Modern business corporations can be characterized as having their own internal cultures, more or less distinct from one another. They also exist within encompassing cultures and cultural flows. At the same time, corporations are producers and disseminators, and thus have effects on their surrounding environments, effects that extend from the local to the global. This course examines modern corporations from these three perspectives through theoretical and ethnographic readings, guest speakers from the corporate world, and independent research conducted by the students. Course requirements include student presentations of their research and readings; one or more take-home exams; and a final research paper.
- Benjamin Franklin Seminars - Medicine
- Cinema Studies
- Classical Studies
- Computer and Information Science
- Environmental Studies
- Germanic Languages
- Independent Study
- Legal Studies & Business Ethics
- Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations
- Political Science
- Urban Studies
Benjamin Franklin Seminars - Medicine
Juniors and seniors only; all students need permission of the instructor, Dr. Helen Davies. ALL students must send an email message to Helen Davies firstname.lastname@example.org explaining their background and why they want to take the course.
This course will examine the interactions between human beings, their organs and cells, and various infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. The biological, societal and historical factors influencing these interactions will be analyzed and emerging infectious diseases will be particularly studied. Important infectious pathogenic agents will be surveyed in terms of their physiological functions, properties that permit them to be pathogens, pathogenesis of infections, clinical pictures of the disease states, therapeutic agents, and methods of prevention of infection. Each student will choose an infectious disease, and make an oral and written presentation on it and in this way will learn how to keep up with the topic of infectious diseases.
The course is appropriate for engineering and science majors and premeds. This course will provide an examination of technology and its impact on medicine with an emphasis on the intersection of engineering with medicine and health. Modules will focus on specific technological advances as a basis for the discussion. Planned topics change from year to year and include, for example, cochlear implants and visual sensory rehabilitative devices. The course includes homework and reading assignments. Every student presents a paper on a relevant biomedical technology.
Computer and Information Science
The purpose of this course is to introduce undergraduate students in computer computer science and engineering to quantum computers (QC) and quantum information science (QIS). This course is meant primarly for juniors and seniors in Computer Science. No prior knowledge of quantum mechanics (QM) is assumed. Enrollment is by permission of the instructor.
From the fall of the Roman Empire to the discovery of Love Canal, to the epidemics of asthma, childhood obesity and lead poisoning in West Philadelphia, the impact of the environment on health has been a continuous challenge to society. The physical environment can adversely affect people’s health more strongly than biological factors, medical care and lifestyle.The water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the neighborhood we live in are all components of the environment that impact our health. Some estimates, based on morbidity and mortality statistics, indicate that the impact of the environment on health is as high as 80%. These impacts are particularly significant in urban areas like West Philadelphia. Over the last 20 years, the field of environmental health has matured and expanded to become one of the most comprehensive and humanly relevant disciplines in science.
This course will examine not only the toxicity of physical agents, but also the effects on human health of lifestyle, social and economic factors, and the built environment. Topics include in-door air quality, water borne diseases, radon, endocrine disruption, lead poisoning, respiratory diseases and obesity. Students will research the health impacts of industrial pollution case studies in the US. Class discussions will also include risk communication, community outreach and education, access to health care and impact on vulnerable populations. Each student will have the opportunity to focus on Public Health Practices, Environmental Threats, Public Policy, and Environmental Education issues as they discuss approaches to mitigating environmental health risks. This honors seminar will consist of lectures, guest speakers, readings, student presentations, discussions, research, and community service.
The students will form research teams and conduct a risk assessment in response an environmental problem, and explore the many facets that must be addressed to reduce the impact to the affected population. The major research assignment for the course will be a problem-oriented research paper and presentation on a topic related to community-based environmental health selected by the student. In this paper, the student must also develop reasonable and implementable recommendations to reduce adverse impacts to the at-risk public.
Western thinkers from the ancient Greeks to the present have speculated about what the ideal human society would look like. We can study the resultant utopias as works of literature, philosophy, religion, psychology or political science; we must understand them in their historical contexts. This seminar will take a multidisciplinary approach to utopian thought from Plato's Republic to the ecological utopias of the 1980s. Works to be examined include More's Utopia; seventeenth century scientific utopias like Bacon's New Atlantis; the political theory of Rousseau (Social Contract); visions of the French utopian socialists, including Étienne Cabet’s Icaria ; the American socialist Bellamy’s Looking Backward and the English response in Morris' News from Nowhere; Gilman's feminist blueprint, Herland; BF Skinner's psychological utopia, Walden Two; and the utopian science fiction of Ursula LeGuin. Huxley's dystopia, Brave New World, will be set against his later utopia, Island.
Many historians contend that the First World War marked the end of the nineteenth century, and served as the true beginning of the “short twentieth century.” World War I opened, in the words of one historian, “the Age of Catastrophe.” We will devote the semester to examining one of the most epochal wars in world history.
Our course will examine: the dynamics of violence which preceded the First World War; the July Crisis, which led to the beginning of the war; the military course of the war, and the policies that made it possible to wage total war for so long; and how the war came to end. Throughout our course, we will trace not only the military, political and social processes that affected millions of lives, but we will also devote a significant portion of our course to “the intimate history of the war.”
No prior knowledge of the First World War is assumed or required, only a commitment to investigating it.
This seminar traces the evolution of the main economic ideas of classical economic liberalism from Adam Smith through Malthus, Ricardo, Say, List to John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx. The course will consider how and why Smith’s description of markets became the orthodoxy and what assumption about “universal laws,” universal human nature and the definition of rationality have to be made for that description to be reliable. We shall read together the main works of these thinkers and at the end re-think the problems of classical liberalism in the globalized capitalist system of today.
In this course we will read the Inferno, the Purgatorio and the Paradiso, focusing on a series of interrelated problems raised by the poem: authority, fiction, history, politics and language. Particular attention will be given to how the Commedia presents itself as Dante's autobiography, and to how the autobiographical narrative serves as a unifying thread for this supremely rich literary text. Supplementary readings will include Virgil's Aeneid and selections from Ovid's Metamorphoses. All readings and written work will be in English. Italian or Italian Studies credit will require reading Italian text the original language and writing about their themes in Italian. This course may be taken for graduate credit, but additional work and meetings with the instructor will be required.
See CURF’s research directory for information on faculty members who are looking for undergraduate assistance in their research. Also, consult with a faculty member from a relevant course or ask department advisors.
Defining a Project
Once a student finds a faculty member willing to sponsor the student’s independent study, he or she needs to meet with this faculty member and determine what the project will entail. The student will need to understand his or her project, where to begin with it, and what training, supplies or equipment will be needed. The student also needs to discuss very specifically what the faculty member will expect the student to complete by which dates, what outside reading and study must be finished, what the student will hand in for grading, how often the student and then faculty advisor will meet, and whether anyone else will be available for the student to work with on a daily or weekly basis.
Registering for BENF 099
Please note that only students in the Benjamin Franklin Scholars program are eligible for BENF 099. Other students may register for independent study through a department or school number.
Also note that BENF 099 courses do not count towards the requirement of 4 Benjamin Franklin Seminars for BFS students.
First, with the help of his or her advisor, the student must write a clear and detailed proposal. The proposal should clearly describe the project, the student’s goals and responsibilities, and any reading he or she will do. It will also specify how the work will be evaluated and what the student will produce (a paper, bibliography, lab journal, etc.). When the student finishes the proposal, the advisor will fill in all of her or his information and sign it. The student must bring the proposal to the Benjamin Franklin Office by the due date. He or she should double check to make sure all the information is complete.
When the proposal is approved, the student will be assigned a course number and registered for that course. The student may call the BFS office on the last Friday of the Add period to get the course number. If the proposal is not complete and/or not approved, the student will not be registered.
A student must fully complete a proposal form each semester, even if she or he is continuing a previous project. BENF 099 is normally for one credit per semester. In extraordinary circumstances, a student may petition for more than one credit with a written letter of support from his or her sponsor.
To answer any questions, concerns, explanations or special circumstances, interested students should schedule an appointment with Linda Wiedmann at 215-746-6488, to discuss them, well before the due date.
Title and grades
The student and his or her faculty sponsor should agree on a title for the independent study which will appear on the student’s transcript. The title must fit into the parameters on the proposal form. At the end of the semester the student must submit a copy of the final paper or a copy of the lab journal to the BFS office. We must have some written proof of the student’s work in order for him or her to receive credit.
BFS will send the student’s sponsor a grade sheet from the Registrar: the sponsor determines the student’s grade.
This independent study will not automatically count for a student’s major. The student must meet with his or her major advisor or the undergraduate chair for the major and have the independent study approved for the major. We cannot do this for the student.
No student may receive pay and credit for the same project.
There will be mandatory mid-semester meetings of all students pursuing BENF independent study to discuss their research progress.
Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations
In the tenth century, a scholar named Ibn Sayyar al-Warraq produced an Arabic manuscript called Kitab al-Tabikh (“The Book of Cooking”.) This volume, which compiled and discussed the recipes of eighth- and ninth-century Islamic rulers (caliphs) and their courts in Iraq, represents the oldest known surviving cookbook of the Arab-Islamic world. Many more such cookbooks followed; in their day they represented an important literary genre among cultured elites. As one food historian recently noted, “there are more cookbooks in Arabic from before 1400 than in the rest of the world’s languages put together”.
This course will take the study of Ibn Sayyar’s cookbook as its starting point for examining the cultural dynamics of food in the Middle East across the sweep of the Islamic era, into the modern period, and until the present day. It will use the historical study of food and “foodways” as a lens for examining subjects that relate to a wide array of fields and interests. These subjects include politics, economics, agricultural and environmental studies, anthropology, literature, religion, and public health. With regard to the modern era, the course will pay close attention to the social consequences of food in shaping memories and identities – including religious, ethnic, national, and gender-based identities – particularly among people who have dispersed or otherwise migrated.
The study of four paradigmatic classic Jewish texts so as to introduce students to the literature of classic Judaism. Each text will be studied historically—“excavated” for its sources and roots—and holistically, as a canonical document in Jewish tradition. While each text will inevitably raise its own set of issues, we will deal throughout the semester with two basic questions: What makes a “Jewish” text? And how do these texts represent different aspects of Jewish identity? All readings will be in translation.
Course topics will vary; have included The Binding of Isaac, Responses to Catastrophes in Jewish History, and Concepts of Jewishness from Biblical Israel to the Modern State. Though Judaism is rightly known as a culture that exalts the study of text, performance of rituals is no less important for adherents who seek to fulfill divine command, rabbinic obligation and/or communal expectation. Christian thinkers in medieval and early modern Europe identified Jewish "ceremonial law" as a component of sacred Scripture whose authority had expired, and they ridiculed Jews for practicing "carnal" rather than "spiritual" religion. This course has a two-fold focus: Drawing on the insights of anthropology and ritual theory, students will explore the cultural logic of a range of concrete practices undertaken by Israelites and Jews in different geographic locales, from biblical times through the present. Students will also examine the perception and portrayal of Jewish customs in Christian theological, political and proto-ethnographic writings from the 7th -16th centuries. Readings from primary sources will be in English translation.
Legal Studies & Business Ethics
This course introduces students to important legal and ethical challenges they may face in business. It is designed to raise difficult ethical and legal conflicts and dilemmas, and to provide plausible frameworks for dealing with those conflicts. It is also designed to reveal common patterns of success and failure. It is not intended to convert sinners into saints, preach absolute truths, convey the wisdom of moral philosophers, or deter the morally vulnerable. We begin with the “big” questions about economic life. What are basic ways to think about ethics? What is the rationale for capitalism? After looking at the big issues, we will look at more concrete questions about the obligations of corporations, managers and employees. Do corporations have any obligations besides making money for their shareholders? If a multinational operates in a country where child labor is the norm, does that make it acceptable for the company to hire children? Readings will be drawn from moral and political philosophy, economics, and business case studies. Class sessions will consist of collaborative case discussions, exercises, and discussions of theoretical frameworks for interpreting ethics and law. An emphasis will be placed on class discussion.
Epistolary fiction is fiction presented in the form of letters ("epistles"). Often epistolary fictions invite readers to take voyeuristic pleasure in reading supposedly personal, even intimate, letters not "addressed" to us. Sometimes an epistolary writer pose as an "editor" without responsibility for the content of the letters he or she makes public. Some epistolary fictions look much like other kinds of novels except for the inclusion of a letter-convention "frame." In all cases, epistolary fictions incorporate specific kinds of distance between tales and readers, suggest the possibility of readerly transgression, complicate the supposedly clear space between public and private, and make peculiar authenticity claims.
The late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were the great age of English-language epistolary fiction. The form proliferated starting in the late 1660s, but by the beginning of the nineteenth century its popularity had dwindled markedly. Epistolary fiction was considered largely atavistic for most of the 19th and 20th centuries, though it never really disappeared. Remarkably, it is making something of a comeback today.
This course will consider the functions and appeal of epistolary fiction. We'll concentrate largely on texts from the form's hey-day between the mid-seventeenth and late-eighteenth centuries, but we'll also look at examples from the 19th and 20th centuries and consider some recent works. We'll ask what is at stake -- in aesthetic, political, moral/religious, and market terms -- in writing and publishing novels that pretend to be collections of private letters. Why did the epistolary form take off to such a spectacular extent during the "long eighteenth century" and why did its appeal dwindle when it did? What might account for the strong eighteenth-century association of epistolary fiction with women's voices and experiences? What part does epistolary fiction play in later British and American literary history, including contemporary fiction? Authors will include Aphra Behn, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, Samuel Richardson, Nick Bantock, and Lydia Davis, among others.
This BFS seminar on the theory and history of the novel before 1900 can be boiled down to the following:
Question: Three books walk into a bar. Which one's the Novel?
Answer: The one saying, "I'm not a Romance."
(Questions?, just write to email@example.com)
This course is about the good life. Socrates asks of his challenger in The Republic: "Do do you suppose you are trying to determine a small matter and not a course of life on the basis of which each of us would have the most profitable existence?” For Socrates, defining the good life is the central philosophical endeavor.
Hence, the goal of the course is reached at the end, where we will watch Socrates as he picks his way through the a consider the positions of his predecessors: that the good life is a life of courage and honor, that the good life requires figuring out man's relationship with the gods, that the good life is freedom from slavery to another people, that the good life requires political prudence, or that the good life is disciplined obedience to tradition. Then we will watch Socrates argue his own definition of the good life. We will read Homer's Iliad, Herodotus' Persian Wars, Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian Wars, Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, and six dialogues of Plato: Apology, Crito, Meno, Protagoras, Gorgias, and the Phaedrus. Requirement: regular class preparation and participation, two short papers, one long paper. Papers may be rewritten. If a student wants to jump into the reading over the break, he or she should send me an email, and I will send in return a guide to Homer's Iliad: firstname.lastname@example.org
Texts: Homer’s Iliad, trans. Fitzgerald (please, this translation); Herodotus, The Landmark Herodotus (The Free Press); Aeschylus II, trans. Grene, Lattimore, etc. (Chicago); Thucydides, The Landmark Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian Wars (The Free Press); Four Texts on Socrates, ed. West and West (Cornell); Plato, Republic, trans. Grube (Hackett); Plato, Gorgias, trans. Zeyl (Hackett); Plato, Protagoras, trans. Lombardo; Plato, Phaedrus, trans. Nehemas and Woodruff (Hackett).
"Languages are not strangers to one another," writes the great critic and translator Walter Benjamin. Yet two people who speak different languages have a difficult time talking to one another, unless they both know a third, common language or can find someone who knows both their languages to translate what they want to say. Without translation, most of us would not be able to read the Bible or Homer, the foundations of Western culture. Americans wouldn't know much about the cultures of Europe, China, Africa, South America, and the Middle East. And people who live in or come from these places would not know much about American culture. Without translation, Americans would not know much about the diversity of cultures within America. The very fabric of our world depend upon translation between people, between cultures, between texts.
This course parallels and extends the content of PHYS 151, at a somewhat higher mathematical level. Recommended for well- prepared students in engineering and the physical sciences, and particularly for those planning to major in physics. Electric and magnetic fields; Coulomb's, Ampere's, and Faraday's laws; special relativity; Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic radiation.
This course examines conceptual, explanatory and normative debates over power-sharing systems. We explore the circumstances in which federal, consociational and other power-sharing institutions and practices are proposed and implemented to regulate deep national, ethnic, religious or linguistic divisions. We evaluate these systems, seeking to explain why they are formed or attempted, and why they may endure or fail, paying special attention to bi- and multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual environments. Teaching methods include lectures, team-debates, and team-organized reading.
Food is a biological essential for humans, but one that has been elaborated and transformed in many ways through history, and given a variety of cultural signatures. This course will consider food from a variety of perspectives. In doing so, it will emphasize how food can only be understood when examined from the point of view of different disciplines. It will also serve as a medium for promoting critical thinking and quantitative skills, particularly through exercises in data collection, basic statistics and interpretation of results.
Topics considered will include: the measurement, origin and development of animal and human food preferences; the history of food production (particularly agriculture and domestication) in humans; basic human nutrition; taste, smell and flavor; the cultural history of specific foods, including meat, milk, chocolate, chili pepper, tomatoes, potatoes and corn; the function of food in daily life in a range of cultures including hunter-gatherers, and contemporary India, France and the USA; famine and the modern food distribution system; the cultural evolution of cuisine; food marketing; the epidemiological evolution and its effect on the diet-health link and the way people think about food and health; basic statistics and the evaluation of clinical trial and other forms of evidence for a link between diet and health; the challenge of nutrition and food choice in American inner cities; developed world concerns about long term effects of diet; attitudes to natural foods and genetic engineering; the regulation of food intake; body image, obesity and eating disorders; aspects of the politics and economics of food; evaluation of how food functions as a symbol; ambivalence to food; the emotion of disgust; and vegetarianism.
Most reading will be from secondary sources, but a number of original empirical articles from the diet-health, historical, psychological, and anthropological literature will be included.
Course evaluation is from a series of about eight short papers and projects, plus a class wide research exploration of one particular topic (for Spring 2015, the special topic will have something to do with nuts). The course will have about 8 guest lecturers from many disciplines, and will include at least four outside eating experiences (Burmese food, modern molecular cuisine, etc.) and a trip to a dairy and pig rearing facility.
To apply to this course, please complete and return this document to Dr. Rozin. Completion instructions can be found inside the document.
This class focuses on the complex relations between philosophy, history, and art in Russia and offers discussions of works of major Russian authors (such as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Khlebnikov), religious and political thinkers (Chaadaev, Herzen, Berdiaev, Lenin, Bogdanov), avant-garde artists (Filonov, Malevich), and composers (Skriabin) who created and tested in their lives their own, sometimes very peculiar and radical, worldviews. We will consider these worldviews against a broad cultural background and will reenact them in class in the form of philosophical mini-dramas. The only prerequisite for this course is intellectual curiosity and willingness to embrace diverse, brave and often very weird ideas.
One of the seminar’s aims is to help students develop their capacity to solve strategic, real world problems by working collaboratively in the classroom and in the West Philadelphia community. Students work as members of research teams to help contribute to solving universal problems (e.g., poverty, poor schooling, inadequate health care, etc.) as they are manifested in Penn’s local geographic community of West Philadelphia.
Seminar students are expected to work approximately 2 hours/week at one of the Netter Center’s partner high schools (Sayre or West Philadelphia). They will be matched with juniors or seniors at the high school and work one-on-one on issues of college access, including academic preparation and financial aid.
Another goal of the seminar is to help students develop proposals as to how a Penn undergraduate education might better empower students to produce, not simply “consume,” societally-useful knowledge, as well as function as life long , active, contributing democratic citizens of a democratic society.