Pavilion Seminars

The Program

The College of Arts and Sciences is delighted to announce the new classes for the Pavilion Seminars Program. Aimed at third- and fourth-year students, these seminars focus on big topics with enduring relevance across disciplines. All will be taught by distinguished faculty from across the University but primarily from the College. All will feature innovative pedagogical practices as well as a substantial writing component. (Note: all Pavilion Seminars will satisfy the Second Writing Requirement; but, by design, none can be used to satisfy requirements for any major). All are intended to bring together, in the context of the Lawn’s Pavilions, a limited number of students from varied majors and intellectual backgrounds for stimulating discussion of vital questions of ethics, human nature, politics, aesthetics, nature, law, space, and survival–very much in keeping with Jefferson’s original plans for the University and the Lawn.

Enrollment will, in every case, be by instructor permission through SIS, so that the 15 students in each seminar can be drawn from multiple majors. You can find the classes in SIS under PAVS 4500; sign up for the permission list for the class in which you are interested, and answer the question posed. Note that you can add your name to a permission list before your enrollment appointment!

We hope that the Pavilion Seminars will henceforth provide an intellectual capstone to the undergraduate experience for a select group of advanced College students each semester, and we urge interested, adventurous 3rd and 4th year students to apply to participate in this program.

Class Descriptions from Prior Terms

Fall 2019
Spring 2019
Fall 2018
Spring 2018

Class Descriptions for Spring 2020

Section 001:  The Great Society (Melody Barnes and Sidney Milkis)
This course will examine the Great Society, an ambitious political experiment which inspired and fractured America. Most commentary and scholarship on this important chapter in American political history tend to focus on particular parts of the Sixties – for example, Lyndon’s Johnson’s presidency, Civil Rights Reform, Consumer and Environmental Protection and the Vietnam War. This course will investigate how these discrete features of the Great Society compose an Era: one of the most important periods in American history that  aroused an all-encompassing contest between Liberals and Conservatives about the meaning of rights and citizenship in the United States.

Combining political science, law, and history, this course will be decidedly multidisciplinary. Committed to examining the program in a rich context, we also plan to consider how the Great Society tapped into and influenced literature, music, art and popular culture. Our expectation is that this course will shed important light on a very big topic. Although the Great Society has engendered heated debate about how great it really was, few question that that it had a profound effect on the character of American life. More than fifty years after Lyndon Johnson left office, the  program his administration launched and the conflicts it loosed over America’s national identity, still animate and roil American politics and society.

The course will be a seminar in the true sense of the word. Students will be expected to attend class faithfully; they also will be required to do the assigned reading, and be prepared to discuss it, prior to each class. To help the students in this task, discussion questions will be distributed prior to each class. In addition to preparing for class discussion, students will be required to write three short papers (5-6 pages) during the semester, which will  - along with the final memo, described below -- fulfill the University’s writing requirement.

As a capstone exercise, students will be divided into three small teams of four/five political and policy advisors, and asked to critique the Great Society and  its effect on the country as of January 1, 1968. Based on this analysis, each group will write a memo advising LBJ and advisors whether he should run for a second term, given the Great Society’s impact on policy, law, and society.  In addition to these memos, which should be about 5 pages in length, each student group will prepare a presentation to support their position (for or against LBJ running), using visuals to support their key points.  

There will be a field trip to Richmond, Virginia to better understand how policy and legal decisions, as well as cultural shifts transformed a city.  Bill Martin, director of the Valentine Museum, will provide a guided tour that helps us understand the city prior to and during the Great Society.  The trip will also include a tour of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ contemporary art collection and conclude with lunch and a discussion about what we witnessed and heard, as well as the relationship between artists and social change.  

The trip is not mandatory, and we’ll work with the class to identify a day and time that works best for those who want to participate.

Section 002:  Ethics of AI (Talbot Brewer)
In this course, we will look at ethical issues surrounding the rise of artificial intelligence.  We will consider such questions as: How is AI reshaping the world of work, and what problems and opportunities might this create?  How is AI reshaping communications technology, and how might this change the way we lead our lives and manage our political affairs?  To what uses might AI be put in the exercise of the police power and/or military power, and what ethical guidelines might need to be in place in order to guard against the objectionable use of these powers?   How might new forms of AI be put to use in enhancing our cognitive capacities, and what ethical issues are raised by these potential enhancements?  What would have to be true of a form of AI in order for it to be a bearer of moral rights, or to be in some other way morally considerable?  How can we ensure the safety of humanity as we develop forms of AI that excel in extending their own intelligence and practical capacities, and that might conceivably develop purposes of their own?

Section 003:  Use a picture, use a thousand words (Christian Gromoll)
There are many ways to persuade in the great debates of our day. You might write an editorial, a rigorous technical study, a comedy bit, or draw a cartoon. An excellent option, less often seen, is to produce a compact, visual essay, that intertwines text, information-dense graphics, and (in electronic versions) interactive elements, to efficiently bring some truth to light in the mind of the reader. Such a visual essay - let's call it a factagram - is briefer than an article, more visual than an essay, more scholarly and information-dense than an infographic. It emphasizes honest and complete presentation of one interesting fact, inviting the reader to draw their own conclusions about the broader debate.   

In this seminar we'll learn how to compose factagrams on controversial topics chosen by the class.  These could include environmental issues, economic controversies, social issues, et al. More than just paragraphs wrapped around a few charts, our factagrams use the Mathematica computing language to fully integrate the printed word with graphical displays of technical information in an interactive document type known as CDF (Computable Document Format) that can be viewed and manipulated in any browser. Readings will draw on work in journalism, philosophy, graphics theory, as well as technical references on basic statistics and the Mathematica language.  Assignments will consist of producing a series of factagrams on a variety of topics.

Section 004: Visualizing Atlantic Empires (S. Max Edelson)
As western Europeans pursued overseas conquest, colonization, and commerce, they used maps to represent their knowledge of far-flung places around the world.  This seminar explores the history of Atlantic empires, ca. 1500-1800, through cartography.  In addition to working with rare originals from the Small Special Collections Library, we will learn how to manage data and create interactive geospatial visualizations using MapScholar, an HTML5 web application that I developed at the University of Virginia.  Our interdisciplinary approach will draw on scholarship from the history of cartography and empire, historical geography, visualization and graphic design, Native American and Indigenous studies, African and African American studies, and spatial cognition.  Our readings will help us understand maps as cultural as well as an empirical objects and put them in historical context.  This seminar follows a project-based learning approach focused on a common digital humanities project:  a collaborative visualization of the Blathwayt Atlas, a collection that English officials gathered together in the 1680s to govern an expanding overseas empire.  Together, we will georeference, annotate, and analyze its forty-eight printed and manuscript maps.  Working with high-resolution images from the John Carter Brown Library, we will create an online edition of this remarkable atlas of the Atlantic world, representing Africa, North America, the Caribbean, South America, and India.  No special computing experience is expected or necessary to take this course.

Section 005:  Humanitarianism  (Debjani Ganguly)
Our contemporary age is frequently called the age of global humanitarian crisis. Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Rwanda, to name only a few countries, evoke visions of massacre, displacement and devastation. Over sixty million refugees – the largest ever in human history – seek asylum around the world. Millions more continue to be internally displaced and live in fear of their lives. The moral purchase of humanitarianism has never been more severely tested than in the present, the holocaust, Stalin’s gulags and Mao’s camps notwithstanding. Humanitarianism, commonly understood, is an empathetic orientation to distant suffering. The modern origins of this idea lie in eighteenth-century debates on Abolitionism and the rise of capitalism’s moral infrastructure that included the capacity to envision the remote consequences of one’s actions. Devalued throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for being a soft, ineffective and often exploitative mode of response to human suffering, debates about the value of humanitarianism have witnessed a robust resurgence since the end of the Cold War. Three factors have contributed to this: One, the world-wide escalation in genocidal violence, endemic ethnic conflicts and wars on terror as a result of the post-Cold War realignment of the world order. Two, the stupendous growth of the global humanitarian industry in the form of NGOs as a result of the magnitude of civilian carnage these conflicts have caused.  Three, the reach of information and communication technologies that incessantly mediate these sites of violence for witnessing publics around the world. This course will offer interdisciplinary perspectives on the urgency of thinking ‘Humanitarianism’ in our time by drawing on historical, literary, cinematic, anthropological, legal, and new media sources. In particular, we will explore the many genres through which humanitarian thought and practice unfold: films, novels, refugee narratives, life-writing, truth commissions testimonio, NGO websites, and war blogs.

Section 007: The Doctor (Diane Pappas)
The Doctor is a seminar designed to explore in-depth the evolution of the role of the doctor in our society from different perspectives utilizing a variety of works, including medical literature, historical perspectives, poetry, television, film, art, etc.  Students will develop an understanding of the profession of medicine; of how doctors think; the perspectives of the patient; medical education and the maturation and development of the doctor during medical school, training and practice; the physician as advocate; the physician as fallible.  They will also be able to critically assess art, poetry, fiction and other works to derive understanding of and connections with the doctor.