Meeman Individual Course Listings

Below is a list of courses offered for the Spring 2020. 
All Meeman courses will meet in Dorothy C. King Hall unless otherwise noted.

Visit our registration form to sign up for any course offered this Spring.

Alexander the Great

Clara Pascual-Argente, Ph.D., Georgetown University; Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures (Spanish)

Two Tuesdays: January 21 and 28
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $110

Read an interview with Professor Pascual-Argente as she discusses what students can expect from the course. 

Alexander the Great was a towering figure in medieval literatures and cultures throughout the Mediterranean and beyond. Variously understood as a holy man, a model for emperorship, the privileged recipient of Aristotle’s knowledge, or a symbol of greed, excess, and corruption, he was also key to the emergence of Spanish literature. One of the earliest poems composed in this language, Book of Alexander (Libro de Alexandre), retells the wondrous life and adventures of the Macedonian conqueror, drawing from both historical and fictional accounts. In this class, we will read excerpts from Book of Alexander; explore how this ambitious, influential, and often humorous poem fits within other Alexander narratives produced in medieval Iberia, mostly drawn from Arabic sources; and trace Book of Alexander’s profound influence on later Spanish works that reflect on the promises and perils of territorial expansion. Taught in English, no Spanish required. 

Recommended text (purchase optional: excerpts provided):

Book of Alexander, tr. Peter Such and Richard Rabone. Liverpool University Press. ISBN: 9780856688638.


Shira Malkin, Ph.D., SUNY-Buffalo; Doctorat, Université Paris-Diderot; Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures (French)

Four Wednesdays: January 22, 29, February 5, 12
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $220

This course examines the literary archetype of the marginal(ized), subversive woman (beguine, healer, crone, witch) and her relationship with society and nature, as depicted in Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris, George Sand's Fanchon the Cricket, and Maryse Condé's I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. We will focus on the modalities of the witch's representation as both victim and predator, from the Middle Ages to modern times. What do discourses about witches tell us about the societies that produce them? What do witches compel us to see or hear? How do they speak to political, ecological, and cultural struggles over norms of class, race, and gender? Taught in English, no French required. 

Required texts:

Condé, Maryse. I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (1986). University of Virginia Press. ISBN 9780813927671.

Hugo, Victor. Notre-Dame de Paris (1831). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199555802.

Sand, George. Fanchon the Cricket (1848). Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271079370.

Middle East Politics

Esen Kirdis, Ph.D. University of Minnesota; Associate Professor of International Studies

Four Mondays: January 27, February 3, 17, 24
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $220

The relationship between religion and politics in the Middle East is neither simple nor uniform. To understand some of its many facets, the course will explore one of the following topics each week: in Saudi Arabia, a particular form of Sunni Islam is the glue binding the Saudi monarchy and its people; in Iran, a theocracy of Shia clergymen has ruled since the 1979 Revolution; in Afghanistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, Islamic movements using violence, have defined politics for decades; meanwhile, an Islamic feminism stretching from Morocco to Turkey has been advocating for new inclusive and diverse interpretations.

Texts: readings will be provided in pdf format

Napoleon's Buttons Book Cover

Kimberly Brien, Ph.D., Texas Christian University; Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Three Thursdays: January 30, February 6, 13
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $170

Discussions will be held in Robertson 110; labs will take place in Robertson 202.

The best-selling book Napoleon’s Buttons explores the underlying science and historical impact of seventeen extraordinary molecules. According to its authors, one major reason for the failure of the French assault on Russia in 1812 was that the army’s clothing was fastened together by tin buttons.  And tin, as we now know, decomposes into useless powder in freezing weather.  Using classroom discussion and lab experiments conducted in Robertson Hall, our new state-of-the-art facility, we will learn first-hand about some of these extraordinary molecules, including nylon, aspirin, and capsaicin. No previous laboratory experience required; safety equipment provided.    

Required text:

Penny Lecouteur and Jay Burreson, Napoleon’s Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History. Jeremy P. Tarcher Books. ISBN 9781585423316.

Visit our YouTube channel to watch a video of Dr. Brien talking about what to expect in this course. You'll also see some behind-the-scene action in the Chemistry lab!

Globalization Book Cover

Nikolaos Zahariadis, Ph.D., University of Georgia; Professor of International Studies

Four Tuesdays: February 4, 11, 18, 25
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $220

This class looks at the economic, political, and social facets of globalization, examines the causes and consequences of these trends over the last thirty years, and explores the US response. Are we re-writing the rules to create more prosperity and/or a fairer distribution of income for all countries, America, or just a few individuals and groups within America? What are the implications of our actions for our society and its future?

Required text:

Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents Revisited.  W. W. Norton, 2018. ISBN 9780393355161

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Steve Haynes, Ph.D., Emory; Professor of Religious Studies

Three Wednesdays: February 19, 26, March 4
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $165

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor and theologian who is remembered as an insightful thinker, as well as a bold resister of the Nazi regime. This course will examine Bonhoeffer’s remarkable life, his influential theology and his unique role in American public discourse in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. We will consider Bonhoeffer’s reception in search of insight on contemporary American life in the wake of 9/11 and on the Bush, Obama and Trump eras.  

Required texts:

Stephen Haynes and Lori Brandt Hale, Bonhoeffer for Armchair Theologians. Westminster John Knox Press, 2009. ISBN 9780664230104.

Stephen Haynes, The Battle for Bonhoeffer: Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump Eerdmans, 2018. ISBN 9780802876010.

Heart of a Dog Book Cover

Alexandra Kostina, Ph.D., Gornyi University and Herzen State Pedagogical University; Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures (Russian)

Two Thursdays: February 20, 27
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition $110

In this masterpiece by the author of The Master and Margarita, a world-famous Moscow professor befriends a stray dog and decides to achieve a daring scientific first by transplanting into it the testicles and pituitary gland of a dead man. The results are quite unexpected: a distinctly human animal is on the loose, and the professor's life becomes a nightmare. In Bulgakov’s own formulation, his novella was both satire and provocation, combining outrageously grotesque ideas with a narrative of utmost naturalism. One can read The Heart of a Dog as a biting critique of Bolshevism. At the same time, the novella is also a riotous science-fiction comedy that anticipates the current vogue for political dystopias, while at the same time lampooning all sorts of contemporary vanities. The novella’s satirical energy and its provocations are so multi-directional that, 94 years later, it remains freshly defiant and strangely relevant.

Required text:

Mikhail Bulgakov, The Heart of a Dog, tr. Michael Glenny. Melville House, 2013. ISBN 9781612192888.

Baroque Music

Dr. Zak Ozmo

Four Mondays: March 2, 16, 23, 30
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition $220

This course will examine the fiori musicali (“musical flowers”) of the Baroque era, from passionate and evocative songs of Italy, England, and Portugal, to the instrumental works popular in pubs, docks, and private homes throughout Europe and the New World. We will focus on the connections between genres and “high art” and “popular” musics. Composers we will study include Dowland, Monteverdi, Strozzi, Caccini, Vivaldi, and many others.

Texts: readings will be provided in pdf format.

Oklahoma Musical

Vanessa Rogers, Ph.D., University of Southern California; Associate Professor of Music; Music History Coordinator

Four Tuesdays: March 3, 17, 24, 31
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $220

Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Show Boat (1927) and Richard Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (1943) were turning points in the history of the American musical. Both had traditional settings locating the pieces firmly in the nostalgic American past: the steamboat days of the Mississippi River and the frontier days of the Old West. And both utilized music – including folk music – in order to help construct a national cultural ideology. This course will study how these two groundbreaking musicals utilized American folklore, music, and humor to appeal to the popular imagination and to express ideas about twentieth-century US society, race, gender – and what it means to be an American.  Two class sessions will consist of lecture/discussion, while another two will include film screenings of Show Boat (1933) and Oklahoma! (1955).

Text: readings will be provided as pdfs.

Ames Plantation

Kimberley Kasper, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts; Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Jamie Evans, M.S., University of Memphis; Assistant Superintendent and Cultural Resource Manager, Ames Plantation

Please note that this course has a different meeting pattern:

Wednesday, March 4 and Thursday, March 5
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $110

This course offers an archaeological perspective on the study of slavery in the American South. Since 2007, Rhodes College’s Environmental Archaeology Field School has offered students a unique experience to participate in the excavation of 19th century archaeological sites within the 20,000 acre modern land-base at Ames Plantation (one of the largest private land trusts in the US). Historical records and material culture tied to that research will be discussed to examine life on the plantation. Our foci include enslaver control and labor systems, economic networks, agricultural practices and their influence on commodity farming, the daily life of the enslaved African Americans and their kinship, and resistance. Our discussions will also address several urgent contemporary questions:  What are the very real and physical legacies of slavery on the contemporary landscape? What do these debates reveal about how we study and teach slavery today? How do we, as a community, engage with the social, economic, and political legacies of slavery? Participants in this course will also have the opportunity to engage in the historical excavations at Ames from May 23-29 and/or at the Community Archaeology Day on May 30. 

Texts: readings will be distributed in pdf format.

The Memphis Women’s Legacy Trail

Gail Murray, Ph.D., University of Memphis; Professor of History emerita

Two Thursdays: March 19, 26
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $110

Optional Saturday session: March 28, time TBD

Memphis coordinators of the annual Women of Achievement Awards have put together a map of local sites where notable female reformers, musicians, educators, entertainers, and public figures made their mark over the last 200 years. These women include suffragist and segregationist Lide Meriwether, journalist and anti-lynching proponent Ida B. Wells, feminist and club woman Mary Church Terrell, and the gals who ran WHER radio.  We will explore how these women and their contributions impacted the history of our city.  The course includes an optional third session on Saturday morning, in which participants drive to some of the sites, and conclude by dining at the former Nineteenth Century Club (now Redfish) on Union Avenue.

Texts: readings will be provided as pdfs.

Word Freak Book Cover

Scott Garner, Ph.D., Princeton University; Assistant Professor of Greek and Roman Studies

Three Wednesdays: March 25, April 1, April 15
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition:  $165

Optional West Memphis Scrabble Tournament Friday - Sun April 17-19

Since its invention in 1938, Scrabble has become one of the most popular board games in the world, having sold over 150 million copies worldwide. But few who play the game in their living rooms or around their kitchen tables know that there is also a vibrant tradition of tournament Scrabble, where players of all levels come together to match wits and words. This three-session course will explore the tradition of competitive Scrabble by teaching participants (of any experience level) everything from the basic rules of the game to the strategies employed by the experts.  (Your instructor is currently ranked in the top forty nationally, and represented the US at the world championship in Perth in 2015.) The class comes with its own double word score: participants who wish may enter to play in one or more of the nationally sanctioned tournaments being held in West Memphis, AR on April 17, 18, and 19.

Required text:

Stefan Fatsis, Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players. Penguin, 2002. ISBN 9780142002261.

The Mathematics of Politics

Eric Gottlieb, Ph.D., University of Miami; Associate Professor of Mathematics

Three Tuesdays: April 7, 14, 21
5:30-7:30 | Tuition: $165

Mathematics plays a significant yet underappreciated role in our political system.  In this class, we will explore three important ways that apparently arcane theory leads to very real political results.  One session examines various methods of voting, and the different outcomes they produce. Another looks at the theory behind apportionment methods, such as the one currently used in the US to determine how many House representatives each state receives. And a third session considers the issue of gerrymandering.  After this course, you’ll never look at politics quite the same way again.

Texts: readings will be provided in pdf format.

Pagans and Christians

Ariel Lopez, Ph.D., Princeton; Assistant Professor of Greek and Roman Studies

Three Wednesdays: April 15, 22, 29
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $165

This course will explore the conflicts and controversies between pagans and Christians in Alexandria, Egypt, between the fourth and sixth centuries CE. Alexandria was a famously unruly city, and in this period it became the center of violent struggle and intellectual debate between pagans and Christians. We are going to pay particular attention to the destruction of the Serapeum, the most famous instance of temple destruction in late antiquity. We will analyze the murder of Hypatia, a pagan female philosopher. And we will finish by looking at the conflict between pagans and Christians in the educational institutions of the city.

Texts: Readings will be provided in pdf format.

Medieval Pilgrimage

Lori Garner, Ph.D., University of Missouri; Associate Professor of English

Two Mondays: April 20 and 27
5:30-7:30 pm | Tuition: $110

The pilgrims that Geoffrey Chaucer describes in his Canterbury Tales convene in London from vastly diverse backgrounds and with equally varied motivations for their journey to Thomas Becket’s tomb. Such popularity of pilgrimage in England reflects the broader interest across medieval Europe, most notably in the famous route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the site traditionally venerated as the tomb of the apostle James. Poems and legends about Thomas Becket and St. James attest to the power such figures had on the medieval imagination, and stories collected in The Miracles of St. James and The Miracles of Thomas Becket offer fascinating and often surprising insights into the lives of those undertaking these long and sometimes dangerous journeys. The experience of pilgrimage reveals ways that the physicality of the journey powerfully engages belief and also provides insight into the deep connections linking stories with the spaces they inhabit. Focusing in particular on Canterbury and Santiago, this course explores the complex world of medieval pilgrimage and the literature it inspired.

Texts: readings will be provided in pdf format