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First Year Summer

FIYS Summer Courses

June Term 2020:

Baseball in Chicago
Professor Evan Oxman

America’s favorite pastime runs strong in Chicago. From the infamous 1919 “Black Sox” Scandal to Wrigley Field’s recent renovations, this is a sport that inspires lifelong loyalties and city-wide rivalries. This course will use a methodological framework to cover everything from graft to greatness, as we achieve an appreciation of baseball’s cultural import. Through the lens of baseball, we will view Chicago’s past and possible future, and we will inquire as to how a variety of academic disciplines, including history, sociology, anthropology, economics, politics, and religion help to illuminate our understanding of America’s national (and Chicago’s local) pastime.

Robots & Brains: Fantasies & Facts
Professor Matt Kelley

Will computers ever become conscious? Will robots ever have the degree of sentience described in science fiction or shown in films? How does the human mind emerge from the workings of the human brain? How is our brain different from, and simultaneously similar to, the brains of other animals? How are the ‘wet brains’ of animals different from, and similar to, the ‘dry brains’ of computers? Readings will include introductory materials on the brain, on mind and consciousness, on science fiction stories about robots, on scholarly and popular articles from current work in neuroscience and artificial intelligence. The course will include films and computer simulations related to brain, mind, robots, and artificial intelligence.

Women Onstage: From Antigone to Beyoncé
Professor Chloe Johnston

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”—Simone de Beauvoir.  Gender is learned—a collection of behaviors that we all learn to replicate through a kin d of performance that happens on and offstage. In this course, we will think about how this understanding of gender plays out in performance spaces. We’ll take a broad look at the ways women have been portrayed onstage in different kinds of theatrical performance, from plays to music. We’ll look at how women have expressed themselves and addressed political issues through theatre and performance—and how their voices have, at times, been excluded. We’ll look at the changing answers to the question—what is a woman?

July Term 2020:

Becoming Adult in Times of Change: Liminal States
Professor Holly Swyers

You probably don’t have a word for it, but the world right now is in a liminal state. In anthropology, a liminal state is a time of being betwixt and between, when things are not the same as they were before, but they haven’t yet found a new normal. Starting college is also a liminal state, because you’re not really a high school student anymore but not quite a college student. This course focuses on figuring out your liminal state in three ways: 1) exploring the idea of liminality, including the idea that all of college is a liminal space before adulthood; 2) challenging you (literally) to try something new on a regular basis, while maintaining a “beginner’s mind”; and 3) exposing you to tools you will need in your college and adult life, ranging from negotiating politics at dinner parties to exploring career options. If you’ve read this far and didn’t get put off by the scary title or your assumptions about what this course would be, you have what it takes.

BFFs, “Besties,” and Female Friendship
Professor Catherine Reedy

“Besties” are found everywhere in contemporary fiction, television, and film. Usually placed behind romantic relationships, female friendship is now understood to be a powerful and even transformative dynamic, one that is central to female identity. Men and lovers take a back seat: A “Coldplay song plays in my heart” whenever Hannah Horvath sees her two closest friends in “Girls.” Are BFFs taking over the usual unions of romantic or erotic love? How much are girlfriends the focus of these stories? In this course, we examine these contemporary representations of female friendship, from television programs such as “Girls” to the erotic and dangerous “besties” of Emma Cline’s The Girls. Throughout, we discover the many sides of this complex, and contradictory, relationship.

From Community to Violence: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the Pre-Modern Mediterranean
Professor Anna Jones

How do people of different religious faiths interact?  How do they create professional and personal relationships—and what limits are placed on those relationships, either by law or by the individuals themselves?  Conversely, what causes hostility and violence between faiths?  This course investigates these eternal questions through an in-depth study of relations between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in the medieval Mediterranean world.  We begin with the earliest interactions between these religious traditions, as Christianity and Judaism diverged from common roots into separate faiths in the first two centuries CE, and as Islam emerged in the seventh century.  In our second unit, we study medieval Spain, where Christians, Jews, and Muslims coexisted relatively peacefully for centuries, but where that toleration crumbled in the later Middle Ages, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

Philosophy of Humans and Animals
Professor Janet McCracken

Western philosophers since Aristotle—at least—have claimed that human beings, as a species and alone among species, are capable of complex reasoning. The seventeenth-century French philosopher Descartes, famously, denied that non-human animals have minds or could think, claiming that they are essentially robots. From these kinds of premises, philosophers have inferred a wide range of ethical and religious claims, e.g., it is ethically permissible to eat non-human animals. Alternative claims, however, have just as long a history. In this course, we will read and discuss an array of philosophical opinions on the similarities and differences between humans and other animals, and the practices of industrial farming, training animals to work or entertain, building and patronizing zoos, animal experimentation, and other controversial topics.

Sacred Spaces in Chicago and Beyond
Professor Ben Zeller

What do high-steeple churches, personal shrines, Japanese gardens, and monumental temples all have in common? All are examples of the creation, maintenance, and use of sacred spaces. Individuals and groups representing nearly every religious tradition make use of specially-designated buildings, grounds, and natural features. In this course, we study several examples of such sacred spaces, and ask how and why they are made and used as they are. We ask questions about architecture and design, but also focus on how the spaces are used. We look to what sort of spiritual practices take place inside them—everything from worship, ritual, and meditation to eating and drinking.