices. We examine an apparent contradiction: that acts and desires commonly regarded as personal and private – “sex lives” – have been consistently made available to a mass public through popular media.

With an emphasis on early twenty-first century sexual culture, course material engages a range of topics, including the history of the date, media (mis)representation, BlackGirlMagic, LGBTQ+ liberation, sexual agency and enthusiastic consent.

Course assignments include a critical analysis of an artifact from popular culture; a book review; a midterm exam (with a study-guide); a creative final project; and thoughtful participation. 

This class is designed for students pursuing an array of majors, and includes the opportunity to develop final projects related to students’ own interests and potential career pathways. Past projects have included proposals for improving sex education; sex on film and intimacy coordinators; sex and public health in a time of COVID; purity balls and virginity culture; and market analyses of digital dating.

Watch the course trailer:



Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Variety of historic and contemporary sources, such as literature, law, photography, painting, film, TV, music, fashions, environments, events of everyday life.

Introduction to American Studies provides practice learning about America through a variety of historic and contemporary sources such as autobiography, literature, photography, painting, film, music, architecture, environments, and events of everyday life. This semester, our course will be organized by American cultural studies keywords (memory, place, amusement, rural etc.) and their associated scholarship. In addition, our working example threaded throughout the course will be the “authentically American” Dolly Parton. This course should interest anyone who is curious about the commonality, complexity, and diversity of cultures in the U.S.

Topics include:

  • Homesteading in the Smoky Mountains: Settler-colonialism, Race, and Southern Memory
  • “Backwoods Barbie:” Gender and American popular culture
  • Wide Open Spaces: Place-based identity across the urban / rural divide
  • Getting Ahead in America: Dolly’s “Coat of Many Colors” and crafting stories of success
  • Working 9-to-5: Corporate culture and labor history in the U.S.
  • Dolly Parton’s Stampede Show: Amusement, animals, and gimmicks at Dollywood
  • Queering the Countryside: Country music legacies of Lil Nas X, Trixie Mattell, and Orville Peck

In addition to a vibrant archive of music, photographs, videos and news articles, assigned course material includes American studies research. This material may include: Keywords for American Cultural Studies (Burgett and Hendler), Francis Whatley’s film Dolly Parton: Here I Am, She Came by It Naturally (Smarsh), South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation (Perry), Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (Howard), selected works by Tiya Miles

Learning Outcomes:

Students become aware of the key characteristics that have defined American culture and values
Students hone methods for analyzing American culture by engaging a variety of artifacts.
Students reflect on the roles of their own experiences and beliefs in their understanding of American culture.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Comparative study of culture, social organization.

Most of us tend to see our own way of life as “natural”… as reflecting some kind of universal human nature. Sociocultural insights cause us to question these assumptions. This course offers a general introduction to sociocultural anthropology, the comparative study of culture. In this context, “culture” refers to a repertoire of ideas and everyday practices that work to organize social life, structure thought, motivate behavior, and otherwise bring intelligibility to both collective and individual experiences. Through readings, lecture, discussion and film, this course will explore variations in worldview and social organization (familial, political, economic, and religious) in human societies and also consider various processes of social change. The course is intended to (1) introduce basic concepts and methods in sociocultural anthropology; (2) promote greater understanding of human diversity in the context of the contemporary world system; and (3) encourage analysis of institutions and worldviews that structure life in the contemporary United States.

For Fall 2022, students will need to obtain access these three books: Zenana by Laura A. Ring (Indiana University Press 2006), Chicken by Steve Striffler (Yale University Press 2005), and The mushroom at the end of the world by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (Princeton University Press 2015). These are reasonably priced books. Students are encourage to purchase hard copies from a campus bookstore, but all three books will also be available in digital form free of charge through University of Iowa Main Library.  Additional readings will be posted on the course website. So students will not be required to purchase any texts.

Social Sciences Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Survey of the visual arts of Indigenous peoples in North America with emphasis on regions that have become the United States; exploration of painting, sculpture, ceramics, fiber arts, performance, and architecture as expressions of identity, creativity, resistance, and resilience from ancestral traditions through transformations prompted by non-Native contact to today's vibrant art scene.

Native American Art is a survey of the visual arts of indigenous peoples in North America, with emphasis on those in the regions that have become the United States. Considering many different types of objects in an array of contexts, from the techniques used to produce them, their use, the ideologies and cosmologies they represent, and the evolving circumstances of their creators, this course will help students understand the remarkable characteristics, variety, and importance of Native imagery as vivid expressions of identity, creativity, resistance, and resilience over centuries, even as Native cultures have undergone extraordinary hardships and devastating change over the past several hundred years. Focusing especially on architecture, ceramics, sculpture, textiles and clothing, painting, and performance from the PreContact period to the present, we will explore rich artistic traditions and their legacies as well as transformations that have resulted from involvement with non-Native cultures.

Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Exploration of what senior artists can teach about creativity and aging; interdisciplinary project-based collaborative learning opportunities that consider role of arts and creativity across a lifespan; essential skills necessary to be professionals in numerous careers including health, social work, education, humanities, and the arts; identification of ways for students to be more creative in their own lives and work.

In Creativity for a Lifetime, students will learn the significance of creativity in human happiness and success. Creativity is part of what makes us human, and understanding the creative process is relevant to all of us. In this course, we will examine questions about big ideas, such as: What is creativity and how can we be more creative? What can we learn from closely examining our own and others’ creative work? What is the role of creativity across the human lifespan? How can creative work be a part of healthy adult life and healthy aging?
We will especially consider the lives and work of artists. Because artists intensively imagine things that don’t yet exist, understanding artist’s experiences will enhance innovation and imagination. Students in the arts, liberal arts, sciences, and social sciences can apply the experience gained from studying the outcomes of creativity and working with established artists to other academic disciplines.

Students will engage in activities and projects as opposed to lectures and exams. Taught in an active-learning TILE classroom, Creativity for a Lifetime brings together the knowledge, skills, and life experiences of students and faculty members interested in an array of disciplines, including art and art history, anthropology, education, rhetoric, social work, aging studies, and the health sciences. To better appreciate the elements of successful aging, the richness of life-long learning, and an appreciation of the role of creative endeavor throughout a lifespan, students will meet Iowa artists and collect their oral histories.


Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Literary and philosophical texts of China in English translation.

Asian Humanities: China is a general introduction to the various aspects of Chinese humanities from antiquity to the present, including philosophy, religion, literature, art, music, and history. This course will examine a selection of historical documents in different genres, such as stories, poems, novels, and plays, as well as the foundational documents of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. Students will examine key facets of Chinese civilization, ranging from identity, family, self and society through these literary and philosophical documents. Primary sources will be analyzed to understand the similarities and differences between the East and the West, the changing interpretations of the religious and philosophical documents over Chinese history, and the evidence of the impact of historical values on current Chinese society.

This course will promote critical thinking and advances rhetorical and writing skills by prioritizing active learning via classroom discussion, supplemented with lectures. Students will be assessed on active class participation and preparation, their knowledge of the course materials, and their critical engagement with the sources and themes through interpretation and analysis. Class format will be at-home reading, in class lecture and discussion, and short answer assessments.

Readings are in English, and no prior knowledge of Chinese language or culture is expected.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Introduction to historical development of Chinese script, Chinese calligraphy theories, representative calligraphers, and writing Chinese script using a Chinese writing brush.

Introduction to historical development of Chinese script; Chinese character formation; fundamentals of Chinese character writing (stroke sequence, character structure); Chinese calligraphy theories and representative calligraphers; appreciation of Chinese calligraphy as an art form; hands-on practice on writing Chinese script styles including seal style, clerical style, regular style, running style, and cursive style by using a Chinese writing brush. The course is taught in English. No prerequisites are required.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Ancient Greek and Roman writings on magic, including ancient spells and charms.

In this course, we will study ancient Greek and Roman magical beliefs and practices from Homer to the rise of Christianity. Topics covered in this course will include: Greek and Roman Mystery Religions (e.g., Orphism, the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the Cult of Isis); Greek and Roman witches and sorcerers (e.g., Circe, Medea, and Canidia); Greek and Roman sages and miracle-workers (e.g., Pythagoras and Apollonius of Tyre); Greek and Roman views on ghosts and the afterlife; and Greek and Roman texts that purport to describe how to perform spells and curses. Ultimately, the aim of this course is to give students a basic understanding of the complex ways in which magic worked in Greek and Roman society.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Introduction to ancient Greek and Roman myths with focus on using these sources as interpretations of culture and human psyche; emphasis on flexibility of myth and its importance for understanding ancient history, art, literature, religion, and philosophy.

Hercules, Odysseus, Achilles and Oedipus all share one major characteristic: they are all heroes whose adventures and stories are chronicled in timeless Greek and Roman sacred stories, or myths. This course looks at these heroes (and more!), in addition to the gods and goddesses whom these peoples believed ruled their world. The study of Greco-Roman mythology offers an excellent window into the past by providing us with a unique opportunity to examine how the Greeks and Romans attempted to answer questions about the nature of the universe and mankind’s place in it.  The myths of any people betray attitudes concerning life, death, life after death, love, hate, morality, the role of women in society, etc.; we will pay particular attention to how Greco-Roman mythology addresses these important issues.
This course is designed to offer a general introduction to the myths of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Because ancient myths have come down to us in various works of literary and physical art, this course will also introduce you to some of the most influential works produced in ancient Greece and Rome. Moreover, because the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome have exercised such an influence in the shaping of the modern western world, we will equip ourselves with the background necessary to make modern literature, philosophy, religion, and art intelligible and meaningful. By examining and scrutinizing the myths of the ancient Greeks and Romans, we will learn not only a great deal about their cultures, but we will also put ourselves in a position from which to question, criticize, and (hopefully) better understand the foundations of the world in which we find ourselves.
This course meets the Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts general education requirement, as well as the Values and Culture requirement, through its use of ancient works of art (literary and visual) and focus on the ways in which ancient Greek and Romans managed the human experience.

Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Processes and effects of mass communication; how mass media operate in the United States; how mass communication scholars develop knowledge.

COMM:1174 is an introductory course about the media in the context of the transformation from a mass society into a surveillance society. When new media technologies are invented, observers incorporate them into their visions of the future, though the precise contours of the future prove to be elusive. This class will focus on the social role of the media from a variety of perspectives to integrate visions about new media technologies with the subsequent development of the institutional and legal frameworks shaping them and the cultural practices that emerge around them. We’ll examine fears about a mass society, address the development of the commercial television industry and trace the transition to a fragmented media environment with its fears about a surveillance society in the wake of the popularity of the Internet. Requirements include papers, a midterm and a final and productive participation.

Social Sciences Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Dance, music, historical, and social contents of Brazilian Carnival production, critical theories of performance, religious backgrounds, and theatre making in carnival parades.

The course is designed to provide students an opportunity to explore interdisciplinary and foundational learning in the area of the world dance through interactions with explorations of two of the main aspects of the Brazilian popular culture (Samba and Carnival).  Through extensive literature, video presentations and practice of popular dances of Brazil, students will be exposed to one of the most important and influential expression of popular culture in the world, according to place, time and event.  This includes all aspects present in the Brazilian Carnival: dance, music, historical and social contents; production; critical theories of performance; religious backgrounds; and theatre making in the Carnival Parades – from current to centuries-old tradition. 

Engineering Be Creative Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity

This course explores the role of the performing arts in the human experience, and examines the nature of the creative impulse in different performance media, cultures, societies and historical contexts.  Much of the class work is based on attendance at live performances of theatre, music, and dance on campus and in the community.  Readings, films and videos will augment live performances. Emphasis is on analyzing performance and the experience of the audience through writing and in-depth class discussions. 

Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Influence of social factors such as discrimination, diversity, equity, racism, sexism, and ethnic and socioeconomic pluralism on American schools and classrooms; for teacher education candidates.

The focus of this course, which is required for teacher certification, is on social factors such as discrimination, diversity, equity, racism, sexism, and ethnic and socioeconomic pluralism and their influence on American schools and classrooms. The class is limited to persons who plan to obtain a teaching certificate or who are required to have the course because they will be working in schools. The class is organized with a lecture/discussion section format. The lectures are given by faculty and guest speakers; the discussion sections are taught by TAs and faculty members. Papers, individual and group projects and presentations, reports, and tests are among the class activities and assignments. There is a final exam on the lectures in addition to the exams for each discussion section. Several texts and a book of readings are required.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
European and American films (e.g., documentaries, feature films); literature of the Holocaust in English translation (e.g., survivor memoirs, testimony, poetry, philosophical essays, graphic novels). Taught in English.

This course introduces students to the film and literature of the Holocaust. We will analyze the origins and development of historical and religious anti-Semitism, the role of Nazi propaganda, the state-sponsored attack on Jewish businesses, homes and bodies in 1938 (Reichspogromnacht), the establishment of ghettos and the concentration camp system across Europe and the role of ‘ordinary Germans’ in the Holocaust. We will examine documentary films—from the liberation of the camps (Nazi concentration camps) to later interview films (Lanzmann, Shoah) —as well as European and American feature films (Spielberg, Schindler’s List) and pay special attention to the function of testimony and witnessing (Renais, Night and Fog; Doron & Sinai, Numbered). We will also discuss representations of Auschwitz, the Auschwitz Sonderkommando revolt in literature and film (Nemes, Sons of Saul), survivor accounts and testimonials (e.g., Jean Améry, Primo Levi), Yiddish poetry written during the Holocaust (e.g., Abraham Sutzkever) and Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel MAUS.  We will also examine how Germany remembers the Holocaust by analyzing recent constructions of memorials and museums.

Required books:

Art Spiegelman, Maus I; Maus II

Jean Améry, At the mind’s limits

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Role and status of women in society; sex differences, sex role socialization, theories about origin and maintenance of sexual inequalities, changes in social life cycle of women, implications for social institutions and processes; focus on contemporary United States.

This course is designed to give you an introduction to the sociological analysis of gender in American society. As part of its focus, sociology investigates and exposes aspects of social life that are usually taken for granted. In this course, we will critically examine the multiple ways that gender organizes and structures the social world in which we live. To this end, we will be investigating such topics as the predominant theoretical stances related to the study of gender, femininities and masculinities, how gender structures everyday social interaction, and how social institutions (e.g., education, work, family, the media) create gendered meanings and structures. Finally, we will conclude by considering ways to intervene in many of the processes that perpetuate gender-based inequality.


Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Physical activity determinants in society; school, workplace, community-based health promotion interventions to improve activity levels.

The course will introduce students to physical activity as a health determinant. Students will gain an understanding of the individual, social, and environmental factors that influence physical activity participation and ultimately physical fitness and health throughout the life cycle. Requirements of the course include: weekly assignments & quizzes, papers, a physical activity log, and examinations.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Survey of texts, ideas, events, institutions, geography, communities, literature, arts, sciences, and cultures in Islamic communities and societies since the 7th century.

More information on Prof. Souaiaia's website.

This course is for students with an interest in learning about the Islamic civilization, the religious practices and beliefs, and/or the history or the regions where Muslims are in the majority.  We will examine the traditions and main social and legal institutions of Islam. Arguably, Islam, as a major system of beliefs and practices in the world, affects both Muslims and non-Muslims. Consequently, besides examining the basic tenets, texts, and ideas of the Islamic civilization, this course focuses on the variety of ways in which Muslims and non-Muslims have understood and interpreted Islam. We will review the discussions surrounding the life of the Prophet of Islam, Islamic pre-modern and modern history, the place and role of individuals and society, the legal and economic status of women, and Islamic governments and movements. As a survey course, we will examine these topics through an interdisciplinary approach: we will apply textual, legal/normative, anthropological, geographical, sociological, analytical, linguistic, and historical methodologies.

International and Global Issues Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Prehistory of social media and identification of ideas, events, and elements in ancient and historical times; earliest days of online posting and interacting; first instances of social engagement on the Web; how social media (journalism, politics, health care, romance and lifestyle, entertainment, war and terrorism, professions and jobs) affects individual areas of life, culture, and society; what's next and how social media changes lives in the future and affects the fate of humanity.

Social Media Today is a survey course with no prerequisites, intended for students of any major and interest. This course offers an overview of our current understanding of a wide range of social media phenomena from the point of view of researchers, professionals, and critics. We will begin with a brief history of communication technologies, including the first instances of social engagement on the Web. Next, we will discuss key conceptual and theoretical developments that ground informed discussions of social media. We then will examine what the rise of social media means for contemporary culture and society, focusing on a range of topics including: journalism, politics, justice, romance, and marketing. Finally, we will consider future possibilities for digital and social media.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Introduction to premodern, modern, and contemporary Japanese culture; special attention given to the relationship of classical texts to contemporary novels, short stories, manga, anime, music, and film; students consider relationships of textual and visual cultures, high art and low art, moments of crisis and the everyday, the sacred and the profane, men and women. Taught in English.

This course is an introduction to 1300 years of Japanese literature and culture with special attention paid to the relationship of classical texts to contemporary novels, short stories, manga, anime, music, and film.  Throughout this course we will consider the relationships of textual and visual cultures, of high art and low art, of moments of crisis and the everyday, of the sacred and the profane, and of men and women.  All readings for this class will be in English translation; no knowledge of Japanese is necessary.  This course includes screenings of film and anime with English subtitles.   

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Folk and popular musical traditions and their social contexts in Latin America, the Caribbean; listening skills; video/film screenings.

This course surveys selected folk and popular musical traditions within their historical and social contexts in Latin America and the Caribbean. Students examine the three principal musical sources of indigenous America, Europe and Africa, and the ensuing stylistic mixtures and combinations through select music cultures from the region, including the indigenous music of the Andean highlands, musics of the Afro-Hispanic Caribbean (Cuba and Puerto Rico), Trinidadian calypsos and steel pan, and samba and bossa nova in Brazil. The course is designed to broaden students' exposure to other musical systems and explore the interrelationship of music and its social meaning.

Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
How to listen to jazz and recognize a variety of processes that are taking place in performances and recordings; historical, social, and political issues, including race and gender; the unique blend of jazz of a particular region; attendance at live performances, meet and interview musicians, critics, and educators.

Since World War II, jazz has spread to every corner of the globe producing unique interpretations and practices as it interacts with local traditions. Similarly, jazz musicians in America have found musical sources for their compositions outside of the traditional jazz mainstream. This course will investigate a number of ways that jazz music is interpreted with particular attention to the contexts in which music is created, transmitted and received. Each year the class compares the American jazz tradition to a unique international region that has a strong jazz scene. 



Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Major 20th-century styles, artists, seminal works, and recordings; developments between 1917 and 1972.

This course is a survey of Major 20th-century styles, artists, seminal works, and recordings; developments between 1900 and today. Course materials include a written text, ICON listening list, films and live performances. Requirements include online quizzes, two exams and writing assignments.

Literary, Visual, and Performing Arts Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity

Contemporary ethical controversies with life and death implications; topics may include famine, brain death, animal ethics, abortion, torture, terrorism, capital punishment.

In this course we begin by examining some theoretical questions about morality: What constitutes a good or valuable life for a human being?  What is it for an action to be right or wrong? Is morality relative to culture? Is the rightness/wrongness of actions determined solely by the consequences of actions?  What role, if any, do agents’ motives or intentions play in determining the rightness or wrongness of actions?  We then turn to applied ethics, examining the following controversial topics with help from ethical theory: 

  • Virtual Reality and the Sources of Value: What are the values and dangers of virtual reality, simulations, and gaming?  Is it morally problematic to spend increasing amounts of time in a “fake” reality with created online identities?  Can you lead a good life in a virtual world?  What can we learn by reflecting on virtual reality about the sources of value or goodness in the world?
  • Poverty:  There are people who are starving, or who lack basic necessities (heat, water, food, clothes, safety, health, etc.), and whose life I could save or improve by giving up some of my income or wealth.  It would be good to do so.  But is it my duty to do so, or am I morally entitled to keep my money, perhaps because I earned it? If there is some other justification for keeping what I don’t need to survive while other die, what is it?    
  • Abortion: Is it permissible to have an abortion?  If it is permissible because the fetus is not a developed person, then why is it wrong to kill a newborn infant?  If it is impermissible to kill a fetus because doing so keeps a future possible person from existing, then why is contraception and abstaining from sex, which keeps some possible future persons from existing, permissible?  
  • Animal Ethics: Is it ever permissible to kill animals for food when we don’t need to do so to survive?  If it is permissible, would it be permissible to kill humans for food too?  If it is not, what’s the difference?  Because we are more rational than animals? More powerful than animals?  Of a different species than animals? Because we are the top of the food chain?  Are any of these reasons good reasons to kill animals for food but not kill humans for food?
  • Autonomous Weapons: We are increasingly relying on complex computer systems (AI) to make decisions previously only reserved for humans. Perhaps in many of these areas, the development is by and large a good thing.  But what about the use of autonomous weapons in war?  Should such a use be banned? Should an AI system ever be allowed to make “kill” decisions without human input? Without human supervision?  Who should be held responsible when it makes a fatal error? 

A central objective of the course is to help you understand and be able to explain different positions on some of these controversial problems, and more importantly, to help you develop the skills and abilities needed to compare and critically evaluate competing solutions to moral problems.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity

Varied topics; may include personal identity, existence of God, philosophical skepticism, nature of mind and reality, time travel, and the good life; readings, films.

Have you ever wondered who you are? Whether you are a physical body or an immaterial mind? Have you ever asked yourself what makes you the same person you were ten years ago? Have you sometimes worried that you cannot know anything with certainty? Have you ever wished that someone would provide a decisive argument for the existence of god? Have you ever been concerned with how you ought to act towards others? In this course, we will explore these and other important philosophical questions through a selection of classical and contemporary readings. We will engage in lively class discussions and writing; we will learn to analyze others’ philosophical arguments and build our own; and we will gain a better understanding of our own philosophical outlook and the philosophical questions that matter most to us. 



Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity

Analytical and historical introduction to ethical theories; issues such as the nature of the goodness, distinction between right and wrong.

View introduction video

Consider the following scenario:  You are walking alongside some train tracks when you discover that a runaway trolley is headed right for five people tied to the tracks.  As it happens, you can pull a lever to divert the trolley in a different direction, thereby saving the five – but also killing one person who happens to be tied to the side-track.  What ought you to do in this situation?  Most people would say they would pull the lever.  But now consider a variation on this scenario: Suppose instead that you are on the trolley that is headed toward the five people, and the only way you can save them is by pushing a very large person standing beside you over the front of the trolley so that his bulk stops it, killing him but saving the other five.  (Of course, you considered sacrificing yourself, but realized that your slender body would not stop the trolley.)  Now what should you do? Notice that if you push the person, you get the same consequence:  five persons live and one dies.  Or consider a parallel medical case: If a medical team has enough time and resources to save either one person or a group of five others, but not both, it seems they should save the five; but what if they could only save the five by killing the one and using the organs to save the others?  Once again, if they do so then the consequences would be the same: five live and one dies.  But then, why hesitate to kill the one to save the five?

The trolley case and other cases like it highlight a central problem in ethical theory.  In evaluating whether an action is right or wrong, should we look only to the consequences of these actions, or is something else relevant?  If only the consequences matter, why do we feel, at least initially, that killing the one to save the five is wrong?  If something else is relevant, what is it, and why does it matter?

We make moral judgments on a regular basis in our lives, judgments to the effect that some goal or purpose is good, that some decision or action is right or wrong, or that some person is a good or bad person.  Despite the fact that such judgment are commonly made and acted upon, and have deep and significant consequences, people rarely subject them to much critical reflection.  We rarely ask what exactly we mean by such judgments, or on what basis they ought to be made. What is it for something to be good or bad?  What constitutes a good or valuable life for a human being?  What is it for an action to be right or wrong? Is the rightness of actions determined solely by the value of the consequences of actions?  What role, if any, do agents’ motives or intentions play in determining the rightness or wrongness of actions?  In this course we examine classical and contemporary works that articulate and defend particular answers to such important questions.

Course objectives:  To help you 

  • identify central questions in ethics;
  • understand and be able to explain the leading answers to such questions;
  • develop the skills needed to compare and critically evaluate competing answers to these questions;
  • develop the skills needed to examine the implications such answers have for some controversial moral problems;
  • improve your ability to write clear argumentative essays.

 Readings:  ICON site.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Common problems, literature, analytic techniques.

Every modern ideology of politics claims to offer versions of environmentalism. It’s easy to find liberals, conservatives, socialists, and more who urge rescuing Earth from climate change, erosion, pollution, resources exhaustion, and so on. Yet in philosophy, fiction, and film, many classics of green politics reach beyond modern institutions, principles, and policies. They link instead to existentialism, feminism, perfectionism, and populism. These often agree with greens that we need to limit industrialism, curb capitalism, undo patriarchy, revive community, yet decenter humanity. The tasks are tall, so we use green classics to discuss green challenges.

Six classics are books: The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry, Second Nature and The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, plus Green Earth and The Ministry for the Future as novels by Kim Stanley Robinson. Others are essays and poems by Aldo Leopold, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Gary Snyder. Probable film classics are: The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), Clearcut (1991), A Thousand Acres (1997), Fight Club (1999), and Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), Course books are sold by the University Bookstore in the Iowa Memorial Union. Students arrange to view the films from DVDs, streaming services, libraries, or the like. The seminar divides into three parts, with students writing argumentative essays about political issues and course resources in each part. Instructions are provided in advance, and the essays are written on a take-home basis.

Social Sciences Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity

How American men, women, and children practice their beliefs in today's society.

Have you ever been curious about what and why people believe? Do you wonder about why people eat certain things at certain times of the year, why people pray, why they raise their families in certain ways? If you wonder about any of these things THEN THIS IS THE CLASS FOR YOU!

We will explore together commonalities as well as differences among religious and spiritual groups in the United States today including evangelical Protestant Christians and Roman Catholics; Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews; and Muslims.  We will also learn about less well known groups and adherents such as the Amish, Zen Buddhists, Scientologists, Jehovah Witnesses, and snakehandling Holiness-Pentecostals, as well as the beliefs of agnosticism and atheism.

Class Format: 

The format for this class is facilitated learning. We will have in-class discussions in which we share our views and learn together. Because this is a General Education class, you will take away some important skills that will help you in other classes and in life. Reading and writing skills, short in-class presentations, and group work are some of the things we will address in this class. Dr. Kristy is a passionate teacher who invites you to share her interest in understanding the world in which we live and each other’s religious, spiritual, and cultural backgrounds.

Class Assignments:

Assignments include: Four short analysis papers on class readings; a family spiritual-religious heritage paper; short quizzes; a final “Religion in Iowa City” report and 3-minute in-class presentation. All of the course readings will be available on course ICON site.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Quests for destiny in terms of perceived options/goals and ability to recognize, pursue, achieve them.

The framework for this course is made up of three ancient works: The Epic of Gilgamesh and, from the Bible, the first nine chapters of the Book of Genesis and the Book of Jonah. The differing ways in which these three texts deal with the issue of the inevitability of death is the focal point of the course. How this point is exploited is examined in Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilych," Clarke's Childhood's End, the Book of Ecclesiastes, the E'numa E'lish, and Stanley Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Upon completing this course, students should be able to (a) reflect on how various quests for meaning in life as expressed in literature relate to the human condition, with particular attention to matters relating to the table, the bedroom, and the grave; (b) specify the dangers in making generalizations about biblical texts and the individuals and groups that hold them to be sacred; (c) indicate how fundamental human questions such as "Where do we come from?", "Where are we going?", and "How long do we have?" are expressed from the contrasting viewpoints of the pagan and biblical visions.

In addition to reading materials and interactive tools, online content includes audio slideshows and video (recorded class lectures of Professor Jay Holstein); evaluation consists of one 2-page writing assignment and online assessments by way of multiple-choice practice quizzes (which do not factor into the course grade), and  midterm and final exams, all of which are accessed in the ICON course management system. While this online venue is designed in such a way that it will replicate as much as possible the classroom experience, it also aims to capitalize on the element of flexibility made possible by the online experience.                                                                  

Delivery features:

  • Since course video and audio components include close captioning and transcripts, the course is accessible for hearing impaired and for students who are not native English speakers, although English competency is assumed for all students.
  • This course seeks to achieve a positive synergy between a design that is both (a) synchronous, that is, diligently working within certain necessary deadlines for a semester-based course, and (b) asynchronous, namely, creatively exploiting the freedom for students too move at their own pace. Within a framework of set deadlines, there is a considerable amount of flexibility for students to pace themselves if they so choose.

This course requires two online proctored examinations and an online proctored essay. Access to a computer with a webcam and microphone in a quiet/private location is required for using an online proctoring service to complete exams.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Examination of the persuasive dimension of stories; students master the skill of storytelling by examining stories circulating within their culture and exploring the effects these stories have on thinking about their identities and discovering their own voices; integration of speaking and writing skills with persuasive storytelling skills through short oral and written assignments that lead to a final multimodal project of two interrelated storytelling assignments—production of a website and a podcast.
Prerequisites: RHET:1030 or RHET:1040 or RHET:1060
Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Development of cultural history in Russia during the Romanov period (1613-1917); painting, music, architecture, and literature viewed against their political, historical, and social settings. Taught in English.

How terrible was Ivan the Terrible? How great was Catherine the Great? And who the heck was that Rasputin dude? We will try to find answers to these and other slightly more pressing questions in the course of this sweeping overview of pre-revolutionary Russian history, literature, and culture. 2013 marked the 400th anniversary of the first Romanov tsar on the Russian throne and 2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the collapse of the dynasty. We will look at Russian culture through the eyes of writers (Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov), painters (Repin, Kramskoi, Perov, Vasnetsov, Ge, Vrubel), composers (Mussorgsky, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov), and film directors (Sergei Eisenstein, Alexander Nevsky (1938), Sergei Bondarchuk, War and Peace (1965-67), Andrei Tarkovsky, Andrei Rublev (1969), Alexander Sokurov, Russian Ark (2002). Students are evaluated on the basis of attendance and class participation (30%), two exams (15% each), two papers (15% each), and a presentation (10%). Knowledge of Russian is not required. Course taught in English. 

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity

Russia Today 3 s.h.

Contemporary Russia, with focus on prevailing social, political, economic, ethnic, environmental conditions; attention to historical evolution of problems, current factors; what these factors might portend for the future. Taught in English.

In this course, you will learn about all facets of the modern Russia: politics, business, family, traditions, everyday life, social problems and much more. We will also look into Russian culture and mindset to help you understand the life in modern Russia more deeply. The course will feature documentaries and invited guest speakers. The course materials and readings will be available on ICON. This course is taught in English.

International and Global Issues Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Introduction to culture, history, and art of eastern European peoples; pagan, dualistic, and animistic beliefs and their coexistence with Christian faith in eastern Europe.

Russian Folklore is an introduction to the culture, history, and art of Russian people.

It is amazing oral art full of the myths about powerful gods, brave warriors, clever and beautiful maidens, vampires, witches, fire birds, black magic, evil eye, and superstitions based on ancient pagan beliefs. During this course, the students will learn different genres of Russian Folklore: fairy tales, myths, legends, songs, cries, sayings, and riddles. Students will regularly get the short questionnaires to check attendance and readiness to pass 4 quizzes and 3 tests with a good grade. No background knowledge required. All readings and discussions are in English.  

Historical Perspectives Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity

Historical development of social welfare and social justice in the United States; individual values and ethics; role and responsibilities of enhancing society; contemporary practice to address social injustices including poverty, discrimination, various forms of violence; small group discussions and debates of various issues to allow for an exchange of diverse views and perspectives; volunteer work.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Structure and process; change over the life cycle; interrelations with other institutions; historical changes; variations by social class and ethnic group.

In this course, we will study American families from a sociological perspective. First, we will look at how American families have changed over time. Second, we will develop an understanding of the theories and methods employed by sociologists to examine issues related to the family. Third, we will examine specific aspects of family life including cohabitation, marriage, divorce, parenthood, and work-family conflict. In the process, we will learn to think objectively and open-mindedly about many controversial aspects of the family and family change, an ability that will enable you to critically evaluate popular portrayals of family-related issues.

Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity
Major theoretical perspectives for understanding inequality in economics, power, prestige; the magnitude of social inequality in the United States; sex and race inequality; trends in and causes of social mobility; selected consequences of social inequality.

In this course we will examine the major forms of social inequalities in the contemporary United States and the global community. We will explore the characteristics, causes, and consequences of how wealth, power, and other resources are unequally distributed across social groups. We will also analyze the role of public policy and the dominant cultural ideology on maintaining and/or reducing these inequalities.

Students from different disciplines would benefit from being able to answer some questions regarding contemporary society such as: Why is economic inequality getting more evident? How much do race, ethnicity, or gender affect individuals’ chances for getting ahead in life? Is globalization generally good or bad for workers? What is the role of the state, as well as major social institutions such as the media, corporations, and education in all this?

We will achieve the course goals through our readings, writing, active participation, discussions, and using critical thinking in this class.


Values and Culture Values, Society, and Diversity