Liberal Studies 112: Ways of Knowing II: Knowledge, Good, and Evil

Course Outline, Spring 2012

 

Introductory Comments

LBST 112 is a team-taught course, in which students and instructors together read and discuss a series of texts and work to improve written and oral communication skills. The emphasis throughout is on developing general skills essential for later college work and on introducing students to some important texts and ways of thinking that they will encounter in their university careers.

The major learning forum in LBST 112 is the seminar, in which a small group of students (up to 20) and one instructor discuss together a text or some element of writing or research skills. The emphasis throughout all seminars is on developing a conversation in which all participants have an equal place. This seminar experience lies at the heart of the building of a learning community, in which students learn as much from and with each other as they do from the instructors.

While LBST 111 dealt with texts from ancient times until the 18th century, LBST 112 spans the 18th to the 21st centuries. And while LBST 111 focussed on the themes of love and friendship, LBST 112 will focus on the themes of knowledge, good, and evil. Some of our texts deal explicitly with the questions of the nature of knowing and what can be said to count as knowledge; for example, in his essay "Adam's Navel", Stephen Jay Gould defines the scientific method as a way of understanding the world. Other texts explore ethical questions about good and evil; for example, in his novel The Road, Cormac McCarthy explores the difficulty in a post-apocalyptic world--and also our world--of trying to identify "the good guys". Yet other texts bring together the themes of knowledge and good and evil. Both Flatland and Frankenstein , for example, ask questions about the relationship between knowledge and the good human life. Is knowledge always conducive to virtue? Are the ethical and epistemological dimensions of human experience separable?

LBST 112 is equivalent in credit to two normal first-year courses (i.e., is worth six credits), and together with LBST 111 satisfies the Degree English Requirement.

Consult this outline frequently; it gives important information regarding the schedule for readings and due dates of assignments. Your instructors will expect you to be familiar with what is expected of you each week as laid out in the outline; they will not necessarily give you reminders.

Students with documented disabilities requiring academic and or exam accommodation should contact Disability Services, building 200, or call 740-6446.

Instructors

The instructors on the LBST 112 teaching team are as follows:

Name

Office

Local

Section(s)

Office Hours

E-mail

Laura Suski

355/330

2171

S11N02

TBA

Laura Suski@viu.ca

Janina Hornosty

355/324

2169

S11N01 and S11N03

TBA

Janina.Hornosty@viu.ca

These two instructors have equal responsibility for all aspects of the course. If you have a particular concern, you should contact either of them (normally the instructor of your seminar group).

In Building 355, where we hold our classes, there is an administrative office run by Libby McGrattan (Room 322). She provides support for all Liberal Studies and First Nations classes.

Web Resources

There are a number of valuable and helpful web resources for your use in LBST 112:

1) The Liberal Studies Homepage : this departmental page contains a vast amount of information about the theory and practice of Liberal Studies courses, and all the links you will need to other resources. Please explore it at your leisure: www.viu.ca/liberalstudies/ . Take especial note of the Program Info and Coursework pages.

2) Some of the instructional material for the course is available at "johnstonia ," the homepage of Ian Johnston, one of the founding professors of Liberal Studies and now a Research Associate in the Liberal Studies Department. To reach this instructional material, go to records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/ and follow the links to "E-Text Catalogue" and "General Study Materials."

3) An excellent source of biographical and bibliographical information about the figures you will encounter in the course is the Great Books Homepage, created by Russell McNeil, also one of the founding professors in Liberal Studies and now a Research Associate: www.malaspina.org/home.htm

Book List

Below is the list of readings for Liberal Studies 112. They are in the order in which we will be studying them (except for those in the LBST 112 Course Readings Package). Whereas in LBST 111 we looked at texts from ancient times to the 18th Century, in LBST 112 we will study works from the late 18th to the 21st centuries. This time our texts are not quite in chronological order, so that we can focus more on thematic and formal links among them.

Here is more detailed information on the editions we've ordered:

LBST 112 Course Readings Package. (Includes essays on science, civil disobedience, free will, and ethics and imagery.)

Nathaniel Hawthorne. Young Goodman Brown and Other Stories. Dover Thrift. ISBN: 978-048-627-060-9

Mary Shelley. Frankenstein. Dover Thrift. ISBN: 0-486-282-112.

Edwin A. Abbot. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. Dover Thrift. ISBN: 0-486-27263-X.

Christina Rossetti. "Goblin Market" in Goblin Market and Other Poems. Dover Thrift. 0-486-280-551.

Henry James. The Turn of the Screw. Dover Thrift. ISBN: 0-486-26684-2.

Art Spiegelman. Maus. Volumes I and II. Pantheon. ISBN: Volume I: 0-394-74723-2; Volume II: 0-679-72977-1

Cormac McCarthy. The Road. Vintage. ISBN: 978-0-307-38789-9.

Please be sure to buy the editions of books specified above; seminar discussion is much easier when all participants are referring to the same page numbers.

In dealing with a text, students are not required to read any introductory or supplementary material (e.g. critical introductions), unless instructed to do so.

Schedule

In a regular week of LBST 112, a student is expected to attend one lecture (usually 90 minutes long and always on Wednesdays) and two 90-minute seminars (one on Mondays and one on Fridays). Please note that on February 15th, the Wednesday lecture period will begin at 8:00 in order for students to write the In-Class Essay.

January 4-6
Wednesday Lecture : Introduction to teaching team; brief lectures on knowledge, good, and evil

Friday Seminar: Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"

Seminar Note Due Friday

(2) January 9-13

Monday Seminar: Isaac Asimov, "Science and Beauty" (in Course Readings Package)
Wednesday Lecture: Ways of Seeing in Art and Science (Hornosty)
Friday Seminar: Gould, "Adam's Navel" (In Course Readings Package)

Seminar Note Due Monday
At-Home Essay Assigned

(3) January 16-20

Monday Seminar: Mary Shelley , Frankenstein
Wednesday Lecture: Frankenstein (Suski)
Friday Seminar: Frankenstein ; discussion of research paper topics
At-Home Essay Due Friday

(4) January 23-27

Monday Seminar: Edwin Abbot , Flatland
Wednesday Lecture: Flatland (Hornosty)
Friday Seminar: Flatland

Rewrite of At-Home Essay Assigned
Research Paper Proposal Due Friday

(5) January 30-February 3

Monday Seminar: Christina Rossetti, "Goblin Market"
Wednesday Lecture: guest lecture: Terri Doughty on "Goblin Market"
Friday Seminar: "Goblin Market"
Rewrite of At-Home Essay Due Friday

(6) February 6-10

Monday Seminar: Henry James, The Turn of the Screw
Wednesday Lecture: The Turn of the Screw (Hornosty)
Friday Seminar: The Turn of the Screw
In-Class Essay Assigned
Research Paper Outline and Working Bibliography due Friday

(7) February 13-17

Monday Seminar: Art Spiegelman, Maus I
Wednesday Lecture: In-Class Essay (Note: The In-Class Essay will begin at 8:00 am)
Friday Seminar : Spiegelman, Maus II

Seminar Note Due Monday

(8) February 20-24

VIU Reading Week: NO CLASSES

(9) February 27- March 2

Monday Seminar: Harry Frankfurt, "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person" (in Course Readings Package)
Wednesday Lecture: Ideas about Free Will (Suski/Hornosty)

Friday Seminar: "Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person"
Research Paper Due Friday

(10) March 5-9

Monday Seminar: Immanuel Kant, "What is Enlightenment?" (in Course Readings Package)
Wednesday Lecture: video: Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream"
Friday Seminar: King, "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (in Course Readings Package)

Seminar Note Due Monday

(11) March 12-16

Monday Seminar: Frank Moller, "Rwanda Revisited: Genocide, Photography, and the Era of Witness" (in Course Readings Package)
Wednesday Lecture: Imagery, Knowledge, and Responsibility (Suski) 
Friday Seminar: "Rwanda Revisualized: Genocide, Photography, and the Era of Witness"

Seminar Note Due Monday
Research Paper Rewrite Assigned

(12) March 19-23

Monday Seminar: McCarthy, The Road
Wednesday Lecture: guest lecture: Mark Blackell on The Road
Friday Seminar: The Road

Seminar Note Due Monday

(13) March 26-30

Monday Seminar: Excerpts from Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish (in Course Readings Package) Wednesday Lecture: Discipline and Punish (Suski)  
Friday Seminar: Excerpts from Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish (in Course Readings Package)

Research Paper Rewrite Due Friday

(14) April 2-4

Monday Seminar: Exam Preparation
Wednesday Lecture: Liberal Studies Spring Conference participation

Examination Period: One three-hour essay-style examination (this will be scheduled by the Registrar--please don't make any end-of-term travel plans until the final exam schedule has been posted).

Assignments and Grades

In LBST 112, each student is expected to complete a number of different assignments. These include the following:

  • preparation for and participation in all seminars
  • two short essays (one of which will be completed in-class)
  • one research paper
  • regular seminar notes (six in total)
  • one written examination

At the end of LBST 112, each student will receive a mark out of 100. The components of this mark are as follows:

Seminar participation: 20%
Seminar Notes: 10% in total
Research paper preliminary work (proposal, outline, bibliography): 5%
Research paper: 15%
Two essays (15 marks each): 30%
Final examination: 20%

Note that any work not handed in (or not accepted because of lateness) will receive a mark of zero in the calculations of totals. Students should realize that this principle really hurts those who have missing assignments or who accumulate a number of unexcused absences from seminar.

You should also take careful note of the fact that, in order to pass LBST 112, you must achieve a passing grade on the two supervised assignments, that is, the in-class essay and the final examination.

Seminar Participation

A significant percentage of the student's final total (20%) in LBST 112 comes from participation in the Monday and Friday seminars. Information on what is expected from students in seminars can be found at the "johnstonia" Website; click on "General Study Materials" and "Participating in Seminars."

The most important components in the instructor's assessment of each student's performance in the seminar are the following: attendance, preparation for the seminar (usually required reading and seminar notes), and quality and quantity of the student's participation in the seminar discussions (factors which include the student's contributions to creating and sustaining a worthwhile and well-mannered seminar conversation for all participants). Note that mere frequency of contribution is not necessarily an all-important factor. Students are expected to listen well and to encourage each other to contribute.

Students who know that they are going to have to miss a seminar should offer an acceptable reason for missing seminar to the instructor in advance, and anyone who misses a seminar and who cannot inform the instructor in advance should speak to the instructor about the absence before the next seminar. Note that, in exceptional circumstances, it is possible for a student to make up a missed seminar, for example, by attending one at a different time.

The seminar experience is absolutely central to what Liberal Studies 112 is trying to achieve, and we are very concerned to see that students all contribute effectively, especially those who may still find themselves somewhat reluctant to speak up in a group discussion. The principle is that we learn best from discussion of important ideas with one another: those who do not contribute to seminar in a helpful way are thus reaping the benefits without contributing anything of benefit to others. Still, some people are naturally shy: any student who still finds this a problem after the first few weeks should discuss the matter thoroughly with the seminar instructor so that together they can work out some ways of resolving the difficulties.

Essays

The essay topics assigned in LBST 112 will directly concern the texts we are discussing in seminar. For some essays, there will be little choice of topic; for others, students will have a list from which they can select a particular topic.

The short essays (the at-home and in-class essays) are not intended to be research papers but rather your own well-argued responses to particular topics on the required reading. Normally, therefore, you will not make any use of secondary source material. However, if the essay does rely on any secondary sources, it must contain appropriate references and a full bibliography. Note that a bibliography alone is not an adequate substitute for detailed references throughout the paper.

Essays will be marked and returned to the student. If the take-home essay is handed in on time, students will have the option of rewriting the papers. The mark on the revised versions will be the mark for the assignments. Students who hand these essays in late will not be given the option of rewriting.

Research Paper

The major writing assignment in LBST 112 is the research paper. We will be giving out more details about this task later, but for the time being, you should note the following points:

  • The research paper must be between 1,000 and 1,500 words long, with secondary material from three sources (no fewer, no more).
  • The paper must follow the appropriate conventions for references and bibliographies
  • The research paper assignment requires the completion of an initial proposal, an outline, and a working bibliography before the due date for the first draft of the paper.
  • Students who hand the first draft of the research paper in on time will have the opportunity to revise that first draft and hand in a second draft. The mark for the assignment will be based on that second draft.

Essay and Research Paper Format

The research paper and all essays must be prepared on a word processor or typed (handwritten essays are not acceptable) and must follow the instructions listed below:

The typing or printing must be double spaced on standard 8.5 X 11 inch paper, with clearly legible printing and with the right justification removed (unless the printer can provide proportional spacing). Each paper should have a title page indicating the student's name, student number, the name of the seminar leader, a title for the essay, and the date.

The pages must be numbered in the upper right-hand corners with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, and so on). Papers must be printed in a font size of 12 in a "plain" style (e.g., Times New Roman or Courier). Do not write essays entirely in capital letters or in italics or boldface. Each page must have a margin of one inch on each side and at the top and bottom.

The instructors may refuse to mark a paper which does not meet these requirements.

Rewritten versions of a particular assignment must be accompanied by the first marked version so that the instructor can compare the two.

Students are expected to save and keep copies of everything they hand in for marking (either a photocopied version or one stored on disk). If the copy of an assignment handed in to an instructor goes astray, the student is responsible for supplying a second copy.

Grading Standards for Essays

We will use the following general grading standards, based upon the typical features of essays which fall into the different grade categories, to mark all essays.

The "A" Paper

  • has a well-defined focus and a strong thesis
  • is logically organized, showing advanced skill using structural techniques
  • is coherent, with smooth and effective transitions
  • displays careful and original thinking
  • has relevant and sufficient supporting evidence used consistently
  • employs sophisticated sentence structure
  • is free from technical inconsistencies
  • is polished and carefully proofread

The "B" Paper

  • has many of the qualities of the "A" paper
  • may display less creativity or sophistication
  • may have some awkwardness in terms of structure and style
  • transitions may be inadequate
  • ideas may be awkwardly stated
  • introduction or conclusion may be weak
  • uses relevant supporting evidence consistently, but not always sufficiently
  • is free from most technical errors
  • is fairly well polished and proofread

The "C" Paper

  • has a thesis, but it shows a lack of engagement and originality
  • the thesis may be too narrow to be arguable
  • the thesis may be too broad to be adequately supported with evidence
  • thesis development might need more explanation or supporting evidence
  • does not, in general, have well-developed or supported ideas
  • might lack an introduction or conclusion
  • might have a structure that is not entirely coherent
  • has an argument that suffers from some inconsistency or irrelevancy
  • is free from most technical errors
  • is somewhat polished and superficially proofread

The "D" Paper (any of the following may warrant a "D" grade)

  • shows limited knowledge of the subject matter
  • has a thesis that is extremely weak or non-existent
  • has some structural problems
  • has little evidence or generally irrelevant evidence
  • suffers from serious inconsistency
  • is cluttered by technical errors
  • is unpolished and inadequately proofread

The "F" Paper (any of the following is reason for a failing grade)

  • shows inadequate knowledge of the subject matter
  • does not have a thesis
  • has an inappropriate thesis for the topic
  • has serious structural problems
  • is incoherent and confusing
  • lacks an argument
  • has an excessive number of technical errors
  • is neither polished nor proofread

Seminar Notes

You are asked to hand in seminar notes on the assigned readings during weeks in which no other assignments are due. Seminar notes are due at the Monday seminar (except for the first one, which is due on the first Friday of classes). They must be prepared before , not during, seminar. Each note will be marked (out of 10) and handed back. The total of the six seminar note marks is worth 10% towards the final grade.

The purpose of these notes is to enhance your understanding of and depth of engagement with the texts we will study in the course. The topic of each note must be the text that is the focus of discussion for that week. Although it must be written in complete sentences, the note is not an essay; it need not have a thesis statement, conventionally designed paragraphs, and so on.

The form of the assignment is this:

The format for these weekly assignments is very specific: ask a question and explain how this question arises from your careful reading of the text. Length 250-300 words.  Seminar notes must be handed in at the Tuesday seminar in the week during which the study material is discussed.  In writing your seminar notes, avoid all of the following: making a list of many features rather than staying firmly focused on one, merely summarizing or describing the text, and making a merely personal response to the work. It may come as a surprise, but whether you like or don't like a text will be the least interesting comment you can make about it. The professors will be more keen to see your understanding of a work than to know your personal preferences. Finally, don't stray from the topic of the week: each seminar note must be squarely focused on the text, not on you, the world, or life in general; choose a subject whose discussion would open the text to our further understanding of it, rather than one that will encourage us to talk about something else entirely.

Seminar notes should be typed. Ensure that you leave space for your instructor to write comments on your notes (leave generous margins and double space your notes). Take care to proofread your notes for spelling and grammar.

You should note very clearly that seminar notes are required even for those seminars in which you are not present . Your seminar leader will not be reminding you regularly of this point, so please remember to submit the seminar note. If you are absent from the seminar when the note is due, then hand it in as soon as you return to the group (or e-mail it to your seminar leader before you return).

The Examination

The examination at the end of the semester (during examination week) will require two short essays on some of the texts we have studied in class. The students will receive a list of questions in the week before the examination and will write the essays on any two of them. Thus, you can choose the two questions you wish to write on and complete preparatory material for the essays in advance. The examination will last three hours. The date and time of the examination will be determined by the Registrar, who publishes an exam schedule later in the semester.

A Note on Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct

The work a student hands in for marking must be his or her own work. While students will be strongly encouraged to work together, to review each other's work, and to give each other assistance, the instructors expect that no student will directly copy another student's work or borrow material form secondary sources without acknowledgement (note that you must acknowledge sources, even if you translate the information into your own words). This point applies equally to essays and seminar notes. If you are at all unclear as to what constitutes plagiarism and other forms of serious academic misconduct, please consult the VIU's Student Academic Code of Conduct .

The penalties for plagiarism, fabrication, and cheating are severe. Should an instructor determine that such misconduct has occurred intentionally, it will be reported to the Dean. Consequences ranging from a failing grade for the course to notes added to students' permanent records and suspension from the institution may ensue. See the above Code of Conduct for details on the procedures for dealing with such intentional misconduct.

Some General Matters

The Liberal Studies department offers courses in the second, third, and fourth years of the BA program. In Building 355, where most Liberal Studies classes take place, there is a student lounge for all students in Liberal Studies and First Nations classes. You can use this facility for private study or social groups. It is a good place to mingle with Liberal Studies students and First Nations students.

Students are expected to arrive on time and stay for the full duration of the lecture or seminar. If you have to leave early or arrive late, please do so as quietly as possible. You do not have to ask permission. However, if you regularly arrive late or leave early, the instructors will want to know why you have to interrupt classes in this way.

Libby McGrattan provides special administrative assistance to the Liberal Studies program. Her office is Room 322 of Building 355. If you have any problems you want resolved, you should not take them to her immediately. Try contacting your instructor first. The Dean in charge of the program is John Black . His office is on the third floor in Building 356.

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