Spooky Studies

October 28, 2022

By Stephanie Rizzo ’09

The Rollins fox mascot dressed as a classic sheet ghost
Photo by Scott Cook.

From madmen to witches, we’re taking a look at some of the spookiest courses on offer at Rollins and how they’re challenging students to look beyond the surface of cultural ideas that have shaped societies for generations.

It’s spooky season, and while the Rollins campus is still wearing sandals thanks to our location in sunny Florida, we’re getting into the Halloween spirit. Thanks to our unique approach to the liberal arts, you’ll find no shortage of classes designed to embrace the macabre, mysterious, or spine-tingling. Whether you’re a math major with an interest in haunted artifacts or a burgeoning biologist with a fascination for the occult, our interdisciplinary curriculum allows you to combine your interests in ways that are equally weird, wonderful, and productive. Think of your Rollins education as a spell—one powerful tool made up of many personalized potions for success.

From murderous mayhem to witchy ways, our expert faculty is adept at looking beyond the veil of supernatural conventions to get at deeper questions. Ever wonder how witches went from the seductive sirens of Greek myth to the hideous hags of modern lore? Considering how dramatically perceptions of women in power have changed over the centuries, the answer may surprise you. And once we draw those connections, how can we apply our conclusions to solve lingering problems? At Rollins, that’s what we're all about. To celebrate the season, we’re looking at some of our most chilling and thrilling course offerings, so read on—if you dare.

A parody of the movie poster for 28 Days Later

1. PHI 242: Zombies, Serial Killers, and Madmen

Calling all true-crime junkies. This philosophy class delves beyond the grisly details of your favorite zombie flick to examine the ethical implications of crime and punishment—using some of history’s most ghastly incidents as case studies. From Ted Bundy to the Boston Strangler, students dig deep into questions concerning irrational people who commit heinous acts while encountering interesting moral quandaries along the way. Is rationality a prerequisite for responsibility? And just who gets to decide the line between crazy and sane? Over the course of the semester, philosophy professor and ethicist Eric Smaw leads students down a rabbit hole of madness in order to find sanity in reckoning with the everyday monsters who walk among us.

A parody of the movie poster for The Haunting of Hill House

2. RFLA 100: Writing Ghost Stories & Place

What can a community’s ghost stories tell us about the living, breathing people who inhabit a place and time? This chilling course seeks to answer precisely that by encouraging students to look deeper into classic tales of haunts and horrors and even write a few of their own. But before picking up a pen to explore their own identity politics through the lens of personal ghosts and demons, students engage in literary analysis and practice their close reading skills as they tackle texts like Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House. The results may be surprising and a little spooky, but ultimately students come away with a better understanding of the strife that haunts each of us in our day-to-day lives.

This class is part of Rollins’ Foundations in the Liberal Arts (RFLA) program, our unique general-education curriculum in which students take linked interdisciplinary seminar courses that instruct them on the basic framework for critical thinking in the liberal arts. And what better way to develop these skills than by looking beyond the pale?

A parody of the movie poster for The Witch

3. RFLA 200H: The Witch in History

English professor Benjamin Hudson knows the image you conjure up when you think of a witch: pointy hat, ugly countenance, insatiable appetite for children. But what can these stereotypes tell us about ourselves as a society, and how do they differ and converge in cultures throughout the world? In this RFLA course, students build critical thinking skills by analyzing novels, films, and scholarly articles looking at witches across time and practice—from Shakespeare and The Wizard of Oz to syncretic Caribbean rituals and modern-day pop witchcraft. Along the way, Tars hone valuable skills like how to cast a spell over an audience during a scholarly presentation and how to craft a paper that will hold even the most reluctant reader in suspense.

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