Mysteries and Marvels

Uncovering the Unknown

Explore what we may not know about our world, our community, our friends and families, and ourselves. Watch preview video to learn more about this neighborhood.



Mysteries and Marvels

Jack the Ripper, climate change, Bigfoot, crime scenes, suicide bombers, peace building, pirates, the Third Reich, American politics, and one hit wonders: If you are drawn to big questions that do not have simple answers, Mysteries and Marvels is the neighborhood for you. As we find comfort in what we hold to be true, we remain fascinated by that which eludes us. This neighborhood invites students to explore what we may not know about our world, our community, our friends and families, and ourselves. Through a diverse array of courses, students will examine all kinds of mysteries— ranging from artistic marvels and scientific wonders to political and cultural blind spots—in order to acquire the skills necessary to unlock the enduring mysteries of the universe… or at least of contemporary college life.
Todd French
Assistant Professor of Religion
French House – Room 204
T. 407.691.1237

B.A. Lipscomb University
M.Div. Union Theological Seminary
Th.M. Princeton Theological Seminary
Ph.D. Columbia University.

Research interests: Early Christianity, Byzantine Hagiography, Syriac, Islam, Mysticism, Gender, Poverty, and Extremes in Religion.

Courses: Christianity: Thought and Practice; Islam: History and Beliefs; New Testament; Sex, Violence, and Religion; Food, Poverty, Social Justice; Mysticism: East and West.


Hilary Cooperman

Perf and Culture of the Middle East
Transcript Title: Perf and Culture of the Middle East
Course Number: MM100A2

The Middle East has undergone tremendous changes in the past decade.  But what is actually going on in people's day-to-day lives who live there?  We hear about the Arab Spring, democracy and revolution but we also hear about ISIS, war, and displacement.  This class will take you inside the headlines to real-life stories told through film, rap, theatre, and art.  Headlines about the Middle East discursively produce the region as a list of stereotypes and catch-phrases.  The region is shrouded in mystery; this class helps reveal a nuanced and multi-faceted picture, rather than a monolithic, essentialist one.


Chuck Archard

One Hit Wonders in Popular Music
Transcript Title: One Hit Wonders
Course Number: MM200A8

Why do some artists or bands have a long career and others are merely “One Hit Wonders”? Is Pop music designed to be disposable and ephemeral? This course will examine the unpredictability of the music industry and unravel many of the factors that influenced the creation of Pop hits from the 1970s to the present. Many of the factors explored in class will include talent versus looks, digital recording, the corporatization of record labels, sampling, global communication, streaming, social media and behavioral targeting, as well as the overall zeitgeist of each era. We will also delve into the formulaic songwriting.


Nolan Kline

Mysteries of Culture
Transcript Title: Mysteries of Culture
Course Number: MM100C6

In a globalizing world where people with different backgrounds, experiences, and worldviews are put into closer contact with one another, human contact may sometimes result in questions about cultural difference. This class explores concepts of culture and cultural difference, seeking to unmask cultural practices that may seem mysterious to some.


Philip Kozel

Mysteries and Marvels of Piracy
Transcript Title: Economics of Piracy
Course Number: MM200C1

From the High Seas to DVD’s, this course explores maritime and digital piracy. Beginning with the “Golden Age” of piracy in the Caribbean to modern violations of intellectual property, we will consider the motivations/desires of pirates along with their social and economic consequences.


Mike Gunter

Deniers, Skeptics, & True Believers:  Uncovering the Truth about Climate Change
Transcript Title: Politics of Climate Change
Course Number: MM200C4

With a dizzying array of scientific, economic, cultural,social, and political variables shaping climate change, eventhose that recognize it as a threat tend to see climatechange as both temporally and geographically distant,unfolding decades down the road – on the other side ofthe world. Using the narrative lens of ecotourism, our classtackles this misunderstanding, examining locales fromhere at home to the Galapagos Islands to the Antarctic Peninsula.


Raja Singram

From Gates, Jobs, Musk to Zuck: Demystifying Start-Up Founders
Transcript Title: Demystifying Start-up Founders
Course Number: MM200C5

Think about entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Sarah Blakely or Mark Cuban. Are they visionary leaders or delusional monster bosses? Whether you aspire to become an entrepreneur or work for one in the future, admittedly all of us are in awe at them. But do you ever wonder what makes them tick? What their motivations, strengths and short-comings are? Did they always succeed or where their failures equally spectacular? Using biographical texts, blogs, videos and other sources, we shall explore the origin stories and life journeys of men and women from both technology and social entrepreneurship realms. We will critically analyze the myths and legends that surround these larger-than-life personalities. We will examine decision-making dilemmas and uncover ways to resolve problems. Ethical lapses by founders gone rogue and organizational consequences will also be discussed.


Todd French

Extremes of Religion
Transcript Title: Extremes of Religion
Course Number: MM100H4

Ranging from body modification to glorification of the perfect virginal form; abject poverty to extraordinary wealth; rolling saints to popes and bishops; megachurches to monastic retreats; and selfless love to imposed terror— Religion has mapped an array of extremes onto various cultures throughout world history. This course will begin by seeking instances of extreme religious behavior and ask how these movements have become normative in various communities. Determining why and when religious practice progresses from passion and devotion to that which our society deems “extreme,” we will explore what narratives are employed to maintain the feverish pitch of holy otherness. Restraining simple criticisms of those actions that are not in harmony with personal experiences, the student will search for motivating.


David DiQuattro

Outsiders in Philosophy, literature, and film
Transcript Title: Outsiders in Philosophy
Course Number: MM100H7

This course will examine several aspects of labor and leisure. Through the works of Josef Pieper, Wendell Berry and others it will raise questions such as the following: What is leisure and what is it for? How is leisure connected to what it means to be a human being? How do modern ideals of ‘busyness’ ‘usefulness’ ‘e킛ciency’ and others present obstacles to the cultivation of meaningful leisure? Is the vice of sloth connected to boredom and inability to enjoy meaningful leisure more than it is connected to laziness? How is leisure important for stepping back from and critiquing cultural assumptions from within? What does it mean to be connected to a place, and to labor in a way that has regard for preserving that place? Through raising these questions we will gain insight into modernity and the fundamental changes in the rhythms and shape of human life it has wrought.


Jason Schroepfer

Millenials in the Middle East
Transcript Title: Millenials in the Middle East
Course Number: MM100H

This course invites students to examine the lives of our millennial counterparts in the Middle East. In this class we analyze topics such as dating, marriage, music, and employment prospects to name a few. We draw on documentaries, articles, and even blogs to explore the daily lives of young people. Course may count towards MENA minor.


Benjamin Hudson

Witch Please:  A Sociocultural Analysis of Sorcery
Transcript Title: The Witch in History
Course Number: MM200H5

This course will consider the figure of the witch as a cultural and social phenomenon across the globe from Russian folktales to Carribean ritual. Students can expect to analyze poetry, novels, and works of sociology in addition to classic films like The Wizard of Oz to understand how the witch has been constructed as a maligned cultural figure.


Ryan Winet

The Haunted House in American Literature
Transcript Title: The Haunted House in American Literature
Course Number: MM200H6

Whether we stumble upon them in films, books, or even in theme parks, we have all encountered a haunted house. "The Haunted House in American Literature" will bring several disciplines together, including architecture, aesthetics, and literature to challenge students to think of the haunted house as cultural critique. 


Ashley Cannaday

Fiat Lux: the Science of Light
Transcript Title: Fiat Lux
Course Number: MM100S4

Light is a huge part of everyday life, crucial for vision, phone screens, the pictures we upload to social media, and healthcare.  This course will explore the nature of light and delve into several imporatant applications.  We will "shed light" on many interesting phenomena caused by light to better understand the world around us. 


Christopher Fuse

The Science of Superhumans
Transcript Title: The Science of Superhumans
Course Number: MM200S5

Science fiction and fantasy characters and superheroes are today's modern myths. The cultural and economic impacts are obvious. Students will examine stories, movies, and characters to evaluate the scientific validity. Many comic books were written using the noteworthy science at the time, while stories utilized unfounded, but hopeful, scientific advances. Students will determine if the comic and movie science is reasonable. Additionally, they will explore the far-fetched "scientific" explanations some comic books and movies currently use to judge whether these may one day be a reality.


Steven St. John

Mystery of the mind and the marvel of the brain
Transcript Title: Marvel of the Brain
Course Number: MM200S6

Our 3 pound brains are responsible for our thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and consciousness. In this course we will explore the relationship between brain and mind. Labs will feature brain anatomy and experiments testing our perceptual and cognitive skills.


Hilary Cooperman

Tupac of Arabia:  Rap and Revolution in the Middle East
Transcript Title: Refugees Middle East Perf LAB
Course Number: MM302

In this course we will look at the refugee experience inthe Middle East and begin to unravel notions of home and citizenship.  We will explore literary texts, news articles, first-hand accounts and found objects to begin to examine and represent what we learn through arts-based research and devised performance practices.  In addition to a range of materials and textual sources, we may also use video, photography, interactive digital media and sound to enrich and intensify our exploration of contemporary issues surrounding the refugee experience.


Amy Armenia

Taking Care of Others:  Children & Elders
Transcript Title: Taking Care of Others:  Children & Elders
Course Number: MM304

Everyone needs care at some point.  How do we, as individuals and as a larger society, make sure we can provide care to those who need it, and meet the needs of caregivers? In this class, we will use psychological and sociological perspectives to think and innovate about care and care systems for children and elders.  Community Engagement class.


Jie Yu

Mystery of Time
Transcript Title: Mystery of Time
Course Number: MM305

This course tries to unravel the mystery of time, especially the tension between time and being, from the multiple perspectives of history, philosophy, science, culture, literature, and education. While our human existence is time oriented from birth to death, time is also a human creation, especially measured time, which “runs” both schooling and society. The course critically explores how time has been framed, conceptualized, acculturated, and influenced us with the hope to develop new and more creative and transformative ways to think of, live and even bend time.

300- LEVEL

Jana Mathews

Pawn Stars: Material Culture
Transcript Title:  Pawn Stars: Material Culture
Course Number: MM306

Our relationship with material objects is vexed. On one hand, we’ve been conditioned to see physical objects as temporary (“you can’t take it with you”); dangerous (“the things you own end up owning you”); and secondary in importance to the non-material (“the best things in life are free”). At the same time, studies have shown that we like stuff. A lot. This course mobilizes a suite of disciplinary lenses to take a close look at the relationship between people and objects over time and space, focusing particularly on the way that material culture works to shape and define conceptions of individual, communal and national identity. Topics include the secret histories of everyday objects; the psychology of collecting, hoarding and compulsive decluttering; the politics of display and dilemmas of classification; the economics of ritualistic consumption and thoughtless disposal; and the anatomy of mementos and souvenirs and inevitable “death of things.”