May 18, 2024  
2022-2023 Undergraduate Bulletin 
2022-2023 Undergraduate Bulletin [ARCHIVED BULLETIN]

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HUHC 020 A-Z - Liberal Arts Seminar

Semester Hours: 1-4

Fall, Spring

Liberal Arts Seminars are specialized courses offered to students of Stuart and Nancy Rabinowitz Honors College . Each seminar is proposed, designed, and led by a member of the Hofstra faculty. Multiple seminars are offered each semester on a wide variety of topics. The purpose of the seminars is to provide HUHC students and faculty an opportunity to explore subject matters and topics that do not typically present themselves in regular departmental offerings.

Current Special Topics

HUHC 020A: Tenochtitlán

The now 500-year-old defeat of the Aztec Empire produced such enormous changes in the world’s political, economic, environmental, and cultural histories that climate scientists discuss the beginning of a new geological era –the Anthropocene– as an aftereffect of the fall of the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan to the hands of Spanish Conquistadores. Nothing, from everyday human diet to global commerce, would be the same. In this class, we will study the consequences of the five centuries-old epic fall of Tenochtitlan, reviewing the exchanges, clashes, and resistances that gave birth to the first modern city in the continental Americas.


We are now facing critical social issues that confront us with existential challenges.  Systemic class and racial inequalities have been growing domestically and on a global scale. Climate change has brought floods, droughts, increasingly destructive weather events, and global warming that threatens the current living situations of millions of people.  A pandemic of epic proportions that we have yet to bring under control has highlighted the limits to our approaches to both individual and public health.  Our online activities are not “private” but are increasingly the fodder for corporate computer algorithms that bombard us with advertising based on the last site we happened to have visited. Increasingly, we are the products being sold on the internet. The list goes on. 

This course will explore the likelihood that these are not separate and isolated problems but interrelated crises stemming from a common source: a capitalist world system. That social system generates social, cultural, and political imperatives that shape many aspects of our social environment and, in part, who we are as people. Let us examine the central elements of that system from a critical perspective.

You will not find the intellectual tools that we need to confront these challenges in the triumvirate of mainstream thought:  conservativism, liberalism, and neoliberalism.  Meeting the challenges of the 21st century requires an analytic approach that, by its nature, looks beyond the bounds of the historical era’s prevailing social structure.  That orientation resides in an analytical approach inspired by the work begun by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels more than a hundred and seventy years ago. While the world looks much different than the one they wrote about, exploring their insights and those who have followed in their tradition, we will engage the theoretical and analytic tools that help us understand these crucial issues as symptomatic of, and inherent to, the workings of the capitalist way of life.  Just as important, we will explore how best to confront these critical challenges.


Power, greed, and peoples without freedom: Explore the complex history and culture of the former Danish West Indies, the present-day U.S. Virgin Islands. For more than two centuries, Denmark’s colonial rule over St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John were absolute. How did efforts to give a voice to those women and men who suffered–and rebelled–materialize in our time? Sociologists, linguists, historians, and artists have been instrumental in reconstructing the shared history between the islands, Denmark, and the USA. Can a national narrative be reconstructed to include a tarnished past, and what are the consequences? 


This seminar will explore the development of the concept of deep time in the 1700-1800s.  While revolutions were upending the established political order, a group of university-educated people (savants) were exploring the rock layers and fossils of Europe, in part to see how far back in time humanity could be traced.  Starting from a variety of interests and motivations, their studies built up over decades to a revolution in humanity’s understanding of our place in the history of the Earth and of the many prehistoric worlds that came before us.


In this seminar, we take a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the Earth’s climate history, the impact of human activity during the industrial era on climate, and strategies for how global citizens can act to minimize or even reverse a fast-approaching climate catastrophe.  The debate in classrooms and the political realm should not be about whether climate change is happening or how much it places human civilization at risk, but over how societies and individuals should respond.  Climate change is real, and it is threatening.  Greta Thunberg insisted in her January 2019 speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that “Our House is on Fire” is not just a metaphor.  In 2020, there were out-of-control wildfires in the American west, Australia, Indonesia, Amazonia, and Siberia.  Despite the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the world is now on track to become 3°C (5.4°F) hotter by the end of the 21st century.  These days, teaching climate history is both a challenge and an obligation. We’ll explore together how best to go about it. 


You may have heard the term design thinking.  It is a new technique aimed at solving complex problems.  This technique tackles problems by understanding human needs first and framing problems in human-centric ways.   Healthcare is all about human needs and it is evolving from a physician-centric business to a consumer-centric business.  In this course, you will learn how to solve problems using design thinking and then apply this technique to healthcare problems. Our healthcare system is broken, as many of you may have experienced first-hand, and would benefit from design thinking approaches.   The skills you gain will serve you in all aspects of your life.  In his class, you will need to think outside the box and embrace and enhance your creativity and problem-solving competencies.  


Prerequisite(s)/Course Notes:
Liberal Arts Seminars are open to Honors College students in good standing and, with the permission of the instructor and the HUHC Deans’ Office, to other students who meet HUHC entrance criteria. May be repeated for credit when topics vary.

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