Writing Seminars: Sick Societies

What are the signs and symptoms of a sick society? What makes society healthy or ill? This course asks you to inhabit the role of social doctor, adept at reading features of societies local and abroad for greater patterns. We will attempt to find the causal roots of addiction and substance abuse, a widening wealth—and health—gap between the richest and poorest humans, the rise of the zombie in pop culture, the phenomenon of freak shows or the invention of soap, to name just a few symptoms. We will examine and assess influential social theories put forward since the Eighteenth Century by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Max Weber, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Sigmund Freud, and debate the advantages and disadvantages of empiricism in assessing social ills, the meaning of realism and idealism in social thinking, models of health, and the pitfalls of critique and social theory. Ultimately, we will take features of contemporary American society we believe indicate illness to formulate our own explanatory theories to be published in a new undergraduate journal of cultural criticism called Diagnosis.


Students who wish to enroll in this seminar should participate in online preregistration, which opens at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 23 and closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, August 28, 2017.

Undergraduate Course #: 
Section #: 
MW 1:00pm-2:15pm