Sizing up Laurier’s mind benders


Sometimes you take a class that blows your mind. Sometimes you meet a professor who can turn a lecture on the lifespan of dryer lint into the highlight of your week.

On very rare occasions, fascinating subject matter is placed in the hands of a professor who turns it into a course capable of changing the way you see the world.

FS 102
Film and the Image
Russ Kilbourn

“Teaching a first-year course can be difficult,” said Russ Kilbourn, a film studies professor who traditionally teaches FS102.

“That is where perspective changing is hopefully going to happen because if it doesn’t happen [in first-year] it might not happen at all. By the time they get to fourth year it might be too late,” he continued.

Coming into university having watched movies your entire life, you might assume you know everything they could possibly teach you.

The fact that this is never the case is what makes film studies courses truly perspective shifting.

“Everyone thinks they are an expert,” says Kilbourn of his first-year film students.

“I try to encourage students to get rid of their preconceptions about film and start all over again.”

Starting all over again certainly qualifies as perspective shifting.

“I would hope that ideally every course that I teach occupies a space outside of the ‘safezone’. Not in a way that is threatening or negative,” said Kilbourn.

“It is always a tight rope. Part of getting students to change their perspective is showing them material that they are not familiar with.”

FS 256
Hitchcock and Modernity
Paul Tiessen

“Film is like an open door, an open invitation,” said Paul Tiessen when discussing students gaining a capacity to interpret and think critically about information.

A course that focuses on the works of Alfred Hitchcock might seem too focused to be perspective-shifting, but according to Tiessen this is not the case.

“What is so terribly interesting about teaching Hitchcock is the degree to which he registers a suspiciousness about the way the media operates in our culture,” Tiessen said.

“Our culture – our society, Hollywood, the media at large – trains us to understand our self, to understand society, to understand the world, through the eyes of the entertainment industry,” he continued.

“It is an absolute joy to teach Hitchcock, to look at films like Psycho and Vertigo and discover
[Hitchcock] is interested in issues of gender, issues of class [and] interested in issues of perception in ways that are highly self-reflexive”

Recommended reading:
The Women Who Knew Too Much by Tania Modleski

EN 330
Human Rights in Contemporary Cultural Forms
Madelaine Hron

It is no surprise that a course with “human rights” in the title has the potential to drastically alter one’s perspective.

“Courses like this…make the world a more complex place,” Madelaine Hron said on the effect that certain courses can have on individuals. “It brings these far away topics close; it is difficult but also necessary,” she said of her course and others like it.
EN330 is particularly unique in that each student is encouraged to become personally involved
with issues related to human rights.

“This course … lets students be activists. That’s what makes this [course] different than others.

“They might not feel like they are very powerful,” Hron said, “but they have a lot more power than someone in, let’s say, Africa.”

“This course has changed a lot of my students’ lives.”

Recommended reading:
“The Singer Solution to World Poverty” by Peter Singer

Gender and Culture
Patricia Molloy

Whether we want to admit it or not, many of us could benefit from taking a course like CS322, which is currently being offered by communications studies professor Patricia Molloy.
Gender studies (not to be confused with women’s studies) offers unique opportunities for students to expand the way they understand the world around them.

“This is a course that doesn’t leave out men,” Molloy clarified. “We also talk a lot about masculinity, sexuality and sexualities.”

You might be surprised to learn that gender is not a simple as being man or woman.

“There is a variety of different genders, more than just two,” Molloy explained.

“Gender is not that cut and dry, it involves more than biology and more than culture. My class on sex and gender and the body is very illuminating.”

“I think [perspective shifting classes] are vital,” said Molloy.

“For one thing, we live in the everyday world and this is what communications studies does … examine these structures in our everyday world that impact us. I want people to analyze and critique and change their everyday world and make it better.”
Sex and sexuality are a large part of this particular perspective altering course, making it a popular choice.

Molloy dedicates an entire class to porn and the porn industry. “I destroy some of their myths about the sex trade and the porn industry. The class on porn is a lot of fun … it really opens [students’] eyes,” said Molloy.

Recommended reading:
“The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles” by Emily Marti

CS 420
Conspiracy Theories
Michael Truscello

The term “conspiracy theory” tends to carry a lot of negative baggage. People who are dubbed conspiracy theorists tend to be considered naive, overly paranoid, outsiders and misinformed.

“The course examines the outer limits of media discourse,” communications professor Michael Truscello explained.

In his fourth-year seminar, Truscello attempts to address the issue of conspiracy theories in an unbiased way, analyzing the place they occupy in our society as a whole as well as looking at specific theories and evaluating their credibility.

“Usually what gets referred to as a conspiracy theory is something that has been labeled not for public discussion, at least not in the so-called legitimate spheres of debate,” explained Truscello.

“That automatically locates that subject matter on the fringe. In that sense [the course] is an examination of radical ideas.”
The course offers a critical look into the structure of society, examining why conspiracies hold the position they do, and why they come to be.

“If you consider that we exist in a media sphere that spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year trying to convince us how to think, how to act, whether it’s from advertising, public relations, propaganda … it is not surprising we have an excess of paranoia.”

Recommended reading:
Land of Idols or Dirty Truths by Michael Parenti

Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.