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Grant number like: AQ-50682-12

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St. Norbert College (De Pere, WI 54115-2099)
Marcella L. Paul (Project Director: September 2011 to May 2015)
Joel Eryn Mann (Co Project Director: May 2016 to May 2015)

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants
Education Programs

$25,000 (approved)
$24,900 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2012 – 12/31/2014

NEH Enduring Questions Course on "What Is Time?"

The development of an honors course to explore the question, What is the nature of time?

Marcella Paul and Joel Mann, teachers of literature and philosophy, respectively, at St. Norbert College, explore a question that has long engaged human curiosity, What is time? Their course investigates how multiple notions of the structure, measurement, and perception of time vary across cultures and historical periods. Readings in history and philosophy are complimented by the study of literature, art, and film. In the first module, students explore the foundations of the topic by considering questions such as whether time is linear, cyclical, circular, or eternally branching. This section includes readings by Iain Morley and Colin Renfrew, Shahn Majid, John Polkinghorne, and Jorge Luis Borges. Students examine sundials and calendars to consider visual and mathematical approaches to time. In the second module they explore sacred and secular time by comparing St. Augustine with Christian mystics like Theresa of Avila. By contrast, the Popul Vuh and short stories by Carlos Fuentes illustrate indigenous views. These comparisons are extended by reading the poetry of Octavio Paz, T. S. Eliot, and Pablo Neruda. Thirdly, students consider how personal dynamics such as emotion and age affect the experience and perception of time. They read from Nabokov's Speak, Memory and listen to the NPR broadcast, "Why Does Time Fly By as You Get Older?" Finally, they study recent portrayals of time in David Harvey's Condition of Postmodernity and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. Designed for an interdisciplinary honors program, the course supports the College's newly defined goal of increasing the number of humanities majors. In their joint course preparation, the applicants "effectively tutor each other" and explore how the linking of their fields enriches their understanding-and teaching-of the topic.