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Earn course credits quickly while exploring engaging topics in the humanities and social sciences. Maymester courses last three weeks during the month of May and offer opportunities to discover something new, learn by doing and fulfill academic requirements.

2021 Maymester Courses

Language, Communication and Culture

In this class, we will unpack some of the ways culture and society influence our communication and how our communication affects the culture and the society in which we live. Understanding how our words, shared meanings and contexts can affect how we express ourselves can be the difference between positive and negative communicative experiences.

  • Course ID: COM 292
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Social Science, GEP U.S. Diversity
  • Professor: Lynsey Romo

Survey of African American Literature

This special Maymester version of the AFS/ENG 248 offering will afford students the opportunity to explore the African American experience through the community’s literature (from the 18th century to the present moment), but through the lens of the American Dream.

We’ll begin with early poetic works by Phyllis Wheatley whose very existence (as slave poet) at once defied expectation and yet demanded inclusion. Charles Chesnutt’s Conjure Stories at the turn of century, whose magical musings prefigure Toni Morrison’s own writings by a hundred years, are also necessarily about inclusion and an economy of value in a nation that insists it has little use for those marginalized. While Walter Mosely’s “Equal Opportunity” insists that the “American Dream” is for everyone, regardless of age, sex, and yes, race, jazz and blues artists that include Louis Armstrong, Howling Wolf and Bessie Smith and Hip hop artists such as Grand Master Flash (whose song “The Message” has become a classic anthem of African American perseverance in light of a good dream gone bad), Public Enemy, and everyone’s contemporary crossover darling Jay Z, all provide a soundtrack to this literary interrogation of our coveted American Dream.

As literary critics and social historians, we will attempt to show how these texts in turn define America as we see it, think it, and/or hope it to be. This course satisfies a GEP Humanities or the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Literature II requirement as well as the GEP US Diversity requirement.

  • Course ID: ENG 248/AFS 248
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Humanities, GEP U.S. Diversity, College Literature II
  • Professor: Marc Dudley

Women and Literature: Women and Gender in Comics

This course surveys the representation of women and gender in comics from 1936 to 2021, looking at representation both in terms of character and of comics creators.

Across the course of the twentieth century women, especially, and to a lesser extent, LGBTQIA+ characters and comics creators took a more prominent role in the industry. How has this shift shaped (or reshaped) how individuals along a complex gender spectrum are written and visually represented in such texts? How is graphic literature being defined by a more diverse creative community, including minority voices? What perspectives on gender and sexuality are put forth in comics? What affordances or constraints do comics provide in presenting complex body narratives? How do we evaluate comics and graphic literature in a literature class?

We will read mainstream and experimental graphic fiction, gender theory, and media theory, in addition to undertaking drawing activities, archival research, and hosting several guest speakers. The course offers an in-depth focus on comics as a medium for exploring gender.

  • Course ID: ENG 305
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Humanities, GEP U.S. Diversity, College Literature II
  • Professor: Margaret Simon

Science Fiction: Science Fiction and Steampunk

Science Fiction and Steampunk explores the provocations of science and technology to the literary imagination. This seminar analyzes responses to historical shifts in technology, from nineteenth-century reactions to steam engines and telegraphy to more contemporary “steampunk” reworkings of the past.

Students will gain an understanding of the genealogy of science fiction, investigate its creative adaptation in “punk” subcultures, and assess how they reveal perspectives on communication, ethics, gender, and race. The course also considers how the genre of science fiction evolves through different mediums, from historical texts to graphic novels to films to video games to fan conventions to fabricated objects.

Across all of our materials, students will use a critical thinking toolkit for literary study and media analysis, producing daily writing assignments, a class presentation, a prototype steampunk object in collaboration with the NC State University Libraries Makerspace, and a final paper.

  • Course ID: ENG 376
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Interdisciplinary Perspectives, College Literature II
  • Professor: Paul Fyfe

Film and Literature: Adapting Animation

How have literature, comics, and other media shaped the production and technologies of animation? How is the influence reciprocal? While animation is often considered children’s entertainment, this course situates it as the technical coincidence of life and movement while examining its relation to multiple media.

From hand-drawn work to claymation, stop-motion cutouts, or CGI, animation’s illusions generate wonder and are also put in the service of narrative effects.

This class will explore this relationship between animation and literary genres by asking how they mutually constitute, constrain, and give shape to one another while analyzing the source material and cinematic versions of industry films like Coraline and Alice in Wonderland as well as artisanal films like Persepolis and the work of Lewis Klahr.

  • Course ID: ENG 382
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Visual and Performing Arts, GEP Global Knowledge, College Literature II
  • Professor: Andrew Johnston

Studies in Rhetoric and Digital Media: Designing Interactive Stories with Ren’Py

Students in this course will learn how to write and publish an interactive story or narrative using the popular, free, open source ‘engine’ called Ren’Py. Ren’Py is a Python-based ‘visual novel game engine.’

It has a devoted international following and is well supported. It is a platform well suited for beginners and more experienced content creators to learn how to develop interactive content in a technical environment without feeling overwhelmed.

The instructor will provide both the technical training in Ren’Py’s Python-based API as well as hypertext and multimodal theory, on which the class will draw to understand how to design ‘branch-based,’ interactive narratives and stories. An instructor-generated video providing an overview of the course is available at

Course ID: ENG/COM 395
Course Fulfills: GEP Humanities
Professor: David Rieder

Art and Society in France

This course covers themes in early American history with an emphasis on diversity in the U.S. This course provides an overview of the visual arts in France, defined broadly: painting, architecture, urban design, photography, cinema, book production, gardens, fashion, cuisine, multi-media, comic books, magazines, everyday objects, and their relationship to French culture and society.

France’s national identity and cultural heritage are embodied in its rich tradition of artistic expression and France’s contributions to the visual arts. France will be studied in broad historical and global contexts throughout the course. The course begins with Prehistoric art in France, then works through Celtic, Greek, and Roman civilization to set the background for the development of French art and architecture. The course is designed as an inquiry-guided learning experience. Field trips to the Gregg Museum, D.H. Hill Rare Books Collection, The Crafts Center, and the NC Museum of Art will provide experiential opportunities for students. This course satisfies the GEP Visual and Performing Arts requirement or the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Arts & Letters requirement and the GEP Global Knowledge requirement.

  • Course ID: FL 216
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Visual and Performing Arts, GEP Global Knowledge, College Arts and Letters
  • Professor: Dudley Marchi

Early American History

This course covers themes in early American history with an emphasis on diversity in the U.S. We will attend to the colonial clash and mix of cultures, the generation of an American This course covers early American history to explore how European colonial endeavors resulted in the creation of the United States, with an emphasis on racial and cultural diversity.

We will consider the development of an “American” identity in Othering, the symbiotic relationship of enslavement to freedom, the incorporation of immigrants into the concept of Whiteness; and evolutions of gender and sexuality in American culture. In lieu of a textbook, students will become immersed in reading, analyzing, and critiquing journal articles; and they will work in primary sources as both foundations for and critiques of secondary analyses. Students will learn how to employ evidence, both the type provided in original documents and that which evolves from scholars’ analyses.

  • Course ID: HI 253
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Humanities, GEP U.S. Diversity
  • Professor: Craig Friend

Introduction to Philosophy

One of the main aims of philosophy is to use a rigorous, logical approach to understand some of the big questions of “Life, the Universe and Everything.” In this course, we will see how philosophers have applied their logical tools to inquire about the existence of God, the nature and content of morality, justice, science, human minds and the very existence of a real external world. We will learn how arguments work, how they should be evaluated and how they have been used by real philosophers to answer each of these “big questions.”

  • Course ID: PHI 205
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Humanities, College Philosophy
  • Professor: Timothy Hinton

Contemporary Moral Issues

This course is intended to enable students to apply ethical analysis and theory to a broad range of contemporary moral issues, including euthanasia, suicide, capital punishment, abortion, famine relief, animal rights, and environmental concerns. Students can expect to gain not only training in the concepts and main theoretical approaches of moral philosophy but also critical thinking skills needed for assessing morally difficult questions that we routinely face in our world today. The course will include a mixture of lectures, documentary viewings, and lively class debates and discussions.

  • Course ID: PHI 221
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Humanities, College Philosophy
  • Professor: Sanem Soyarslan

Bio-Medical Ethics

This course will provide an overview of some major ethical theories and principles that can be used to frame and evaluate moral questions in medicine and biotechnology. Topics include the history of bioethics as a field, past scandals in human research, eugenic sterilization, maternal-fetal conflicts, vaccination refusal, racial disparities in health care, privacy and genetic testing, and the distinction between therapy and enhancement.

Historical context, significant legal decisions, and scientific facts will inform and complement our study of ethical principles, such as patient autonomy and equality of opportunity, and the larger ethical theories from which these principles are derived. The overarching objective of this course is to develop skills in critical reasoning. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a final project for which they will research, analyze, discuss, and propose public policy on a current topic, such as CRISPR embryo editing.

  • Course ID: PHI/STS 325
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Humanities, GEP Interdisciplinary Perspectives, College Philosophy
  • Professor: Karey Harwood

Interactions of Science, Engineering and Public Policy

This course seeks to improve students’ understanding of today’s interconnectedness between scientific and engineering innovation, public policy, and economic development. This course will expose students to the interdependency of these areas of study and, in the process, provide a more informed view of how our political and economic system really works.

Students will learn the process of developing public policy through a combination of readings, lectures, class presentations from guest speakers, legislators and government officials, and a critical examination of selected engineering policy solutions and their impacts. After being introduced to the ideas and techniques for creating public policy, students will be exposed to the engineering design process. The process of developing public policy will then be examined through the lens of engineering design.

Students will critically examine case studies of policy developed around technological issues and identify both the policy and the engineering design approaches to solving problems. Students will produce their own creative solution to a current policy by drawing upon both the policy and the engineering approaches to problem-solving.

  • Course ID: PS 298
  • Course Fulfills: College social sciences
  • Professor: Clifford Griffin

Religious Traditions of the World

This course provides a sweeping overview of major Eastern and Western religious traditions with attention to their teachings and practices as well as to the historical, geographical, social, and political settings in which they have arisen and developed.

It pays particular attention to the lives of ordinary religious practitioners in contemporary society through three case studies: religion in the context of disaster, religion and contemporary world politics, and religion in the Raleigh area–two case studies that we will take up in class, and a final case study students will carry out with attention to the community.

These case studies make lived experience the primary context within which to interpret doctrines, institutions, practices, and dispositions within influential faith traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and others. By gaining an appreciation for how these traditions emerged historically and how they take shape in our world today, we will learn about what religion is and how it works. This course fulfills a GEP Humanities or the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Arts & Letters requirement as well as the GEP Global Knowledge requirement.

  • Course ID: REL 210
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Humanities, GEP Global Knowledge, College Arts and Letters
  • Professor: Levi McLaughlin

Intro to Gerontology: An Interdisciplinary Field Practice

This course is an integrative seminar that introduces students to gerontology as an interdisciplinary field of practice. It helps students understand the demographics and psychosocial trends among older adults globally and in the United States, in order to provide a context for practice.

Students will explore characteristics of diverse aging populations, social patterns, projections, myths and realities of aging, based on current data and scholarly reports. This course also addresses cultural issues and family dynamics, pathological and physiological changes in aging, theoretical and conceptual approaches that address disparities and impact ethical practice.

  • Course Fulfills: SW 260
  • Course Fulfills: GEP Interdisciplinary Perspectives, GEP U.S. Diversity
  • Professor: Karen Bullock

Graduate Seminar in Liberal Studies: “Black Faith Matters”

Why and how does faith matter to Americans of African descent? How has faith been a form of entrapment or empowerment? In what ways does faith matter in public? This interdisciplinary seminar will explore these questions and how faith has mattered from a broad range of perspectives, tracing it from slavery to the development of independent Black churches to social movements like the Civil Rights Movement and #BlackLivesMatter.

This course incorporates disciplines such as history, politics, theological studies, ethics, women’s and gender studies and sociology. Classroom sessions are complemented by guest speakers and site visits (e.g., churches, faith-based civic organizations and divinity schools).

  • Course ID: MLS 501
  • Professor: Xavier Pickett
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