In this course, we position ourselves with our feet on the UW-Madison campus and ask questions about the energy we use to heat and cool our buildings, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the electricity to run light bulbs and appliances, the goods we purchase, and the waste we create.
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 in the past, understand the present, and make predictions for the future. An integral (and interesting) part of this process is the different methods scientists use, the ways they work as a community, and how that community interacts and reflects the larger society. These aspects of science rarely get addressed in a traditional science class – in fact, it generally falls through the cracks of any college curriculum. So in this class we will emphasize the commonalities between different sciences and how scientific knowledge is generated rather than worrying about memorizing formulas or scientific facts.
The essence of criticism is the willingness to treat ideas as problems – that is, open to contestation and revision. ILS 200 examines the idea of “critical thinking,” surveying the forms it might take, the ways in which it might be employed (or subverted), and the significance of critical thinking in the daily life of the average citizen of a contemporary mass democracy.
to think critically and historically about science in this course by exploring such fundamental questions
across two millennia. We begin with ancient mythology and philosophy, then follow the movement of
the Greek classical tradition into medieval Islam and Christendom, and finally turn to the ‘revolution’ in
science of the 16th and 17th centuries with Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton.
This course examines Western art and literature from the earliest human civilizations of
Mesopotamia and Egypt to the Middle Ages of Europe, with substantial emphasis on classical antiquity. The
syllabus is diachronic with a view toward revealing how the art and literature of western culture have shaped the
world cultures of today.
The objective of this course is two-fold. First, it introduces students to the roots of Western
political, economic, and social thought. Through a careful reading of canonical texts, the
foundational symbols and concepts of Western thought will come to light. The second objective
is to learn how these symbols and concepts can be brought to bear on contemporary problems
and how they can inform questions about our own political and personal order.
What part does honor play in our world? What does a good citizen look like? What is the role of reason? What is the place of violence? Students should keep these questions in mind when going into this course.
There are three main modules for the class. The first part is how to look at the sky above us. This encompasses how scientists figured out how large the Earth was, how we know the Earth goes around the sun, why we think the universe started with a “big bang”. The second module is explaining life around us. This part focuses on evolution, including how the idea was originally derived and what evidence supports it today. The last is how to look at the Earth below us. We will focus on two aspects: How do we know how old the Earth is; and, What wiped out the dinosaurs?
Are there existential truths or insights about the essence of reality, human nature, or morality that can be disclosed only in a particular form of communication? This course will explore existentialist views about who we are, our place in the world, and who we should be in that world while analyzing the way these views are conveyed.
This course explores examples of remixing, mash up and sampling from ancient Greek lyric poetry to modern theater. It will consider remix as a form of cultural appropriation as well as a strategy of resistance through juxtapositions of ancient and modern texts and media. Through close textual readings, we will examine the surprising and original ways modern artists and thinkers have remixed ancient texts to give expression to modern experiences.
This course examines a series of political, philosophical, and literary texts in order to imagine the possible
relations between power, writing, and resistance. Rather than using literature as a key to politics, or
imposing political themes on literary works, we will attend to how literature—taken as a coded form of
linguistic and aesthetic practice—and politics—understood both as the exercise of power and strategies of
resistance—might be related.
In this course, we will study a series of literary texts in order to question the relations
between political power and resistance in modern writing. Instead of assuming that
literature lies beyond the pale of political life, we will explore the hypothesis that literary
works are marked by the very relations of power that structure subjects and societies at
First, the bulk of course time will involve seminar-style discussion of readings about democracy, citizenship, and expertise. In addition, students will observe at two different democratic forums and write and re-write papers based on these observations. The semester will begin with a set of readings by Alexander Meiklejohn, the inspiration for this course and the founder of the UW’s Integrated Liberal Studies program.
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?
This course will require students to engage a diverse array of texts and topics. The semester will take us from biological evolution to the development of the personal computer to the art of Shepard Fairey to the music of Public Enemy. As we make that meandering journey, we’ll throw around terms like postmodernism, bricolage, and mash-up. However, the course will not simply be an exercise in the mastery of jargon; it will require students to reflect seriously on a variety of creative processes and make linkages between them.
Judaism today is rabbinic Judaism. From dietary regulations to marriage laws, Jewish
customs are filtered through rabbinic understandings of – and additions to – biblical
traditions. This course examines the literary corpus of the classical rabbinic period (70-
640 C.E.) in order to understand how this group shaped the religion now known as
Judaism. Interacting closely with primary texts in translation, students will learn the
operating principles of rabbinic logic, as well as how scholars (re)construct history based
upon this corpus. In the second half of this course, we will focus on rabbinic topics.
Using drinks and drinking as a test case, students will apply arguments made on the
macro level (i.e., about rabbinic literature in general) to the micro level. Throughout this
course, students will be challenged to question and verify various scholarly assumptions
The objective of this course is to examine the ideas of political economy and to question how an
economy should be connected to society. Within this broad objective, there are two specific areas
of study. First, through a careful reading of several important works, we will endeavor to
discover the philosophical origins of political economy. That is, we will set out to find not the
beginnings of political economy as a process of policy making, but rather to uncover the
theoretical motives and problems that give rise to political economy as a way of thinking in
general. Second, we will explore a series of powerful critiques from theoretical quarters and
vantages. In so considering these texts, we shall endeavor not only to discover how they address
the optimism of modern thought, but also to explore the applicability of their arguments at the
dawn of the 21st century. All together, we aim to better understand both the possibilities and the
limitations of the economic organization of life.
We live in a world in which competing notions of intelligence are implicitly being tested and
displayed. From IQ tests to artificial intelligence, the intellectual faculty seems to dominate and
administer vast aspects of the modern world. But what does it mean to be intelligent?
From the dawn of Ancient Greece to 21st century global society, sports and politics have been intimately and precariously entwined. This course examines the classical origins of sport, its relationship to political thought and community, and the legacy of the ancient sporting tradition in our own times.
In the tradition of the Meiklejohn Experimental College, the primary goal of the capstone seminar is to provide an intensive and sustained opportunity for graduating seniors to step back and reflect about the challenges of leadership, character, and moving into the professions and adult life in general.