Fall 2020

The seminars are offered on Webadvisor under UNIV1200.

To learn more about a seminar and its instructor(s), please choose from the menu below or scroll down the page to browse.

Don Bruce

Science Fiction stories are very popular these days, particularly in film. In this course we will read science fiction texts and view science fiction films in order to determine if these types of stories have something valuable to tell us about the past, present or possible future, or if they are merely entertainment, a form of escape for our weary imaginations. The works we will study were created between 1818 and 2020, essentially the era where science has played a key role in all areas of life. We will analyze just how much in these narratives is real science and how much is fiction, why that is the case, and how these ways of knowing the world (science + fiction) interact with one another to create meaning. The course will be delivered by a mix of recorded lectures, readings, films for students to view online; and live discussions and group work. There will also be books which can be ordered from the University bookstore or Amazon.

Mavis Morton

Ever used Digital Storytelling as a research method? Me neither! I am the Director of First Year Seminars (FYS) at the UoG and if you take this FYS with me, you and I are going to be trained by a researcher using a mobile multi-media lab. Check it out at https://revisioncentre.ca/. Once we learn how to do this (btw I have no idea either) we will conduct research using Digital Storytelling in order to hear from students in other FY seminars about their experiences. We will work collaboratively to design, conduct and analyze our research study. Once we figure out what we have learned from students about the UoG’s FYS program, we will disseminate our findings by making videos. You don’t need previous research experience, you don’t need to have any digital media skills or be a storyteller. You will need to want to learn together, be prepared to take some risks and have some fun. We will meet remotely twice a week; we’ll use a course management system called Courselink to share information, have discussions and practice being digital storytelling researchers.

Jackie Hamilton

Don’t think you are a creative person? This course is for you! Do you consider yourself to be very creative? Then this course is also for you! There is a general perception that creativity is an ability you are born with. You often hear people say they ‘Aren’t creative” but really, what does that mean? This course will examine popular conceptions and definitions of creativity, the ways in which the education system contributes to how we develop creative thinking skills, as well as why creativity is an important tool for solving problems.

Evren Altinkas

The term “bourgeoisie” in French comes from the word “bourg”, which means a town surrounded by walls. “Bourgs”, or “burgs” can be found in Europe (e.g. Strasbourg, Hamburg, Luxembourg, Edinburgh etc.) and they were established during the feudal era. “Bourgeoisie” means “originating from burg” and the class of bourgeoisie is mainly the middle class. This “middle class” during Feudal Ages was literally in the middle of King/Ruling class and the peasants. By time, they have started to accumulate money and developed into a class with economic power. This economic power motivated them to engage peasants and other classes within the society to overthrow the King and the intellectual classes in Europe helped them, without knowing what they did. As bourgeoisie took over the rule and established nation-states, the unstoppable growth of capitalist needs caused the deterioration of nation-states. Today, the capitalist nation-state itself is becoming a victim of capitalism and multi-national conglomerates are overthrowing the rule of nation-state as bourgeoisie did to the King. This course will analyze the similarities between the Enlightenment period and 21st Century Capitalism. Students will be separated into groups and they will analyze these differences/ similarities by compare and contrast. A sociological and historical analysis of different periods of capitalist progress will also be encouraged by assigning students different role-models in these two periods. Important figures in Enlightenment and 21st Century Capitalism (e.g. Rousseau and Steve Jobs) will be analyzed by students in order to understand how they have similar impact on the transformation of society.

Natalie Evans

In an age of media saturation, we are constantly being told what will make us happy, including how we should look, what we should buy, and how we should act. And yet, North Americans are suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression in staggering numbers. It seems timely to ask: What is happiness and the good life, and how can we achieve them? In this course, we attempt to answer this question by examining the causes of happiness and unhappiness in individuals and societies, as well as different conceptions of the good life from an interdisciplinary perspective. By examining ancient and contemporary wisdom and practices from the East and the West, and critically separating fact from fiction in current research on happiness, students will be able to create their own personal ‘happiness plan’ that they can incorporate into their own lives. We will examine and evaluate concepts, theories and practices such as meditation, mindfulness, ‘the good life’, creativity, music, nature and more as they relate to the pursuit of happiness.

John Ferguson

“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” H.G. Wells This course considers the contribution of cycling (and bicycles) to society and the contribution of society to cycling (and bicycles) from multidisciplinary perspectives including engineering, health, history, sociology, anthropology, politics, economics, literature, media, and environment. “Whereas much has been written about the cultural roles of the automobile and driving in literature and popular culture, there has been surprisingly little analogous work devoted to the bicycle and bicycling, particularly in academia where cycling is predominantly analyzed through the positivistic lenses of urban planning and injury prevention.” (Withers and Shea, 2016)

The bicycle is often covered as a topic of maintenance, operation and safety but it is rarely considered more broadly as part of the fabric of social, cultural, philosophical, literary, political or economic life. The course will look at cycling the bicycle through an array of materials and lenses. These range from scholarly and scientific articles, critical analysis, law, planning, literature, film and art. We learn the basic mechanics, history and culture of cycling as a practice and the bicycle as a means by considering their role (and potential) in,

  • history
  • culture, sociology and anthropology
  • politics, liberty and equality 
  • feminism
  • literature and film
  • mechanical and industrial evolution
  • transportation
  • personal and societal health, well-being and quality of life
  • wealth and economics
  • city design and planning
  • energy
  • sustainability

Michael Follert

A poet once remarked that if other countries are haunted by the ghosts of their past, in Canada “it’s only by our lack of ghosts we're haunted”. Looking back, we might say that Canadians are rather good at ignoring the ghosts of their past, and yet this denial itself provides a good opportunity for critically reflecting on the idea of 'Canadianness'. What we might lack in time-honoured ghost stories is more than made up for by the anxieties and fears that populate the dark corners of our audio-visual culture. With a view to the uniqueness of Canadian horror, in this course we explore the recurring themes of this rarefied subgenre, like the fear over loss of identity (Pontypool, 2008), the fear of a breakdown of boundaries (Ginger Snaps, 2000), the fear of being overwhelmed by technology (Videodrome, 1983), the fear of nature’s vastness (Backcountry, 2014), and the terrors of colonization (Blood Quantum, 2019). Weekly combinations of films, radio plays, and key readings in Canadian Studies will offer students the opportunity to critically reflect on and locate themselves within constructions of Canadian identity – exploring its contours, its exclusions, and its colonial legacies.

Cynthia Kinnunen

The ‘ukulele’s popularity, accessibility, and unassuming nature make it a friendly instrument to pick up and learn. But it’s also a powerhouse for greater good and for connection. In this course, we’ll investigate the role and importance of music in our lives and how the ‘ukulele has become part of the musical landscape. We’ll explore how it finds itself in elementary classrooms and Irish pubs, as a tool for mental and physical health, and for cultural expression. An important component of the course, we also learn how to play, focusing on some basic music literacy skills, working up repertoire together, and culminating in a class performance or group recording at the end of the term. Students will write about their experience in weekly reflections, dive deeper in a formal written piece, and develop a creative project that may include an original song or podcast. No previous musical experience is necessary and an ‘ukulele will be supplied for you to borrow if you don’t have your own. By the end of the course, you’ll have an appreciation for music's role in our lives and for this little instrument that has taken on the world in the last 100+ years.

Justine Tishinsky

“I hate it when my foot falls asleep during the day, because it means I’m going to be up all night” – Steven Wright.

We spend 30-35% of our lives asleep. Some practically fall sleep standing up…others toss and turn all night. Some sleepwalk, some snore, and we all dream. Sleep is a restorative process that’s imperative to our health and wellbeing, yet 63% of adults get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Nevertheless, the process of “going to sleep” is a social and cultural norm. The longest anyone has ever gone without sleep is a mere 11 days. This seminar course will focus on the art and science of sleep. Topics covered will include: contributors to insomnia (stress, caffeine, alcohol, technology, etc.), circadian rhythms and biological clocks, dreams and nightmares, cultural determinants of sleep patterns, sleep disorders (i.e. sleepwalking, etc.), and effectiveness of pharmacological and herbal sleep aids. Students will have the opportunity to address a research question of their choosing and demonstrate their knowledge in the form of an oral presentation. We ask that you remain awake during all classes.

Jason Wilson

Song, Story, Drawing and Dance: The Arts in Motion will survey the migration of the arts from antiquity through to the twenty-first century. It will ask the student to consider art in the broad meta-history / comparative literature sense. As art is seldom bound to ‘place’, the course will trouble the idea of ‘tradition’ and question essentialized notions of ‘authenticity’. The course will only focus on the specialized histories of any given art to show how it is connected to a sometimes unrecognizable past and linked to an unpredictable future.

Jason Wilson

Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae facilitated a cultural dialogue between Jamaican migrant and the host community in urban centres such as London, Birmingham and Toronto. These musics united migrant and host across the ethnic frontlines of these big urban centres and often bridged black and white youth together in an ‘oppositional’ and musical movement. Ska, rocksteady and reggae provided the soundtrack to this social and political process and soon became part of the musical vernacular in Britain and Canada as evidenced in UK bands such as the Clash, The Specials, Aswad and UB40 and in Canadian bands such as The Sattalites and Messenjah.

In this course, we will review the evolution of Jamaica’s popular musics and how these had been informed by African and European traditions over the course of two centuries. We will read and hear texts of songs and anthems that resulted from these frontline collisions between Jamaican migrants and members of the respective host communities during the second half of the twentieth century. We will review the important socio-political consequences that these musics may have caused or addressed. We will also review some of the keynote sounds of these musics, in some cases, live from some of the original artists themselves. Apart from the written component, you will have an opportunity to produce a creative project that could include, among other things, a musical performance, a spoken-word piece or a radio show. Ultimately, you will witness how the impact of this contact between communities transcended a shared affection for music and engendered a vital intercultural dialogue.

Georgia Simms

Dance is often viewed as something extracurricular and entertaining, something done for fitness and fun, requiring superhuman flexibility; what if that wasn’t the only story? What if dance class was a way to practice necessary and transferable skills, like self-awareness and research communication? What if, through the use of body language and the division of time and space, we could gain new insight into how we perceive leadership, community engagement, interdisciplinary research and social innovation? It’s physics, it’s math, it’s science, it’s social science… it’s research-based dance-theatre!

Aidan Lockhart

“Revenge is a kind of Wild Justice.”~Sir. Francis Bacon. You’re on the highway, stuck behind a transport truck. In your rear-view mirror a car roars inches from your bumper. It lurches into the slow lane, speeds past, swerves into the tight space between you and the truck and flares its break lights. Your heart-rate skyrockets –pupils dilate –you swear –tires scream –rage claws the pit of your stomach. You want justice. But not the Justice of dusty, heavy-bound legal volumes. You want a WildJustice. A justice you can feel. This felt sense of justice colours every corner of our social landscape as well as our inner, emotional terrain, with its hills of forgiveness and valleys of revenge. No one knows that terrain better than you. There, only you are the expert. This multidisciplinary course (merging contributions from moral philosophy, the neurobiology of violence, psychology of victimhood, and the sociology of punishment) travels our lived justice wilderness. We use conversational interviews, roundtable discussions, meme-making, and collaborative presentations to explore this notion of Wild Justice –one that is free of suffocating legal jargon. As well, we consider personal experiences, real-world case studies, and pop-culture, to identify where our instinctive sense of justice comes from. We’ll diagnose the cognitive habits that perpetuate cycles of violence, and begin instead, to embody a new ‘justice disposition’ –one that reimagines the nature of harm and envisions new trails for personal and social transformation.

Dan Gillis/Shoshanah Jacobs

The current pandemic has caused many charities to close. These charities serve the most vulnerable in our community. Without them, we will be even more challenged to #RecoverTogether. This course is part of a larger program that brings students from across campus together to learn from each other as we design new solutions to some of the most challenging of problems. ICON welcomes students from 1st to 4th year, from any and all disciplines! This year we will be working to help local Guelph charities develop projects to them recover from the effects of COVID19. Your instructors will teach you how to work with students from all disciplines, how to analyse a problem, how to design solutions, how to work with others to innovate and implement new ideas. No experience necessary! Only your enthusiasm, your empathy, and a passion for community sustainability. Join us to help Guelph #RecoverTogether!

Dillon March

UNESCO estimates that over half of the world's approximately 6,000 languages will be extinct before the end of the century (UNESCO, 2010), due to colonization, genocide, assimilation efforts, and other reasons. Canada is not immune to this shocking threat of language extinction; almost all of the approximately 60 indigenous languages spoken in Canada are at risk of extinction over the next few decades. On the other hand, there are some initiatives around the world to revitalize endangered languages in order to avoid language death. Some language revitalization efforts have been so successful that formerly extinct or dead languages have been resurrected as living languages with native speakers. This course will explore the vulnerable languages of the world in order to understand what internal and external factors cause languages to change, be born, and go extinct. This course takes an active learning approach where we explore, first-hand, vulnerable languages of the world and, through learner-centered discussions, we focus on the social, political, and biological factors that influence language change.

Deidre Rose

The title of this seminar course is a quote from Star Trek that is also the core philosophy of the traveling theatre troupe that features in the post-pandemic hope-punk novel Station 11. Through a close reading of selected speculative fiction, we will explore contemporary themes, including surveillance, language and thought, fear, social hierarchies, hope, and resistance. Students will be able to choose readings from a variety of speculative fiction genres, such as dystopic science fiction, solar-punk, and Afrofuturism. Activities will include saving one word from the censors, inventing a new word, creating a meme, and representing an imagined future in the medium of your choice. (essay, graphic novel, short story, etc.). We will look at short scientific articles about viruses and epidemiology and genetics, linguistic articles about the relationship between language and perception, and social science articles about culture, politics, and economics. Thus, the course is highly interdisciplinary and will appeal to students interested in anthropology, sociology, political science, epidemiology, biology, public health, and literature. Students should also note that this is a seminar format, meaning there will be lots of student participation, interactive activities, and group work. Critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity will be encouraged.

April Marratto

What does it mean to be human? Do humans have souls? Are we just sophisticated machines? This course will use the famous story of Frankenstein’s monster to help facilitate discussions on personhood and otherness. This is a course that will challenge you to think about persons, animals, and machines in fruitful and exciting ways by drawing on thinkers at the intersection(s) of science, politics, and philosophy. Assignments will be varied and creative: imagine expressing an idea through a series of memes or creating a YouTube video to help spark discussion with your classmates. This course will avoid evaluations through exams or tests; instead, we will give assignments that stimulate discussion, personal response, and self-assessment.

Annie Dunning

Textiles have been used to indicate cultural status, as tools for political activism, and to conceal secret messages. Through case studies, find out how contemporary artists use textiles as a medium to convey their messages and to influence cultural politics. Learn to apply the elements of design, and try hands-on making, including designing a textile print and using basic sewing techniques. In this course students will employ critical thinking to examine textiles from perspectives of art & design, historical impact, cultural identity and as tools for activism. The visual language of textiles has had historical, socio-political impact and continues to be used to address contemporary challenges. From quilt patterns that guided Black slaves toward freedom, to fabrics designed to confound drone surveillance, we will explore the fascinating and innovative uses of textile messages hidden in plain sight.

Valérie Grand'maison

In this course, we question what it means to be human. We will use a disability lens to look at the assumptions and implications of concepts like ‘normal’, ‘independence’, and ‘health’. We will explore how disabled people disrupt norms and construct new meanings, knowledges, and culture. Connections, cure, and access will be central to this course, examined through a multidisciplinary approach, including health, education, media and literary studies, social movements, design, and medicine and public health. Students will be encouraged to develop critical and creative thinking and communication skills through online discussion threads, personal reflections, presentations, and as a final project, the opportunity to create their own vision of disability justice.

Laurie Manwell

Have you ever tried so hard to convince someone of something that you actually began to question why you believed it yourself? Have you ever wondered why it was so important to you that others believe what you believe? Have you ever wondered what it would mean if what you believe is just not true? These may seem like strange questions, and for many people, they are. On average, we spend more time trying to prove that reality is as we already believe it to be rather than wondering about reality as it really is – or could be. What do we really know about the social, ethical, and political challenges of our world? Based on the Edge.org’s global challenge, students will propose a ‘dangerous idea’, one that has the potential to change the world as we know it, not because it is “assumed to be false but because it might be true”. We will consider some of the most pivotal ideas that humanity has grappled with: Do humans have free will? Is morality just a product of evolution? Does evil exist? Can poverty be eradicated? Are we alone in the universe? Is science the answer to religion? Will the earth survive humans? Is the idea of human progress a myth? Does knowledge set us free or just show us our chains? Students will be introduced to diverse ways of thinking about the world and how to go about asking the right questions and using the appropriate methods of inquiry to find real answers with practical solutions to human problems of living. We will use the principles of Socratic and Scientific inquiry to express, defend, and refute ideas and consider their implications for a range of social, ethical, and political challenges in society today and in the future. This course is also designed to introduce students to understanding how the human brain perceives, processes, synthesizes, and applies information in a social world. It will include a variety of learning tools, hands-on activities, and demonstrations based on neuroscience. Students will learn about foundational processes in the brain that underlie everyday decision making and apply it to real world problems in the natural and social sciences and humanities. Will you join us with your dangerous idea?

Tony Berto

Theatre that so outrages members of the audience that they riot? Theatre that offends social values and so is censored?  This is “Theatre in Trouble: How Theatre Challenges the Status Quo”; a course in which we will look at how some theatre has caused big reactions from our authorities, and why social or moral values were offended by these plays in their day. Through discussion and seminars, we’ll trace how six plays affected, or were affected by, the authorities of their day. Students will also learn how playwrights createsuch work by making their own short scenes about the contemporary, contentious issues of today. Lastly, students will then seek out and research a further play “in trouble” and write a short essay about its production in its day.