Fall 2008

01 The Science of A.R.T. (Assisted Reproductive Technologies)

02 Current Topics in Biomedical Sciences

03 The History of Agriculture and Food

04 Making Poverty History

05 Understanding Why We Eat What We Eat: The Nature of Food Choices

06 Re-Shaping CanLit: The Pleasures and Perils of Anthologies

07 Forbidden Knowledge and Dangerous Ideas

08 Philosophy, Politics and Tragedy: An Introduction to Ancient Greek Thought

09 Mitigating Climate Change: Motivate or Legislate?

10 Why is the Brazilian Amazon Being Deforested?

12 Vertical Farming

13 The Abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire MARCH 25, 1807

14 Rags Seldom Turn to Riches

15 Canada(s) on Screen

16 Challenging Cultural Dilemmas
 

01 The Science of A.R.T. (Assisted Reproductive Technologies)

W. Allan King and Jonathan Lamarre

Extraordinary recent advances in our understanding of the biology of sexual reproduction have resulted in the development of sophisticated reproductive technologies such as cloning and in vitro fertilization which are likely to profoundly change the way we live and reproduce. These technologies also present us with substantial legal, moral and ethical issues which continue to spark vigorous debate. This course will examine the scientific basis behind these technologies and some of the social implications of their use in humans and domestic animals.
 

02 Current Topics in Biomedical Sciences

Neil MacLusky

Over the last fifty years, advances in our understanding of cell and molecular biology have transformed biomedical sciences, leading to an increasingly rapid pace of discovery. The sophisticated nature of modern biomedical research, however, has itself created new sets of problems, which society has yet to fully come to terms with. As knowledge of the fundamental processes of life becomes ever more advanced, discoveries frequently have political, moral and ethical implications, in addition to their purely scientific impact.  The opportunities for new approaches to the prevention and/or treatment of chronic disease are probably greater than at any previous time in history; but capitalizing on these opportunities requires “buy in” and support from broad sections of the community, not just the scientists themselves. This means that scientists increasingly find themselves required to communicate their views outside the narrow confines of their own individual field of specialization, to become advocates for science and contributors to public health care policy decisions. 

The aim of this seminar course is to provide students with the opportunity to investigate and discuss topical issues in biomedical research, focusing on their broader long-term implications rather than on the technical details of individual studies. Classes will particularly emphasize the processes involved in actually doing biomedical research: how do scientists frame, discuss and develop their work? What are the important steps in developing a biomedical research program? What issues are important in communicating research findings to people from different academic backgrounds, so that the data can actually be understood? 

The course involves study of a series of 7-8 questions taken from the current biomedical science literature.  Students will be required to choose a scientific article relevant to each discussion topic, to present in class and provide a short written report for evaluation. A key component of these assignments is development of a simple summary statement of why the particular field of research is important for people in Canada. All of the discussion questions involve aspects of research currently ongoing at the University of Guelph, allowing students the opportunity to engage with faculty currently engaged in similar types of research in developing their written class assignments - Neil J. MacLusky Ph.D. Professor and Chair, Biomedical Sciences.
 

03 The History of Agriculture and Food

Craig Pearson

This course examines the changing nature of food production from medieval times to the present. How have technological innovations and socio-political priorities through the ages changed our diets and our 
expectations? What is sustainability, and what agriculture is sustainable?  Learn more about the issues that affect today’s food producers, from environmental responsibility to remaining competitive in a global market.  How are social values related to animal welfare, genetically modified organisms and related issues reflected in contemporary farming practices? 

The final week in the series will focus on where we go from here. Beyond food production, what is agriculture’s role in promoting community health and well-being through its contributions to environmental, social and human capital? The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significantly enhance both students’ study skills and love for learning.
 

04 Making Poverty History

Craig Pearson

This first year interdisciplinary seminar is designed to give students an introduction to the nature of poverty in developing countries from several perspectives including: political; economic; and environmental. Students will explore poverty within and between developing countries, opinions on why gaps exist between rich and poor nations, and whether poverty can be made history. During the semester students will complete a group study project on the poverty in a particular country in Africa, Asia or South America. The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significantly enhance both students’ study skills and love for learning.
 

05 Understanding Why We Eat What We Eat: The Nature of Food Choices

John Cranfield

Food choice is complex and this seminar will introduce the vast array of factors recognized as having an impact on food choice, how such choices reflect fundamental consumer values and how economic phenomena shape the food product landscape. Students will explore these issues by considering question such as: what things do we actually think of as food; how do food choices reflect what we hold as core values and ethics; who really decides what we eat; how do new technologies (such as transgenic engineering and genetic modification) affect consumer’s food choices; how has industrialization of agriculture affected the selection of foods consumers have available to them; how do health concerns affect food choices; and how has globalization affected food choices? These questions will be explored in the context of public health and agricultural policies. Students will be engaged in these issues via classroom and on-line discussion, in-class presentations and a group project.

06 Re-Shaping CanLit: The Pleasures and Perils of Anthologies

Smaro Kamboureli

Anthologies are one of the oldest and most important means through which we are exposed to a subject. Be they about literature, popular culture, national politics, history, or the sciences, they have the power to shape a field, such as that of Canadian Literature, and our knowledge in general. Anthologies operate, then, as cultural instruments and as instruments of power. Because anthologies are the result of a rigorous and difficult process of selection and elimination, their success or failure is determined as much by what they include as by what is left out. This course will introduce you not only to why anthologies are important, but also to what happens behind the scenes, namely, how an anthology is put together from start to finish. What’s more, it will also introduce you to the idea and practice of collaboration as you will have the opportunity to test or question what you learn by designing, and publishing, an anthology in collaboration with other students in the class. 

Focusing on Canadian literary anthologies (those of the established literary tradition as well as those that represent the multicultural make-up of the country), and taking into account my own experience and research as anthologist and critic of anthologies, this course will revolve around the following questions: 
• How and why do anthologies help shape the literary tradition? 
• What strategies of restraint do they employ? 
• How do we determine when and why we need a new anthology on a given topic? 
• Do they reinforce established views, or do they always introduce new modes of thinking? 
• Are anthologies responsive to cultural, social, and political forces? 
• How do they relate to the cultural market place? 
• What is their influence in the classroom, and how should they be taught? 
• What principles does an anthologist follow in selecting, eliminating, and organizing the given material? 
• What factors (e.g., permission fees) influence their shape, length, and price?

07 Forbidden Knowledge and Dangerous Ideas

Nancy Schmidt and Mary Wilson

Galileo’s universe, Darwinian evolution, gender equality, reproductive technology, religious freedom, lesbian/gay/bi-/transgender sexuality, and  peer-to-peer Internet file sharing  – some discoveries and ideas have been considered so threatening, so revolutionary or subversive that they have been met with opposition and resistance in the form of banning, destruction, censorship, and silencing.  Authors and proponents of forbidden knowledge have suffered death, imprisonment, exile, and social isolation as a result of publicly revealing their convictions. But what is dangerous to one person or segment of society may in fact be liberating or a “truth” to another.

Through readings, case studies and films we will investigate critically why some ideas are deemed to be too dangerous for unfettered public distribution and the processes by which knowledge has been and continues to be controlled. Emphasis will be placed upon the development of critical reading, analysis, and library research skills for use in group discussions and in the writing of reflective papers.
 

08 Philosophy, Politics and Tragedy: An Introduction to Ancient Greek Thought

John Russon

The writings of the ancient Greeks are among the most exciting and influential possessions of our culture.  The Greek authors took "human nature" as their central theme, and produced such insightful and provocative analyses that their texts have remained at the core of Western education for 2500 years.  We will read five of the greatest of these: Herodotus, Thucydides, Sophocles, Plato and Aristotle, as an introduction to thinking about what it is to be human, as well an introduction to our Western heritage, and to intellectual life in general.  Our study will straddle themes in philosophy, politics, history, ethics and more.
 

09 Mitigating Climate Change: Motivate or Legislate?

Ben Brandshaw and Judith McKenzie

In Canada, governments at various levels have sought to motivate Canadians to phase out their use of the incandescent light bulb. By way of comparison, in Australia legislation has recently been introduced to ban its use as of 2010.  Is it appropriate to limit the rights of individuals for the greater cause of slowing climate change? This first year interdisciplinary seminar is designed to explore the tension between voluntary individual and imposed collective action of citizens engaged in sustainable behaviours to mitigate climate change.  During the semester, students will examine the ways in which individuals and groups in Canada can be motivated and legislated to behave in greener ways. Given the global nature of climate change, attention will also be paid to necessary  international administrative structures in this policy field.
 

10 Why is the Brazilian Amazon Being Deforested?

Flavio Schenkel

In tropical countries, the majority of deforestation results from the actions of poor subsistence farmers. However, in Brazil, a large portion of deforestation can be attributed to land clearing by commercial and speculative interests, erroneous governmental policies, commercial exploitation of forest resources, such as wood extraction and mining, and commercial farming, which are all encouraged by avid international markets. For effective action these issues should be addressed. Focusing solely on the promotion of sustainable use of the forest by local people would neglect the most important forces behind deforestation in Brazil. 
This seminar course intents to discuss social, economic, political, and ecological issues on Brazilian Amazon deforestation and how it can affect and be linked to you. The method of teaching will be through facilitating lectures, students’ seminars and discussions. Seminars shall provide the opportunity for preparation and presentation of formal lectures. Discussions shall help students to develop and express ideas in front of peers.
 

12 Vertical Farming

Vern Osborne

This course is intended to give the student an introduction into the future concept of skyscraper food production. The challenges facing traditional plant and animal production systems will be reviewed and students will be given the opportunity to design an abstract high-rise building that uses sustainable architectural and engineering principles to answer the current and future environmental, economic and social issues facing the agri-food industry.
 

13 The Abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire MARCH 25, 1807

David Murray

March 25, 2007 marked the 200th anniversary of the British Parliamentary Act abolishing the slave trade within the British Empire.  This seminar will examine the circumstances surrounding the passage of the Act.  We will explore why the slave trade was so important to the British imperial economy and why in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars the British Parliament voted to abolish it.  We will also examine the public campaign of pressure that led to its abolition.  Britain was not the only country carrying on the Atlantic slave trade.  We will look as well at the implications of the British abolition on the rest of the Atlantic slave trade.  To do this we will study how the historian finds and assesses evidence and then tries to reach historical conclusions.

There is no one text for this course.  Readings will include documents from the period as well as historical accounts.
 

14 Rags Seldom Turn to Riches

Michael Nightingale

This first year seminar is designed to explore the nature of inequality and poverty in Canada, the US and Britain and to explore opinions on why gaps exist between the rich and the poor.  Students will explore poverty from different perspectives:     historical, political; economic; and social, compare opinions on why gaps exist   between rich and poor and compare how poverty is described in literature, film and media.  During the semester will complete a group study project on poverty in a particular city, town or rural area or group living (e.g. First Nations) in Canada. The seminar aims to engage students in a way that will significantly enhance both students’ study skills and love for learning.
 

15 Canada(s) on Screen

Elaine Chang

From Nell Shipman’s silent melodramas to Sarah Polley’s acclaimed Away from Her (2006), from the era of early white settlement and displacement of First Nations to today’s multicultural programs and policies, Canadian cinema has worked to reflect, project and reshape notions of a national culture and community.  This seminar will examine examples of Canadian feature film from 1919 to the present, with an eye to the unities and disunities, inclusions and exclusions, and the often irresolvable contradictions they offer to viewers.   Discussions and individual and small group assignments will be organized around screenings and related readings.  Topics to be addressed include: the historical emergence and role of organizations like the National Film Board and Telefilm Canada in forging a national cinema; issues of production, distribution and regulation in national and world markets; the question of why Canadians seem to excel in specific genres (e.g., animation, documentary, horror); historical and current tensions and collaborations across racial, cultural, regional and linguistic differences; the Canadian “auteur” director; and relations of text and film in literary adaptation for the screen.
 

16 Challenging Cultural Dilemmas

Jacqueline Murray

Modern day society and communities are beset by phenomenal challenges for which there are no simple answers. This enquiry-based course will provide students withe the opportunities to explore questions of race, ethnicity, ethical frameworks, culture, intolerance and human identity. The role that media, and indeed of language itself, plays in holding together or tearing apart communities, both fragile and robust, throughout history and across the world, will allow us to understand better the challenges of communication within and across cultures.