curf - Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships




Fall 2014 Benjamin Franklin Seminars

Fall 2014 BFS Course Chart (Word doc)


Globalization & Health

ANTH-273-401, Cross Listed with: HSOC-239-401
M 3:00 PM-6:00 PM
Adriana Petryna

BFS Sector I

In some parts of the world spending on healthcare is astronomical. In others, people struggle to survive amid new and reemerging epidemics and have little or no access to basic or life-saving therapies. Treatments for infectious diseases that disproportionately affect the world’s poor remain under-researched and global health disparities are increasing. This interdisciplinary seminar integrates perspectives from the social and biomedical sciences to explore 1) the development and global flows of medical technologies; 2) how individual and group health is affected by medical technologies, public policy, and the forces of globalization as each of these affects local worlds.

The seminar is structured around specific case materials from around the world (Haiti, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, China, India, for example), each demonstrating how social and technological forces-increasingly global in nature-can influence biomedical processes and disease outcomes and their distribution. As we analyze each case and gain familiarity with ethnographic methods, we will ask how more effective interventions can be formulated. The course draws from ethnographic and historical writings, medical journals, ethical analyses, and films, and familiarizes students with critical debates on globalization and it local responses.

Benjamin Franklin Seminars (MED)

Infectious Diseases

TR 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
Helen Conrad Davies

Special requirements
Juniors and seniors only; all students need permission of the instructor, Dr. Helen Davies. ALL students must send an email message to Helen Davies 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.

Classical Studies

Classics & American Government

CLST-370-401, Cross Listed with: GAFL-570-401
MW 2:00 PM-3:30 PM
John J. Mulhern

BFS Sector II

This course focuses on the classical education of the American founders from childhood through college and on its relation to their understanding of government, with special attention to James Madison. The course begins with a reading of the works that Madison actually read, drawing on reports of his life at home and on records of his activity at the Robertson School in Virginia as well as on materials from Princeton. Thus students will have an opportunity to relive Madison’s classical educational experience.

Although the classical works will be read in translation, the professor will be prepared to comment on the Greek and Latin texts for students who have an interest in them. The course goes on to trace the influence of this education on Madison’s conception of the American situation before, during, and after the Convention of 1787; and it considers as well Jefferson and the antifederalists from the standpoint of their classical background.


Game Theory

TR 12:00 PM-1:30 PM
Andrew Postlewaite

Special requirements
Pre-requisites: ECON 101, MATH 104 and MATH 114 or MATH 115. Permission needed from Economics department (McNeil building.)

An introduction to game theory and its applications to Economic analysis. The course will provide a theoretical overview of modern game theory, emphasizing common themes in the analysis of strategic behavior in different social science contexts. The economic applications will be drawn from different areas including trade, corporate strategy and public policy.


Introduction to Shakespeare

TR 12:00 PM-1:30 PM
Phyllis Rosalyn Rackin

BFS Sector III

Although Shakespeare’s plays are usually studied as high canonical literature, they were originally written as playscripts designed for the entertainment of a disorderly, socially heterogeneous crowd and the financial profit of the players. This course will attempt to resituate the plays in their original theatrical setting. We will study a representative selection of Shakespeare’s comedies, tragedies, and histories (to be chosen by the class at the first meeting) along with background material on Shakespeare’s theater and his culture.
There will be one or two hour-exams, one or two short papers, and a final exam. In addition, students are expected to meet in study groups outside of class and to make thoughtful, well-informed contributions to the class listserv and discussions.

Thomas Mann in Modernity

TR 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Anne D Hall

BFS Sector III

In Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus, the Christian humanist narrator asks the Nietzschean artist, “Can anything compete with love?” and the Nietzschean artist replies, “Yes, being interested.” Love is the message of Christian tradition; being interested is the message of modern criticism and the fascination with novelty. For Mann, “being interested” drives rational criticism, which undermines both Christian faith in the power of love and Romantic faith in the power of human solidarity; but then rational criticism can be self-destructive.

This course looks at Mann’s reflections on the tensions and contradictions of modern culture in his two greatest works, The Magic Mountain and Doktor Faustus. We will read several short works by Kant, the First and Second Discourses of Rousseau, and Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. The course will culminate in Mann’s two novels. Mann’s books being long, the student would be well advised to get started reading them over the summer, in the translation by John Woods, not the translation by Lowe-Porter. Besides, a book is better the second time through.

Two short papers (5 pp), and a longer paper (8-10pp).

The Colors of Literature

ENGL-361-401, Cross Listed with: COML-271-401; FNAR-361-401
TR 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Jean-Michel Rabate

BFS Sector III

We perceive the world in color, yet colors are often considered as mere ornaments. By taking the theme of color as a way of reading literature, we will map contemporary culture differently. Starting with historical accounts of the production, use and symbolic values of the colors by Michel Pastoureau, we will engage with cultural, political, philosophical investigations of color. Reading color entails reconstructing a social and cultural history. Literature and film are uniquely placed to allow us to understand the logics of identity and exclusion, and to show the variety of human emotions condensed by color. The books that will we read will range from mainstream novels and films to more experimental texts.

Primary readings: for each color, we will read one book and discuss one or several films. We will read in this order: Patricia Hampl, Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime (2006), Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book (in the 2006 translation), Aubrey Beardsley, The Yellow Book, (1894-1897, online), Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight (1993), Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red (2005), Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982), Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (1995).

Reproductive Fictions

ENGL-390-401, Cross Listed with: GSWS-390-401
TR 12:00 PM-1:30 PM
Emily Steinlight

From Frankenstein’s “hideous progeny” to the dystopia of mandatory surrogate pregnancy in The Handmaid’s Tale, fictional narratives often prompt us to consider how and why certain bodies, lives, and social structures are reproduced. This interdisciplinary seminar will examine the relationship between reproduction and representation (scientific, political, and not least of all literary.)

We will discuss longstanding debates surrounding human procreation, including the history of sexuality, the regulation of fertility and demography, contraception, abortion, the intersection of race and gender, eugenics, class and social reproduction, family structures, biological kinship and citizenship, reproductive labor, and the commodification of genetic material. In analyzing novels, we will also consider the significance of textual reproduction, both on a functional level (industrial print production) and on a rhetorical level (including arguments about what kinds of cultural materials deserve to be reproduced and about the genealogy of literary works).

Readings will include poetry and fiction by Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Margaret Atwood, together with scientific and sociological writing and recent contributions to gender and sexuality studies, bioethics, and law. Assignments will include a 4-6pp paper, a longer final paper or project, and active participation.

Cinema and Globalization

ENGL-392-401, Cross Listed with: ARTH-391-401; CINE-392-401; COML- 391-401
TR 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Rita Barnard

BFS Sector lll

In this course, we will study a number of films (mainly feature films, but also a few documentaries) that deal with a complicated nexus of issues that have come to be discussed under the rubric of “globalization.” Among these are the increasingly extensive networks of money and power, the transnational flow of commodities and cultural forms, and the accelerated global movement of people, whether as tourists or migrants. At stake, throughout, will be the ways in which our present geographical, economic, social, and political order can be understood and represented. What new narrative forms have arisen to make sense of contemporary conditions?

Films will include: The Year of Living Dangerously, Perfumed Nightmare, Dirty Pretty Things, Monsoon Wedding, Babel, Y Tu Mama Tambien,Maria Full of Grace, In This Word, Darwin’s Nightmare, Black Gold, Life and Debt, The Constant Gardener, Syriana, and Children of Men. In addition to studying the assigned films carefully, students will also be expected to read a selection of theoretical works on globalization (including Zygmunt Baumann’s Globalization: The Human Consequences) and, where appropriate, the novels on which the assigned films are based. Advance viewing of the films is required. (I find it is best to place films on reserve for students’ use, or to ask that students get their own DVDs from Amazon or Netflix, but screenings can certainly be arranged.) Writing requirements: a mid-term and final paper, plus occasional voluntary in-class presentations.

Environmental Studies

Speaking About Lead in West Philadelphia

ENVS-404-401, Cross Listed with: HSOC-404-401
TR 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Richard Pepino

Sector VII

Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, impaired hearing, behavioral problems, and at very high levels, seizures, coma and even death. Children up to the age of six are especially at risk because of their developing systems; they often ingest lead chips and dust while playing in their home and yards. In ENVS 404, Penn undergraduates learn about the epidemiology of lead poisoning, the pathways of exposure, and methods for community outreach and education. Penn students collaborate with middle school and high school teachers in West Philadelphia to engage middle school children in exercises that apply environmental research relating to lead poisoning to their homes and neighborhoods.

Fine Arts

Open Book

FNAR-238-401, Cross Listed with: FNAR-538-401
W 4:30 PM-7:30 PM
Sharka Hyland

BFS Sector IV

“Open Book” will focus on visual communication of information. It will address two methods of inquiry and the corresponding means of visual representation: the objective, well structured research of facts and images, and the creative process of their subjective evaluation and restatement. Students will propose a topic based on their area of interest and engage in a focused, semester-long exploration, which they will present in the form of a designed and printed book.

Photographic Thinking

W 4:30 PM-7:30 PM
Nancy Davenport

BFS Sector IV

This course will explore and interrogate the key issues surrounding the medium of photography, led through these questions by lectures, group discussions and assignments/projects-based work. Students will be asked to complete readings & photo assignments, make in-class presentations and complete a final written or photographic project. Students should have a strong interest in art histories, philosophy and should be motivated to work independently & experiment creatively.


Paris Then and Now

FREN-300-401, Cross Listed with: ARTH-302-401; CPLN-300-401
W 2:00 PM-5:00 PM
Eugenie L. Birch, Elizabeth Dejean

BFS Sector IV and CCA

Paris, Ville-Lumière, has long been renowned for its urbanity, architecture, and city design. This class will trace the people, ideas, and projects that contributed to this reputation – from 1600 to the present. It will also explore current plans for and debates about Paris’ future development. The course includes a 5-day field trip to the city (over fall break). Co-taught by Professors Eugenie Birch (Department of City and Regional Planning) and Joan DeJean (Department of Romance Languages). Supported by the Mellon Foundation-sponsored Humanities + Urbanism + Design Project that will sponsor student travel expenses.


NOTE: Please see Georgia Kouzoukas () in Williams 515 or Kate Daniel () in 127 Meyerson Hall for an instruction sheet explaining how to apply. Students should turn in their applications by April 1; they will be notified about acceptance by April 16.


Classical Liberal Thought

T 3:00 PM-6:00 PM
Alan C. Kors

BFS Sector II

This seminar will examine the competing and diverse currents of classical liberal thought that have been a part of the Western dialogue from the nineteenth century to the present. The course requires active participations in discussion and two papers, one brief and one a longer paper. “Classical Liberal Thought,” in briefest form, is a belief in minimal government and maximal individual choice, consistent with peace and order. Looked at from afar, any movement of thought might seem all of one piece. Studied up close, however, what seemed uniform at first becomes complex and diverse.

As one studies such things as Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Marxism, Islam, conservatism, or feminism, for example, the more that one reads, analyzes, and compares, the more internal debates and differences one sees in each, whatever the agreements. Our “classical liberals” disagree, often in ways that make them mutually incompatible, about rights, benefits, ethical criteria, safety nets, human nature, and human history. The function of our discussion will be to analyze individual thinkers and, as we read beyond the first of them, to compare our thinkers, looking always both for agreements and, above all, for disagreements.

Legal Studies

Corporate Responsibilities and Ethics

TR 3:00-4:300PM
Nicholas Cornell

This course offers a multifaceted, philosophical introduction to business ethics. We begin with the “big” questions about economic life. What is the rationale for capitalism? Is it just? Who should make the most money? How should we decide who does the hard work? What role (if any) does deception play in our system?

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 share holders? Can a manager fire an employee just because he doesn’t like him? If a multinational operates in a country where child labor is the norm, does that make it alright for the company to hire children?

Readings will be drawn from moral and political philosophy, business reviews, economics, magazines, and popular literature. Special emphasis will be placed on issues relating to labor and employment.

Near Eastern Languages

Great Books of Judaism

NELC-156-401, Cross Listed with: COML-057-401; NELC-456-401; RELS-027-401; JWST-151-401
TR 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
David Stern

Sector III

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.

Spirit and Law

NELC-454-401, Cross Listed with: JWST-320-401; JWST-520-401; RELS-520-401
TR 12:00 PM-1:30 PM
Talya Fishman

BFS Sector II

While accepting “the yoke of the commandments”, Jewish thinkers from antiquity onward have perennially sought to make the teachings of revelation more meaningful in their own lives. Additional impetus for this quest has come from overtly polemical challenges to the law, such as those leveled by Paul, medieval Aristotelians, Spinoza and Kant. This course explores both the critiques of Jewish Law, and Jewish reflections on the Law’s meaning and purpose, by examining a range of primary sources within their intellectual and historical contexts. Texts (in English translation) include selections from Midrash, Talmud, medieval Jewish philosophy and biblical exegesis, kabbalah, Hasidic homilies, Jewish responses to the Enlightenment, and contemporary attempts to re-value and invent Jewish rituals. Syllabus information is subject to change.


Race, Gender, Class and the History of American Health Care

NURS-318-401, Cross Listed with: GSWS-318-401; HSOC-341-401
W 3:00 PM-6:00 PM
Julie A. Fairman

BFS Sector I and CDUS Sector I—also fulfills CDUS

This multidisciplinary course surveys the history of American health care through the multiple perspectives of race, gender, and class, and grounds the discussions in contemporary health issues. It emphasizes the links between the past and present, using not only primary documents but materials from disciplines such as literature, art, sociology, and feminist studies that relate both closely and tangentially to the health professions and health care issues.

Discussions will surround gender, class-based, ethnic, and racial ideas about the construction of disease, health and illness; the development of health care institutions; the interplay between religion and science; the experiences of patients and providers; and the response to disasters and epidemics. Skills for document analysis and critique are built into the course as is the contextual foundation for understanding the history of health care.

US Child Health 1800-2000

NURS-324-401, Cross Listed with: GSWS-324-401; HSOC-324-401
W 3:00 PM-6:00 PM
Cynthia A. Connolly

BFS Sector II

This course explores the impact of historical ideas, events, and actors pertaining to the history of children’s health care in the United States. Emphasis is placed on tracing the origins and evolution of issues that have salience for twenty-first century children’s health care policy and the delivery of care.


Honors Physics I

MWF 10:00 AM-11:00 AM
A.C. Johnson

Sector VI and QDA
Special requirements
Co-requisite: MATH114 or permission of instructor. Students must also enroll in either PHYS-170-302 or PHYS-170-303 (lab section.)

This course parallels and extends the content of PHYS 150, at a significantly higher mathematical level. Recommended for well prepared students in engineering and the physical sciences, and particularly for those planning to major in physics. Classical laws of motion: interaction between particles; conservation laws and symmetry principles; rigid body motion; noninertial reference frames; oscillations.


The Embodied Mind

W 2:00 PM-5:00 PM
Gordon Bermant

BFS Sector VII

Advances in cognitive science enlarge and challenge traditional concepts of mind, will, and self. This seminar explores alternative frameworks that accept the reality of mind as embodied without sacrificing respect for the significance of immediate experience, personal agency, and individual responsibility. The core text for the seminar is The Embodied Mind (Varela, Thompson & Rosch, MIT Press, 1991.)

Working from their combined expertise in neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology, these authors provided a framework founded in principles of phenomenology and Mahayana Buddhism. Because the book is almost 20 years old, its technical presentations need to be brought forward. But the framework it established remains sturdy.

The seminar will allow students to comprehend this framework, contrast it with alternatives both traditional and novel, and evaluate what they learn in light of recent theories and controversies in cognitive science and philosophy. Authors whose work might be consulted include, for example, the Churchlands, Clark, Dennett, Flanagan, Freeman, Koch, Libet, Taylor, Thompson, Wegner, and Williams.



RUSS-201-401, Cross Listed with: COML-207-401
TR 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Peter Steiner
BFS Sector III

This course explores the ways Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) portrays the “inner world(s)” of his characters. Dostoevsky’s psychological method will be considered against the historical, ideological, and literary contexts of middle to late nineteenth-century Russia. The course consists of three parts External World (the contexts of Dostoevsky), “Inside” Dostoevsky’s World (the author’s technique and ideas) and The World of Text (close reading of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov). Students will write three essays on various aspects of Dostoevsky’s “spiritual realism.”


Zoos, Science Musems & the Culture of Nature

W 9:00 AM-12:00 PM
David Grazian

BFS Sector I

Perhaps more than any other set of urban attractions, zoos and science museums are sites where we struggle with questions pertaining not only to our confused relationship to animals and the natural world, but our very definitions of nature and civilization, science and art, imagination and reality. In this Benjamin Franklin Seminar we will draw on an interdisciplinary set of readings and field assignments to explore how zoos, aquariums, nature preserves, natural history museums, parks, and other cultural attractions represent the “natural” environment in the urban milieu, and how different audiences invest their exhibits with meaning. Students will be trained in a variety of ethnographic methods and conduct public observations at sites throughout the city, which may include the Philadelphia Zoo, Academy of Natural Sciences, Franklin Institute, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, and the Wagner Free Institute of Science. In addition, as a class we will take a series of field trips to a number of other important sites around the region.


Contemprorary US Drama/Theatre

THAR-275-402, Cross Listed with: ENGL-356-402
TR 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
James F. Schlatter

BFS Sector III

This course will combine an intensive practical and intellectual investigation of some area of the making of theatre: performance techniques, theatrical styles, a particular period of theatre history. For the current topics contact the Theatre Arts office. One section of 275 every other Spring will consist of a small number of Theatre Arts majors selected by the faculty to become members of “the Edinburgh Project.” This ensemble will mount a production that will be performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. Many of the readings and exercises in this course will be geared to prepare for production; rehearsals for the project will continue after the exam period at the end of the semester.

Urban Studies

Faculty/Student Collaborative Action Seminar

URBS-178-401, Cross Listed with: AFRC-078-401; HIST-173-401
W 2:00 PM-5:00 PM
Ira Harkavy


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 solve universal problems (e.g., poverty, poor schooling, inadequate health care, etc.) as they are manifested in Penn’s local geographic community of West Philadelphia.

The seminar currently focuses on improving education, specifically college and career readiness and pathways. Specifically, students focus their problem solving research at Sayre High School in West Philadelphia, which functions as the real world site for the seminar’s activities. Students typically are engaged in academically based service learning at the Sayre School, with the primary activities occurring on Mondays from 3-5. Other arrangements can be made at the school if needed.

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 societally-useful citizens.

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