Integrated Liberal Studies

Spring 2015 Course Descriptions: PDF / word

ILS 126

Principles of Environmental Science

Cathy Middlecamp

1:00 - 2:15 pm T & R

4 credits.

Course description: This course focuses on WE CONSERVE and related sustainability initiatives on the UW-Madison campus. The course teaches through these initiatives to the underlying principles of environmental science. In other words, we position ourselves in the present moment with our feet on the campus and ask questions about the air we breathe, the energy we consume, the food we eat, the goods we purchase, and the waste we create.

The course is divided into two sections: energy & food. The former connects to the buildings, vehicles, and power plants on our campus, with an eye to conserving energy and minimizing waste. The latter connects to our food choices and campus dining operations, with an eye to how what we eat affects not only to our health but also the health of our planet.

The laboratory activities of the course include hands-on activities and field trips relating to energy efficient buildings, food choices, biodiesel, recycling, and power generation.

Honors in Environmental Studies 126

One section is designated "Honors only." This section welcomes students who wish to benefit both from working with each other and from working closely with the professor, who will co-teach their smaller laboratory section. Enrichment opportunities for honors students include informal meetings with the speakers highlighted in lecture and as many behind-the-scenes glimpses of campus sustainability operations as possible.

ILS 126 Spring 2014 course website

ILS 157

Bradly Roundtable Seminar

1 credit.
Prerequisites: Open to Freshmen.Students must be residents of the Bradley Learning Community.
Course description: The Bradley roundtable seminar addresses various topics of interest to the residents of the Bradley Learning Community

ILS 198/199

Directed Study


1-3 credits.
Prerequisites: Graded on a Cr/N basis; requires cons inst and con reg in two ILS courses. Open to Freshmen.
If you are interested in pursuing an undergraduate thesis, please talk to a professor who shares your area of interest.

ILS 200

Critical Thinking & Expression


2:25-3:15 T

3 credits (Comm B)

What does it mean to think critically?  To find fault?  To employ intellectual rigor? Can we imagine a method of critical thought that produces writing with the potential to change the world? This course takes the definition of “critical thought” seriously in order to expand our idea of what critical communication is and has the potential to be. Getting beyond the standard connotation of “critical” thought as finding fault with others’ ideas, we will explore other definitions of the word “critical,” including:

  1. Constituting a crisis
  2. Involving grave uncertainty or risk
  3. Crucial or essential
  4. Constituting a turning point

Taking these definitions as versions of what critical thinking is or can do, we will examine critical pieces of writing and other forms of expression from Western, colonial, and post colonial experience, asking ourselves what part the simple act of thinking critically had in the most important events in our history, and honing our own writing and thinking skills along the way. Material for the class will include texts and artwork from the history of colonization and independence in the Atlantic Rim, seminal works from the contemporary avant-garde, important speeches from the American Civil Rights movement and the radical youth movements of the 1960s, as well as a variety of other examples of truly critical human thought and expression. Through a semester of careful investigation of the power of critical thinking, students will be asked to broaden their own ideas of what their own writing and thinking have the capacity to do or become in the world.

Assignments for this course emphasize the development of written and oral communication skills essential for a variety of kinds of real-world success, as well as academic excellence. This course fulfills the Communications B requirement.

ILS 200 Spring 2014 Syllabus

ILS 201

Western Culture: Science, Technology, Philosophy I

(This course will be taught again in Fall 2015.)

Florence Hsia

12:05 - 12:55 M & W

This course is the first in a two-term sequence that examines the development of science in cultural and intellectual context from antiquity to the twentieth century. These two courses (ILS 201 and 202) are, in turn, part of a sequence of four courses that fulfill the Letters & Science breadth requirement in natural science. This course begins with an examination of perspectives towards the natural world in poetry, philosophy, and medicine of ancient Greece. It follows the movement of the classical tradition into medieval Islam and Christendom, and concludes with the transformation of European science during the 16th and 17th centuries. Throughout our investigation of what 'science' has been in the past, we will pay particular attention to issues which still have relevance today, such as the interaction between science and religion, the importance of different institutional settings for science, and the relationship between science and government. Grading will include frequent quizzes in discussion sections, class   participation, and three exams.

ILS 201 Spring 2013 Syllabus

ILS 202

Western Culture: Science, Technology, Philosophy II

Lynn Nyhart

1:20 - 2:10 M & W

ILS 202 continues ILS 201, but may be taken independently. This course confers natural science breadth credit. Here we explore the history of the sciences from the scientific revolution through to World War I, with the aim of understanding how science came to be so important in modern culture, and the varied ways in which it has shaped the intellectual, cultural and material environment in which we now live. In many respects this period provided what we can think of as a critical infrastructure that is still visible in our educational system and the disciplinary framework of the sciences, as well as in several key controversies that currently challenge the relations between science and society (like the debate surrounding the teaching of evolution in the US).

Beginning with philosophical foundations and the development of new institutions like the scientific societies, we move on to study methods in practice across the different fields of mechanical philosophy, natural history, and the physical and life sciences. Students will be introduced to the work of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein, but they will also be brought to question the limits of understanding, the role of gender in knowledge formation, and how changing views of nature have delivered new perspectives on what it means to be human.

Tracing links between ideas, instruments and institutions across both disciplinary and national boundaries will provide critical insight into the changing relations among science and technology, science and religion, and science and the state. Thus, examining the historical significance of fundamental concepts like gravity, energy, and evolution will show just how deeply scientific and social values have been interwoven in Western culture. In turn, understanding how much such values have changed – and the historical process by which this occurred – will help us use a contextual understanding of science to raise the possibility of critiquing some of the assumptions underlying common views of nature and culture.

ILS 202 Spring 2014 Syllabus

ILS 204

Western Culture: Literature & the Arts II

(This course will be taught again in Spring 2015.)

Michael Vanden Heuvel

1:00 - 2:15 TR

ILS 204 is the continuation of ILS 203, but may be taken independently. The course does not presume special background in the arts and literature, and is introductory in scope and method. Course objectives include, first and foremost, providing students with a broad overview of major trends in the arts and literature, as well as in the history of ideas, from the early modern period (or Renaissance) to the present. Examples of painting, sculpture, architecture, drama, scientific thought, poetry, fiction, and music will be placed in the context of prevailing cultural history, values and ideas. Therefore, given the tremendous scope of the material to be covered, the readings and examples of visual art are intended to be broadly representative rather than exhaustive. The class thus differs from an art history or literature course, and no attempt is made to cover all developments in the arts in a sequential order.

To bring focus to our trek across so long a historical period and so wide a field of artistic and cultural forms, we will sometimes feature a specific major thinker or artist, and at other times larger movements and schools of thought or art. As well, we will keep several themes before us during the term around which we will try to gather readings and discussion. They may include the following:

1. The idea of "culture" as an ongoing site of struggle, conflict and contested meanings and values, rather than established great works.

2. Evolving attitudes and constructions of what is meant by "nature," and the human relationship to it.

3. The manner by which Western culture measures the world in order to have knowledge and power over it.

4. The discovery of "Others" (that which is different, strange and exotic from [in this case] Western norms and expectations), both within and external to the individual, and the social, cultural and psychological effects these may produce.

5. The creation of a peculiarly "Western" sense of Self/Identity based in particular ways of seeing.

The focus of the course is on how cultural context--the ideas and values regarding religion, philosophy, political views, social practices, aesthetics and so on-- shape and make possible the various expressions found in the arts and literature of the period. As well, students are asked to look critically at the results of Western civilization even as they are invited to admire its achievements.


ILS 204 Spring 2013 Syllabus

ILS 206

Western Culture: Political, Economic & Social Thought II

Richard Avramenko

11:00-11:50 T & R

The objective of this course is two-fold.  First, this course introduces students to the basics of Western political, economic, and social thought.  Through a careful reading of canonical texts, the elementary symbols and concepts of Western thought will be discussed.  Our second objective is to learn how these symbols and concepts can be brought to bear on contemporary problems and how they can inform questions concerning our own political and social order.  What part, for instance, does reason play in our world?  What does a good citizen look like?  What is the good human life?  What is the place of violence?  What does justice look like?  Thinkers such as Homer, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Aristophanes, Aristotle, and Augustine may be considered.

ILS 206 Spring 2014 Syllabus

ILS 234

Genres: Western Religious Writing

(This course will not be taught this semester.)

Ulrich Rosenhagen

1:00 - 2:15 T & R

This course introduces some key aspects of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thought and historical experience by exploring a range of texts from antiquity to the modern era. We begin by considering major themes in the sacred scriptures of each religion—themes conveyed via such literary genres as narrative, law, prophecy, gospel, epistle, apocalyptic, and poetry—with a focus on ways in which later texts interact with earlier ones. The middle unit of the course examines different approaches, in the medieval and early modern periods, to knowing and experiencing the divine. We will consider how monotheistic thinkers drew on Greek ideas about reason and knowledge, and we will read bits of philosophical theology, mystical writing, and polemical treatises on the nature of religious and intellectual authority. In the final course unit we will read two spiritual autobiographies and a novel to explore relationships among religious tradition, identity, and the search for meaning in the modern world.

ILS 234 Spring 2014 Syllabus

ILS 251

Contemporary Physical Science (not offered this semester)

Professors Basil Tikoff and Sara Hotchkiss

1:00 - 2:15 T & R

This course is about how scientists figure things out. To put it more formally, it is about how people make sense of the natural world. The different methods scientists use, the ways they work as a community, and how that community interacts and reflects the larger society are integral (and interesting) parts of this process. Further, we will try to illustrate how scientists do follow a set of guiding principles and approaches that lead them through their pursuit of understanding the natural world. The direction, however, it toward understanding climate change. The underlying theme of a lot of what we will talk about is scientific uncertainty. Most of what we will do builds toward understanding one of these two ideas. The overarching themes for the course include:

• Scientists use several different strategies for building scientific arguments from data.

• There are differences between scientific ways of knowing and other ways of knowing

• Scientific data are collected in a variety of ways, and each way produces different kinds of data

• Uncertainty is inherent in scientific data and interpretation and this plays an important role in scientific practice

• Scientists and the scientific community are both inherently skeptical and conservative (not necessarily in the political sense of the word).

• Science is done by human beings with individual, disciplinary, and cultural differences

• Science and the media interact to inform the public about scientific issues; there are significant limitations and problems with this interaction

• The ways in which science interacts with economics, social norms, politics and religion affect both the trajectories and public perceptions of scientific inquiry

ILS 251 Spring 2014 Syllabus

ILS 251 Spring 2014 Schedule

ILS 271

(This course will not be taught this semester.)

Pre-Copernican Astronomy and Cosmologoy in Crosscultural Perspective

Michael Shank

9:55 M-W-F

Astronomy and cosmology, from the cultures of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, India, China and Mesoamerica, through the Arabic and Latin Middle Ages, to Copernicus. Attention to cross-cultural transmission and appropriation of techniques and data; comparisons and contrasts among methods, purposes, and organizing metaphors. Prereq> ILS 201 or 202 or 251 or cons inst

ILS 271 Spring 2013 Syllabus

ILS 275 Special Topics in ILS

Narratives of Justice and Equality in Multicultural America

(This course was not taught this semester.)

Shawn F. Peters

1:00 - 2:15 T & R

Evolving and contested concepts of justice and equality are an integral part of American public life – they play a key role in mediating our relationships with one another and with the state.  But where do these ideas come from, and, as significantly, what kind of real-world impact do they have on the lives of individuals hailing from a diverse array of racial, ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds?  Moreover, how are narratives about justice and equality rendered in American culture, and how do such stories reflect and/or influence the way we live today?

This interdisciplinary course examines such questions by engaging a variety of narrative texts, including the first season of the award-winning HBO drama The Wire.  The critical inquiry sparked by these works will allow us to focus our discussion of justice and equality on four broad areas: economics and poverty; race and ethnicity; law and public policy; and the criminal justice system.  One of our main goals throughout the semester will be to chart the overlaps and interconnections between these realms – the complex and sometimes unpredictable ways in which they shape, and are shaped by, one another.  To help us make meaning of these linkages, we'll scrutinize the myriad ways in which notions of justice and equality are rendered in cultural forms ranging from scholarly books and articles to songs, films, television programs, and even underground DVD's.

ILS 275 Spring 2013 Syllabus

ILS 275 Special Topics in ILS

Lecture 1: Remix and Appropriation in Western Tradition

Shawn F. Peters

2:30-3:45 T & R

This interdisciplinary humanities course explores traditions of remix and appropriation in a number of cultural and technological forms, including literature, art, architecture, film, and music. Special attention will be paid to how inherently combinatorial practices spark innovation and creativity. Students will write essays and collaborate in small groups on a semester-long creative project.

ILS 275 Lecture 1 Spring 2014 Syllabus

ILS 275 Lecture 1 Spring 2014 Supplement

ILS 338

Peer Mentoring for First-Year Liberal Education Seminar

Prereq:  Consent of Instructor; Level:  Intermediate; L&S Credit Type C.  Credit range:  2.  Not open to Freshmen.

ILS 400

ILS Capstone Seminar: Liberal Education and Leadership: Does Meiklejohn Still Matter?

Adam Nelson

2:30 - 5:00 pm M

In a participatory seminar, we will explore the links between liberal education and leadership. What might Alexander Meiklejohn and those who motivated him—from Socrates, Plato, and Kant to the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court—teach us about the often fraught relationship between critical thinking and civic engagement? The first part of this course will generate a set of shared questions about liberal education and leadership; the second part will turn the course over to you to grapple collectively with the two weightiest questions Meiklejohn faced, namely, what and how to teach and learn in a diverse and democratic society. The senior capstone offers a chance to look back over your ILS education and forward to the many opportunities and challenges that await you. What will be your “ILS Toolkit” as you head into your future?

ILS 400 Spring 2014 Syllabus

ILS 401

Global Cultures Capstone Seminar

(This course will not be taught this semseter.)

Joe Elder

1:15-4:15 F

The purpose of this Seminar is to provide those of you earning your Global Cultures Certificate with an opportunity to reflect thoughtfully upon your global-cultural or multicultural experiences, to present your reflections orally in the form of a 25-minute Seminar Report to the rest of the class, and to receive feedback from the rest of the class. One of the most direct forms of reflection is to make comparisons -- identifying differences/similarities (e.g., family patterns, "youth cultures," women's/men's roles, rites of passage, forms of education, ways to make a living, political systems, poverty, militarism, health care, forms of protest, music, art, dance, foods, recreation and leisure patterns, etc.). Another form of reflection is to make observations about yourself and your different responses when you have been in two (or more) cultural contexts. Still another form of reflections might be to think how your global-cultural or multicultural experiences have changed you (or might change you) ... and why. In your Seminar Report you are encouraged to be creative. At the end of the semester, you will submit a printed (and probably revised) double-spaced 15-18 page version of your oral Seminar Report. This will provide much of the basis for our grade in this Seminar.

ILS 401 Spring 2014 Syllabus

ILS 490

Research in Integrated Liberal Studies

1-3 credits.  If you are interested in pursuing a research program in ILS, please talk to a professor who shares your area of interest.

ILS 681/682

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

If you are interested in pursuing an undergraduate honors study, please talk to a professor who shares your area of interest.

ILS 691/692

Undergraduate Thesis

If you are interested in pursuing an undergraduate thesis, please talk to a professor who shares your area of interest.

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