Fall 2015



Molly Mead (Section 01)


The act of giving can appear deceptively straight forward and entirely altruistic.  But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us, “We wish to be self-sustained.  We do not quite forgive a giver.”  In this seminar we will examine the act of giving–giving between people, between institutions and people, and entirely between institutions–from an inter-disciplinary lens to reflect on what it means to give. We will intentionally reveal and challenge our initial assumptions about giving.  Using a variety of texts in class–religious, literary, first person accounts, and public policy, we will explore the diverse forms philanthropy has taken over time and across cultures–its philosophical underpinnings, its complex interrelationships with religious notions of charity and secular notions of democracy, and its often paradoxical effects on social relations and public policy.  Each student will be asked to spend at least 10 hours working with a local charity organization.

The work with a local charity will be undertaken with careful attention to the ethical questions that are raised by this work. We will also view it as one more text that is accessible to analysis and meaning making. The course will begin and end with the same assignment–a reflective essay in which each student develops his or her personal framework for giving. It is anticipated that the texts and class discussions will influence the evolution of this framework and, hence, the robustness of the final essay.  Along the way, class discussions, readings, and short papers will help students develop their skills as readers, writers and thinkers. 

Fall semester.  Lecturer Mead.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016