Big Ideas courses are co-designed by two or more faculty members with expertise in different disciplines and engage with more than one distribution area (thereby earning credit in those two distributional areas with a single course). Students will be limited to one Big Ideas course per semester.



IDEA 135


Ben Coonley

Keith O'Hara

M  W    1:30pm-4:30pm

RKC 100






Cross-listed: Computer Science; Film and Electronic Arts;  Experimental Humanities  8 credits This course is an intensive, interdisciplinary investigation of games and their pervasive role in contemporary life. What constitutes a game? Why do people play them? What makes digital games different from non-digital games? What roles do games play in contemporary culture? How have game-like incentive systems and other forms of "gamification" infused non-game contexts, such as social media, fine art, democracy, education, war, and the modern workplace? Do games and "gamer" culture effectively preclude, privilege, include, or exclude certain groups, identities, and worldviews? Course readings, screenings, and mandatory game play will augment and inform our investigation of these questions and beyond. The primary coursework will consist of game creation using tools and methodologies from computer science and electronic art. Students will create original games (non-digital and digital video games), both independently and in groups. This work will be augmented by short assignments designed to build fluency in visual art creation and interactive game design through short exercises in coding in Javascript, visual design applications, and Unity, a game design application. Assignments will push students to develop experimental and critical approaches to game creation.  This course is restricted to students in the lower college. Students with little experience playing games and/or a healthy skepticism about the cultural and artistic value of games are encouraged to apply. No prerequisites. Application procedure: Email and one paragraph (no more than 100 words) explaining your interest in taking this course. Class size: 16



IDEA 220

Performing Race and Gender: Uncle Tom's Cabin on Page and Stage

Donna Grover

Jean Wagner

M  W    1:30pm-3:50pm

RKC 103







Cross-listed: American Studies; Human Rights; Literature; Theater  6 credits  So you’re the little lady who started the war,” Abraham Lincoln allegedly told Harriet Beecher Stowe. He was of course referring to her best-selling novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a seminal work of 19th century American literature. It also has been adapted many times for the theater and performed all over the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will examine the important role this work played in the birth of American theater and culture. We will begin with a close reading of the novel, then turn our attention to the various theatrical adaptations that were produced and toured the United States over the years. Among the questions that will be examined include: What role did the novel and its theatrical adaptations play in the formation of American culture; what do its theatrical adaptations tell us about what it means to perform “American”? What does it mean for its archetypal characters to be portrayed by performers of different races or genders? Also, we will look at the uses or misuses of dramatic literature as a form of popular entertainment and as well as early American propaganda. Important to our inquiry is the relationship between Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Blackface and the roles race and gender played in the creation of a contemporary American culture. Other works to be examined include Spike Lee’s movie “Bamboozled,” the contemporary Broadway hit “Hamilton,” George C. Wolf’s musical “The Colored Museum,” and “Funnyhouse of a Negro” by contemporary playwright Adrienne Kennedy. Close readings, in-class discussions, film screenings, performance projects, personal essays field trips, museum visits and other project-based explorations of texts will round out the class.  Class size: 28



IDEA 130

 Chernobyl: the meaning of Man-Made Disaster

Jonathan Becker

Matthew Deady

T  Th     11:50am-1:10pm

LAB: W 10:20am-12:10pm

HEG 102

HEG 107





Cross-listed: Environmental & Urban Studies; Human Rights; Political Studies; Russian & Eurasian Studies; Science   6 credits  We will employ the Chernobyl disaster as a case study of the environmental and human consequences of technology. In April 1986, the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine suffered a major technical problem leading to a meltdown in the reactor core. The radiation release and ensuing clean-up operation required the Soviet authorities to evacuate a large local region, affecting millions of people and leaving a region which is mostly uninhabited to this day. Chernobyl remains the worst civilian nuclear accident in history and its aftermath offers scientific, social, and political insights. This “big ideas” course will take an interdisciplinary approach to the meaning of Chernobyl: it will explore the issue of nuclear power, the social and technological aspects of the plant’s construction and operation, what led to the accident, the authorities’ response to it, and the environmental and social impacts on the region since that time. Laboratory sessions will focus on the physics of nuclear power and radiation, the biological effect of radiation, and the environmental impact of the Chernobyl accident. Parallel consideration will be given to its implications for Soviet governance, nuclear energy and proliferation, and the social impacts of Chernobyl and human-created nuclear and non-nuclear disasters. Examining this event in readings, lectures, and laboratory investigations will foster a deeper appreciation of the complex and interconnected contexts in which such disasters must be studied in order to be understood. The course will feature guest lectures in science, politics, human rights and literature, speaking on issues arising from the accident.

Class size: 16