Fall 2020


Moodle site: Course


Molly Mead (Section 01)


The act of giving seems, at first, to be 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 – between people, between institutions and people, and entirely between institutions – from an interdisciplinary 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 – 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.

The course will begin and end with the same assignment–a reflective essay in which you develop your 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 your final essay.  Along the way, class discussions, readings, and short papers will help you develop as readers, writers, speakers and thinkers. 

Fall semester. Lecturer Mead.


2021-22: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020