Cosmologies and worldviews: NEXA 380

Instructors: Dr. Geoffrey Green (English) and Dr. Susan Lea (Physics and Astronomy).

Course description and requirements, Fall 2005

Objective: to explore cosmologies and worldviews from three major periods in history -- the Classical era, the Renaissance and Modern times. Through a variety of literary and scientific texts we shall consider the multitude of ways -- physical, spiritual, moral, psychological, philosophical -- that worlds may be constructed, values created or destroyed, lives charted in relation to a universe.

NEXA 380 is part of the following Segment III clusters:
(1) Religious Studies,  (2) Science and Human Values and (3) Ideas and the Making of Culture
To receive Segment III credit for this course, you must complete the cluster as described in the Class Schedule and Bulletin, including the requirement that you have earned 60 units by the end of the semester in which you take the course.
Segment III courses are required to include a minimum of 10 pages of writing corrected by the instructor.  This course meets or exceeds that minimum requirement.


Coming of Age in the Milky Way Timothy Ferris. This book gives a nice discussion of modern cosmology at a level appropriate for non-science majors, with some historical perspective. This will be our main reference for scientific topics, and we shall read from it throughout the semester. For those of you who are science majors, especially in the physical sciences, more technical books may be appropriate as well. Please talk to Dr. Lea for references.
Oedipus the kingSophocles. [ancient Greece]
The Golden Ass Lucius Apuleius [northern Africa in late Antiquity]
Hamlet William Shakespeare. [English]
Waiting for Godot. Samuel Beckett [Irsih]
The eleven million mile high dancer Carol Hill [modern feminist]
Class reader for Nexa 380
All texts are available in the bookstore in paperback.

Classes will consist mainly of guided discussion of the assigned readings, with occasional lectures by one or both of the instructors, especially as regards the introduction of scientific ideas. All students are expected to participate in class discussions, which contribute 20% of your class grade. We shall also view a selection of films and videos.


Readings, to be completed before class, as indicated on the attached schedule. When the reading is not from one of the texts listed above, the material can be found in the class reader.
Physics assignments, due approximately every two weeks, as indicated on each assignment, generally about two weeks after handout. These will be evaluated on a CREDIT/NO CREDIT basis. We expect that you will ask as many questions as necessary to complete the problems. Help will be forthcoming if you ask for it. But you are expected to complete all problems. Please note that a clear discussion of the ideas is required as a part of each solution.
There are also additional handouts on the physics of Cosmology.
Midterm examination. Handed out Wednesday October 26th; due November 2nd.
The exam will take the form of a paper to be written during a one week period.  Paper must be typed, double-spaced, be at least six pages long, and you should turn in two copies, one for each instructor.
Final Project due Wednesday Nov 30th

In your project you should show how a world view is constructed, either by completing an original work (story, poetry, painting, musical composition) or by completing an extensive investigation into a cultural, ethnic or socially diverse worldview that we have not discussed in class (or have discussed but you would like to expolore in more depth). For example, you may wish to study the extension of our ideas to another culture ( e.g. Mayan, Egyptian, etc.). Should you choose to create a work of your own, it must be accompanied by an extensive written discussion that explains your ideas and how they are related to the material we have studied in class and its diversity as it pertains to cosmology and world views.  The writing component of this project should be at least 10 pages.

Please discuss your ideas with one or both of the instructors prior to submitting your topic statement.

If you wish to use a web site as a reference in your paper, please refer to the following site for the appropriate format:

While web articles may be used for reference, cut and paste is plagiarism. Any and all forms of plagiarism will result in a grade of  F for your paper.

Please submit TWO copies of each written assignment, as both instructors will be reading them.

Grading will be based on:

Please note that satisfactory performance in each of the above categories is required for a passing grade of C or better.

Learning objectives for this course.

Learning outcomes for this course.

Visit the Nexa program site.