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Spring 2017 Undergraduate Course Descriptions

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UB Seminar
COL 199: On Dignity & Death
Professor David E. Johnson
Class #23799
Tuesday & Thursday 2:00-3:20
108 Baldy

What is dignity? What is the relationship of dignity to what Victor Hugo calls the inviolability of life, but also and no less trenchantly to both the death penalty and the right to die? How does the concept of dignity work both to defend and to challenge both the death penalty and the right to die? On Dignity and Death explores these questions through readings of philosophy (Cicero, Kant, Hegel, Foucault), criminology (Beccaria), legal and medical accounts (Dworkin, Cohen-Almagor), literature (Hugo, Camus, Capote, Mailer), and abolitionists (Badinter, Prejean). We will also read the Universal Declaration of Universal Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (proposed 1966, ratified 1976) in order to examine the paradox of a universal human right to life that coexists with the death penalty. In addition, we will read several United States Supreme Court decisions concerning both the States right to put to death and its right to make live.


UB Seminar
COL 199: Art & Madness
Professor Kalliopi Nikolopoulou
Class# 23801
Monday & Wednesday 9:30-10:50
19 Clemens

When we think of artists we often imagine people who are eccentric, at odds with the everyday world, and indulging in impulsive emotions: easily irascible, self-absorbed, volatile, passionate, melancholic, and self-destructive are some of the adjectives that come to mind. The artist’s volatile psychology is often explained as the effect of inspiration: the artist seems to have a special, even sacred, relation to a higher, spiritual reality to which average people lack access. In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will start with Plato’s understanding of the artist in his lon and in relevant excerpts from The Republic. After a brief historical survey of the notion of the artist in the Renaissance and Romanticism, we will turn our focus to two modern novellas: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, both of which explore the significance of violence, madness, and death in relation to artistic creativity.