Humanities Senior Seminar



Class Schedule

 January 18th  January 20th
 January 25th  January 27th

 February 1st

Debord & Baudrillard

 February 3rd

Debord & Baudrillard

 February 8th

Debord & Baudrillard

Presenting: Justin Wolfe

 February 10th

Debord & Baudrillard

 February 15th

Debord & Baudrillard

Presenting: Kyle Boren & Melissa Ramsey

 February 17th

Debord & Baudrillard

 February 22nd

Fukuyama & Hardt

 February 24th

Fukuyama & Hardt

 March 1st

Fukuyama & Hardt

Presenting: John Wilhoit & Ashley Bushong

 March 3rd

Fukuyama & Hardt

 March 8th


 March 10th


 March 15th

Fukuyama & Hardt

Presenting: Melissa Ramsey & Justin Wolfe

 March 17th

Fukuyama & Hardt

 March 22nd


 March 24th


 March 29th


Presenting: Kenneth Dyer & Antonia Adinolfi

 March 31st


 April 5th


Presenting: Kyle Boren & John Wilhoit

 April 7th


 April 12th


 April 14th


 April 19th


Presenting: Antonia Adinolfi & Ashley Bushong

 April 21st


 April 26th


Presenting: Kenneth Dyer

 April 28th- LONG PAPERS DUE





Humanities Senior Seminar/Philosophy Special Topic, 2005

Contemporary Culture and Its Critiques

Humanities Senior Seminar Syllabus
HUMT 4950-001, Philosophy Special Topic PHIL 4950-001
January 18th-May 5th
No Classes March 7th-11th
Last Day of Class is April 28th, to be followed by Exam Week)
Tuesday and Thursday 11.15AM-12.35PM
Room: Rogers-Stout, 325 Instructor: Scott Contreras-Koterbay, Ph.D.
Office: Department of Art, Ball Hall, Room 208
Phone: 232-7920 (Home phone don't call unless emergency)
Hours: By appointment (easily acquired just ask)
E-mail: (please note that papers will not be accepted through e-mail, since I can't write on the return copy)

Topic: Contemporary Culture and Its Critiques. In today's world, there is a conflict between Western values, determined through the historical processes of the development of the humanities, and non-Western values. Complex arguments are made asserting one side or another, or a multiplicities of sides, in criticism or defence of various ideologies and systematic viewpoints. It is the goal of this course to articulate a variety of these viewpoints, with an emphasis on philosophical discourse which both attends to historically valuable sources as well as contemporary ones, in the hopes of arriving at a particular foundation to negotiate the difficulties involved. Furthermore, and more specifically, it is the goal of this class to critique "analysis by assertion", or a type of argument which makes claims through emotional appeal rather than intellectual efforts.

Structure: The first few weeks of class will consist of presentations and discussions, focusing on establishing topics of conversations, and allowing for a development of background information. Following this, students will produce presentations every Tuesday, with sufficient research evident for each, followed on Thursdays by a class discussion. It is expected that this class have a relatively informal feel to it, but coupled with such informality it is expected that students strive to their upmost to complete the necessary research and be prepared for class discussions.

Reading List: The following books are either strongly suggested (i.e. it is expected that some of the reading material will come from them, and it is expected that you acquire at least some of these books) or moderately suggested. Passages from all of these will be used at some point in the class.

Baudrillard, Jean, Simulacra and Simulation
Baudrillard, Jean, The Spirit of Terrorism, Revised Edition
Chomsky, Noam, 9-11
Chomsky, Noam, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance
Chua, Amy, World On Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability
Debord, Guy, The Society of the Spectacle
Desoto, Hernando, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
Friedman, Thomas, From Beirut to Jerusalem
Friedman, Thomas, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization
Fukuyama, Francis, The End of History and the Last Man
Hardt, Michael, Empire
Hardt, Michael, Multitude
Harrison, Lawrence, Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress
Huntington, Samuel, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remkaing of World Order
Nye, Joseph, Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History
Said, Edward, Culture and Imperialism
Said, Edward, Orientalism
Stiglitz, Joseph, Globalization and Its Discontents
Zizek, Slavoj, Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle
Zizek, Slavoj, The Fragile Absolute
Zizek, Slavoj, The Sublime Object of Ideology
Zizek, Slavoj, Welcome to the Desert of the Real

In addition, philosophical books on political and social theory may be utilized as well, notably those of Locke, Hobbes, Marx, Montesquieau and others. It is expected that historical research should substantiate contemporary research. Furthermore, in addition to this bibliography, more will be added to the website, which can be found at

Grading: Each student will receive four grades- two presentations, one long paper, and a participation grade. The presentations will be focused on specific topics as brought up in class (for example, the nature of globalization and its critiques or a discussion of the slippage of language in contemporary discourse), and the long paper will be focused on a specific philosopher's writings, to be chosen by the student. The presentations will be graded on a scale of 1-20 each, and the long paper on a scale of 1-40.

Grading will be as follows:

100-93=A 89-87=B+ 79-77=C+ 69-67=D+

92-90=A- 86-83=B 76-73=C 66-60=D

82-80=B- 72-70=C- 59-0=F

To give you a guideline of how the class will be graded, here is a description of the levels expected.

A = An excellent mastery of the set topic reflecting quality of exposition critical engagement, organisation and presentation. Signs of originality as testified by evidence of independent thought and ability to analyse issues.

B = Good to very good understanding of set topic showing evidence of serious critical engagement. Good to very good exposition, organisation and presentation.

C = Fairly good understanding of the set topic with some attempt at critical engagement. Fairly good exposition, organisation and presentation.

D = Understanding of at least aspects of the set topics but little, if any, sign of critical engagement reflecting understanding of the topic.

F = Not even an attempt to address the topic, but if there is an attempt to address the topic, a very poor level of understanding.

Participation is a crucial aspect of this seminar class, and it is expected that everyone contribute regularly. This is a crucial aspect of the class- that cannot be stressed enough. Your participation grade will be determined on a 1-20 scale, and is dependent not only on you simply bringing up topics and arguments which challenge the class but being prepared for discussion even on days in which you are not presenting.

If any student has any difficulties or documented disabilities which they feel would interfere with their performance in any part of the class, please feel free to contact me so that we can discuss them. I am more than willing to make any necessary concessions. I am also very willing to meet with students outside of class in order to go over material. In fact, I look forward to this and will arrange at least two nights to review material (I do not review material in class, because of time restriction) for each of the tests and encourage you to attend.

Please note that, should you be encountering any difficulties in class, it would do you good to contact me about them quickly. I am very willing to assist people with the material in the class, to answer questions, etc. I am also very sympathetic when difficulties arise, not only regarding the material of the class but other matters as well, and am willing to make reasonable concessions (to a limited degree, of course). But, if you do not make the effort to contact me, then I have very little sympathy.





Justin Wolfe on Baudrillard, February 8th

Kyle Boren on Debord, February 15th

Melissa Ramsey on Debord, February 15th

Melissa Ramsey on Fukuyama

Justin Wolfe on Empire