Shake up your schedule: Courses offered on aplocalypse, magic and pop culture
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 11:04
When students start college, they often don’t think about all the fun and interesting courses that are available. Students occasionally rush through prerequisites and required courses to graduate, and we often don’t pause to peruse the course catalog. Hidden deep within Gulfline are courses about magic, religion and witchcraft; desire and pop culture; and the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Professor Mike McDonald of the division of ecological students said he decided to develop a course on the topic of magic, witchcraft and religion because he is especially interested in sacred religious journeys and pilgrimages.
One of the different pilgrimages he finds interesting is the annual haj that Muslims make to Mecca and the continuous pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
“But one of my favorites is the annual pilgrimage to the town of Esquipulas in Eastern Guatemala,” McDonald said. “This is one of the most important Roman Catholic pilgrimage sites in the New World.”
“Each year more than a million people, most of whom are indigenous Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans, travel to visit the site on or around the annual feast day of Jan. 15,” McDonald said. “Pilgrims come to visit the Black Christ and/or to eat the curative tablets made from the consecrated clay taken from the grounds on which the Basilica is built.”
The super-natural and unknown may not interest everyone, so Kim Huff, a professor in the department of communication and philosophy, offers a course in desire and pop culture that may attract students.
Huff said she thought of the idea for the while composing her dissertation.
“My dissertation research focused on what psychoanalytic theory could teach the rhetorical discipline about social change,” Huff said. “The discipline of rhetoric and psychoanalysis are typically at odds and I wanted to try to build a bridge between the two.”
Huff said the one element that stood out to her the most was the negative public reactions to some actions for social change that psychoanalytic theory shows to actually be good actions.
“I like to also focus on the ways that we are manipulated by pop culture in ways that we could never know,” Huff said.
Also, according to professor Huff, this is a very new and burgeoning direction in the communication discipline.
“I definitely hope to explore this in other classes in the future, although I'm not sure exactly how they will take shape at this time,” Huff said.
Then there are courses available to students that are odd and baffling.
The course in question is called “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” co-taught by professor Miles Mancini, professor Eric Otto and professor Sam Walch, who all belong to the department of communication and philosophy; and professor Andrew Wilkinson of the division of ecological studies.
Mancini is the zombie expert, Otto is the robot extraordinaire, Walch speaks of war and destruction, and Otto is the time travel/environmental aficionado.
The course is offered this fall and spring 2013 on Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 9:15 p.m.
“We don’t teach a course on how to prepare for the apocalypse,” Otto said.
However, the professors said some students do actually believe in the apocalypse.
“It’s a critical thinking course and the apocalypse is sort of an organizing theme,” Mancini said.
Each theme—zombies, war, robots and technology and time travel and the environment are segmented into three weeks and co-taught by each professor, though one particular professor will take the lead during their respective section.
“Each professor has a three week segment where they are the team leader while they’re covering their theme, but the rest of us are also involved,” Mancini said.
For the first week, reading assignments are given and lectures in class enforce those assignments.
For the second week, a film is chosen to reinforce the criteria from the readings and lectures.
For the third week, tribal meetings and tribal councils are set in motion.
“It’s like an apocalyptic UN,” Walch said.
Certain tribes are allotted certain things like food and medicine, and they must then debate how they are going to work together or with other tribes during these tough apocalyptic times, said Mancini.
“They have to negotiate in order to try to survive each disaster that we present to them,” Mancini said. “We also present certain ethical dilemmas, such as the theme of humanity and zombies.”
Should you kill all the zombies? Enslave them? You have the power to decide.
“Another theme is self-reflection,” Walch said.
“We want students to be able to look at these futuristic or apocalyptic films and literature and understand that it’s not really about the zombies taking over,” Otto said. “They’re really stories about us and how we treat ourselves and other people.”