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Grant number: AQ-51030-14

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AQ-51030-14

University of Wisconsin, Green Bay (Green Bay, WI 54311-7003)
Alison Staudinger (Project Director: 09/13/2013 to present)

NEH Enduring Questions Course on the Role of Work in Human Life

The development of a first-year seminar on the changing nature of work throughout history, with consideration of its economic, political, and personal importance.

The development of a first-year seminar on the changing nature of work throughout history, with consideration of its economic, political, and personal importance. Alison Staudinger, assistant professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, develops a course on the nature of work. The project director centers the inquiry on four sub-questions. The course begins by asking, What is work? and seeks responses from Hesiod's Works and Days, the ancient myths of Prometheus and Pandora, the Rule of St. Benedict, and Simone Weil's Gravity and Grace. The second question, Are humans workers by nature? is explored through The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt, the "Master Slave Dialectic" from the Phenomenology of Spirit of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and "Alienated Labor" and "Critique of the Gotha Programme" by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The third question, What is the relationship between work and justice? takes as its point of departure debates between Plato and Aristotle. Students read The Republic and The Politics for their examination of "natural slavery" and how this concept is relevant to contemporary discussions of inequality. This issue, in relation to consumption and work in a developed country like the United States, is explored through Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Michael Glawoger's documentary film Workingman's Death, in tandem with a site visit to the Grohmann Museum at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. The last question, What work should I do? introduces issues of race, gender, and class into labor questions, thereby complicating topics previously considered. Readings for this section include Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener," a debate between W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington on the place of work for ex-slaves, and Studs Terkel's Working. As a final project, students add a chapter to Terkel's book based on their own video interviews.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Interdisciplinary Studies, General; Philosophy, Other; Political Science, Other

Program:
Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Division:
Education Programs

Total amounts:
$22,000 (approved)
$22,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2014 – 12/31/2015