Burton Atkins, Ph.D.
Burton Atkins, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Florida State University (FSU), currently teaches political science at FAU and is also an Adjunct Professor at Virginia Tech and Penn State. In his 35-year career at FSU, Professor Atkins wrote extensively about constitutional law and American politics and served as chair of the Political Science Department. He lived in London from 1992 to 1997 while serving as the Director of FSU’s London Study Center, and from 1997 to 2006 served as Director of FSU’s International Affairs Program. An avid supporter of international education, Professor Atkins has organized and led annual study semesters abroad to London, Brussels and Paris for FSU and FAU.
Great Constitutional Stories
The People, Politics and Events Behind Landmark Supreme Court Decisions
Landmark decisions of the Supreme Court are like tips of icebergs: what we see before us looms very large indeed yet much of what makes up the totality of each case, the story behind the people that drive the litigation in the first place, is usually obscured from our view. This lecture will examine the human drama associated with Supreme Court decisions by discussing the people at the “storm center” of several cases and controversies that have formed the basis of our constitutional and political system. This lecture will discuss William Marbury’s quest for a position on the federal bench, Homer Plessy’s fateful decision to sit in the wrong carriage on a train in Louisiana, Linda Brown’s desire to attend an integrated public school and David Lucas’ dream of building a beach house in South Carolina. These and other “constitutional stories” will help transform the often sterile environment of constitutional law into fascinating vignettes about people who persisted in pursuing their dream of what they thought to be in the best interests of protecting important American values.
The Reel 1940s
Using Film to Explore a Pivotal Decade of the Twentieth Century
In 1940, much of the world was already engulfed by what would become the most destructive war in human history. Still digging itself out of the depths of the Great Depression, the United States officially remained detached from the conflict raging in Europe and Asia but the “date which will live in infamy,” December 7th, 1941, fundamentally altered America’s role in the world. With the end of the war in 1945, the United States emerged as a world power having a monopoly for a short time over nuclear weapons as the “hot” war that consumed the energy of our nation was turned into a “cold” one with the Soviet Union. At home, the engine of economic power assembled to fight a war across the globe transformed the domestic lives of many Americans. It is against this backdrop that this course will use film clips as visual texts to explore political, social, economic and cultural facets of American society between 1940 and 1949. The films will range from those that explore the monumental conflict that was World War II to those that examine the great social issues of the decade as well as those that helped us escape to the movie theater for great song, dance and entertainment.
Film as Visual Text
Exploring Themes of Human Nature, Conflict and Contemporary Politics in Movies
Since its beginning, movies have both entertained and been a source of ideas about history, politics and culture. This course will use portions of films, along with lectures and other materials, to explore a variety of issues about human nature, our history and contemporary problems.
Note: The film selection and order of presentation is subject to change.