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Spring 2013 First-Year Investigations


Los Angeles and Its Literature
10 - 11:50 a.m.
Bill Deverell, History

How has the city of Los Angeles been represented in literary portrayals through time?  What are the salient characteristics and traits to the city's literary personality?  How do such portrayals hold up against historical data and research?  Which authors are the most important to the creation of an enduring Los Angeles through short stories and novels?  Meeting in the Special Collections room of Doheny Library, this FYI seminar will examine rare materials, editions, and documents pertaining to the fictional essence of Los Angeles, and we will read a small selection of keystone works of fiction that help us see, think about, and understand Los Angeles and its literature.


Fashions in the Renaissance: Dressing Up, Shopping and Trendsetters from 1400-1600
2 - 3:50 p.m.
Margaret Rosenthal, Italian, Comparative Culture, English

Shopping was just as important in Renaissance Italy as it is today. What did it mean to be fashionable in the Renaissance? How did clothing and accessories (velvets, satins and linens, perfumed buttons and gloves, veils, codpieces, busks, ropes of pearls, slashed doublets and breeches, starched linen ruffs, high platform shoes) provoke comment from those seeing them being worn, and how did the way people dressed express their personal tastes, gender, social status, and political and religious alliances? Who made and maintained fabrics and accessories? Where were these objects available for consumption? Did both men and women of different classes buy the goods they wanted? And who were the fashion trendsetters and why? In order to answer these questions, we will look at renaissance costume books, paintings, and prints, and we will read some renaissance literary sources by men and women which talk about fashion and consumerism.


Invisible City: Technology and Urban Life
2 - 3:50 p.m.
Andrew Lakoff, Sociology, Anthropology and Communication

What makes it possible for millions of people to live together in relatively close proximity in modern cities and metropolitan regions? As urban creatures, we are deeply reliant on the technological systems that serve to feed us, salve our thirst, carry away our waste, keep us warm or cool, illuminate our nights, and connect us with others. The construction and maintenance of these systems is fundamental to the possibility of modern urban life. Yet our dependence on these complex and fragile systems is often forgotten, and the decisions that shape them are often obscure. In this class we will explore "the invisible city" - the infrastructures of living that shape collective urban existence: energy, water, transport, waste and communication. We will use the technological systems that sustain life in Los Angeles as our source of reflection. The course will include short readings, field-trips, and films.



Human Survival: Learning From The Past
2 - 3:50 p.m.
Lynn Swartz Dodd, Department of Religion

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make your own stone tools? Brew beer? Make cheese? Smelt copper?  If you had lived 6,000 years ago, you were part of a culture that taught you how to do these things, in order to survive. You would have fished, hunted, used stone and metal tools to cut up and skin animals, plants and many other things. You would have learned how to create sickles to harvest grain and other plants. Grain went into bread and beer – and we’ll make both in this class. If you wanted to warm or protect your naked body, you would have spun wool or plant fibers into cloth or tanned skins. Some cheese could be stored for more than a year – a ready, portable food source that we will make ourselves.  And you would have needed to know how to transform bits of rock into molten metal that would harden into wonderful things. This is an active learning course that enables you –through weekly hands-on activities and field trips – to acquire and experience skills that humans devised in order to survive in pre-modern times.   This course is ideal for students in any major. You’ll learn how to survive 6,000 years ago while gaining skills of value in medicine, economics, business, psychology, politics, and history, too.


Film and Social Justice in Contemporary Los Angeles
2 - 3:50 p.m.
Ange-Marie Hancock, Political Science and Gender Studies

"An Inconvenient Truth." "Waiting for Superman." "When the Levees Broke." "Crossing Arizona." All of these documentaries focus on issues of social justice that currently challenge the United States.  Documentaries, however, are not the only media that examine issues of social justice – consider the films "Crash," "Follow Me Home," "Fight Club" and "Norma Rae," all feature films which focus on bringing matters of race, class, gender, and sexuality to the broader public.  This FYI Seminar will examine the transformative power of film and new technology to push issues of justice onto the public agenda.  Students will learn the method of visual ethnography as a tool of community empowerment and participatory action research.  The 10-week seminar will include seminar discussions, visits from filmmakers and other guest speakers, a Visions and Voices event and a joint multimedia project, LA 2012, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of the uprisings in Los Angeles.


Left-Brain, Right-Brain
3 - 4:50 p.m.
Ann Renken, Psychology

"Sorry, I can’t do math, I’m right-brained." You’ve undoubtedly heard something like this, maybe even from yourself! This seminar will examine what we know, and what we have yet to figure out, about the left and right sides of the brain. You will get acquainted with some of the methods in psychology and neuroscience for studying brain function. This requires no particular background in the sciences and would be relevant to a broad range of majors and interests. We will focus on the role that the right brain hemisphere may play in everyday experiences as diverse as art, magic, religion, power, emotion, body movement and navigation. You will get first-hand experience conducting exploratory research on these topics. Hopefully, you’ll develop a healthy curiosity and awareness about how your brain function and your surroundings influence one another, and also will be equipped to separate myth from reality.



The Art of Political Bargaining
2 - 3:50 p.m.
Jeb Barnes, Political Science

This course will examine the art of political bargaining using simulations, documentaries and case studies of successful and unsuccessful efforts to build winning legislative coalitions in Congress. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines, including law, political science, economics and sociology, students will gain a greater appreciation of the federal policy-making process, the challenges facing lawmakers in building support for their policy preferences, and the prospects of our system of checks and balances for dealing with today's major policy problems.


Representing Los Angeles on Film
3 - 4:50 p.m.
William Thalmann, Classics and Comparative Literature

Why have so many films that portray problematical aspects of American life been set in Los Angeles? Are films made in Hollywood about Los Angeles merely narcissistic? What is it about Los Angeles that makes it almost a character in so many films? In this course, we will watch and discuss a representative sample of films that center on this multi-faceted city. Possibilities include Chinatown, LA Confidential, Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, Short Cuts and Magnolia.


Development In The First 18 Years: A Web-Based Simulation
4 - 5:50 p.m.
Frank Manis, Psychology

Students will raise a child using an interactive web-based program that simulates physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. Students will discuss the interaction of nature and nurture in the development of personality, social skills and intelligence in the first 18 years.



How do scientists find out about the natural world?
2 - 3:50 p.m.
Sergio Sañudo-Wilhelmy, Biological Sciences & Earth Sciences

Science provides a significant benefit to society and despite all of its limitations, science is the best tool that we have to discover the way the natural world works.  Have you ever wondered how scientists do their work?   How do scientists discover new things?   How is modern science different from “old” science?   What were the historical circumstances under which “quantum-leaps” in science were made? Why were those major discoveries often not made in developing countries?   What have been the unintended consequences of science?   Do scientists cheat?   Is the end of science in sight?  This seminar is designed, to try to answer those fundamental questions through discussion of lectures, readings, movies and field trips.   If you are planning to be a scientist, or even if not, you should know something about how one of the most marvelous human endeavors works.


Evolutionary Physiology and Medicine
3 - 4:50 p.m.
Albert Herrera, Biology/Neurobiology

The human body is full of contradictions. In most respects, its structure and function is exquisitely efficient. In other ways, the design is, well, stupid.  We have extra teeth that don’t fit into our jaws. The arrangement of nerves and blood vessels in the eye is backwards. The appendix seems to have no function other than to get infected and kill us. More than 90% of the cells in our bodies aren’t even human (they’re bacterial). The mind boggles! Only one approach has made sense of these and similarly strange findings: evolutionary biology. With firm footing in the field of human physiology, this seminar will examine health and disease from an evolutionary viewpoint.  Despite a wealth of supporting data, this is a field in its infancy, not yet a part of most medical school curricula. Although our search for the truth will likely yield more questions than answers, our findings at this forefront of modern medicine will be fascinating.