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This is a reading-intensive course.  I choose my books carefully, especially because of the high cost of text books.  By putting many of my readings on this syllabus and providing others as hand-outs, I hope to save you money. Please treat your books and other readings as objects of quasi-religious devotion. Because these are sacred texts, I expect you to read everything as closely and as carefully as you have ever done before.


  • Roy Scranton, War Porn
  • Dave Eggers, The Circle
  • J. D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  • Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization
  • Luis Alberto Urrea, The Devil’s Highway
  • Francis Wade, Myanmar’s Enemy Within (Unfortunately, this book is currently only available on Kindle.  You can purchase the book HERE. Amazon has a free app to download the Kindle reader. Unless I can figure out a way to print this title, I may have to make a rare exception and ask you to bring your Kindles to class.  Very regrettable.)

In addition to these books, we will also read excerpts from the works of other great writers, such as Dante Alighieri, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Hannah Arendt, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Pope Francis.


Class discussions are the most important part of this seminar.  Our discussions will only work if everyone in the seminar participates.  I realize that we all have different personalities; some of us are loud, others are quiet; some are more outgoing, others more reserved.  I don’t expect to change any of your personalities.  Rather, I plan to work with each of you on an individual to ensure that you get the most out of the seminar.

Our discussions will only work if you have the readings physically in front of you. Therefore, you are required to do two things:

1) Copy and print all of the readings on this site that are marked PRINT (otherwise, you do not need to copy them);

2) Bring each required reading to class on the day we are to discuss it. To make your life easier, I strongly recommend that you print all of the required readings immediately and put them into some kind of orderly binder.


It is a special privilege to take a seminar. You should treat our seminar accordingly. Seminars are small and they allow for intimate and lively discussions. They also provide me with the pleasant opportunity to work closely with each of you as individuals.

My aspirations are modest.  I merely want to teach you to speak, read, write, think critically, and persuade.  If I accomplish these tasks in working with each of you, I will be pleased. These objectives are reflected in the breakdown of my grading standard.

  • Participation (30%)
  • Electronic discussions and Short Assignments (10%)
  • Two Reflective Essays (15% each)
  • Semester Essay (30%)

Paper assignments will be docked 1/3 of a letter grade for each day they are late.


Class attendance is MANDATORY. Unless you are ill, you must consult with me beforehand if you know you will miss a class. If you are ill, please send me an email so that I do not worry about you. Of course, university-approved absences are fine, but please remind me beforehand if you will be gone.


This course is all about communication.  Therefore, I welcome all of the conversations you have with each other, inside or outside class.  You are perfectly welcome to discuss your readings and writing assignments with each other.  In fact, I encourage it.  However, every writing assignment you turn in to me must be clearly, unmistakably, and unequivocally your own work!


I enjoy meeting with all of my students, and I hope to see each of you on a regular basis. You do not need to have specific questions about the class. I view your education holistically, and I am interested in learning about you personally.

I hold my office hours Tuesdays at 1:30-2:30 and Wednesdays 2:00-4:00, & by appointment. My office is 2080 Nanovic Hall, not far from the Political Science department.

Visit me!

Please do not use any form of electronic or cosmic technology during class time.  Bad Karma.

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