Courses Feature Mix of Past and Present

by Rashad Mulla

The fall 2010 semester may have started this week, but students have until Sept. 14 to add classes. College of Humanities and Social Sciences students have a variety of relevant and interesting options to choose from if they are looking for a last-minute course to plug into their fall schedule.

RELI 364-001: Religion and Law in the U.S. (John Farina)

This course will focus on the intersection of religion, law and society in the U.S. Topics include the First Amendment, religion and public schools, government aid to religious institutions, freedom of religious expression and freedom of religious practice. Students will study actual events and court cases in U.S. history that involved religion in the lawmaking, enforcement and justice processes.

“Students will become experts on the First Amendment law on religion,” Farina said. “They will know the pertinent Supreme Court cases involving religion in the United States.”

Students will not only stick to history. Farina has said he will discuss the ongoing debate surrounding the proposed Islamic Center in New York City, applying his teachings to one of the biggest religion and law issues in the U.S. today.

COMM 455-001: History of Journalism (Steve Klein)

History of journalism students will study the history of print news, spanning Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press (a fact that may be up for debate) to today’s technologically enhanced newsgathering and presentation. Students will create a class blog to save their notes from the entire semester, thereby creating, in Klein’s own words, a first draft of history.

“My notion of history is to view events as history that haven’t stopped happening,” Klein said. “This is a particularly interesting time in history to study the coming of printing, the book and print journalism as new technologies appear to be closing one era of how we share information and opening a bright new digital era.”

COMM 374-001: Political Journalism (Steve Klein)

Political journalism returns for a final semester after a six-year run. Students engage in weekly video discussions with political newsmakers, experts, commentators and universities from around the country in the GMU-TV video studio in Innovation Hall, room 455. The resulting program airs on C-SPAN 3 every week. Students also write articles during the semester that they can publish on a variety of sites.

HIST 499-007: Senior Seminar-The Salem Witch Trials (Mack Holt)

This course is one of a variety that history majors can choose to complete their senior seminar requirement. The course will focus on the Salem witch trials of 1692 as a backdrop to improve students’ research and writing. The goal is to produce a polished piece of scholarship – between 20 and 25 pages – that serves as a summation of a history student’s academic career.

Students will study the principal secondary accounts of the trials, and read the accounts of a variety of historians who have taken different approaches to the subject.

“I suppose I want them to learn two things,” Holt said. “First, I hope they learn that fear and paranoia in any culture can easily lead to scapegoating, whether [with] heretics in the Middle Ages, witches in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, communists in the 1950s, or immigrants in our own day. Second, I hope they will see that religious zealotry, especially the certainty that divine providence requires them to do something personally about their perceived enemies, can easily lead to violence and even the killing of human beings in the name of religion.”

CLAS 390-001: The Odyssey on Film (Martin Winkler)

This course provides advanced students with an interpretive survey of on-screen adaptations of Homer’s Odyssey, perhaps the most influential single work of classical antiquity, according to Winkler. The main focus will be on the appreciation and analysis of both the original and its adaptations. The class will focus on some of the best and most well-known adaptations of The Odyssey.

“Students will gain, by means of one specific example, a better understanding of the cultural continuity in Western civilization,” Winkler said. “Films of The Odyssey, a work of literature that is now about 2700 years old, have been adapted to a 20th-century visual medium whose technological basis was completely unknown, and perhaps inconceivable, to the ancients.”

GERM 442-001: The Age of Goethe (Francien Markx)

The late-18th and early-19th centuries are known as the Age of Goethe in German-speaking territories, referencing the German writer, poet and philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goether (1749-1832). German literature, music, art, and science flourished as never before during this time period, according to Markx. This course highlights some of the most notable works of the time period.

As “the Age of Goethe” is an upper-level language course, class discussions will be held entirely in German.

Be on the lookout for these and other courses spanning relevant current issues and highly specialized history.