IDST 385

Turning Points: Self-Transformation

4 Undergraduate credits
Effective May 10, 2010 – Present

Graduation requirements this course fulfills

Researchers define turning points as a "major transformation in views about the self, identity or the meaning of life." They occur as new things are learned, rendering us amenable to change, and produce perceived, long-lasting redirection in the path of a one's life. Psychologists associate turning points with transitions and stages of human development defined and explored by Erik Erikson. Ignoring uplifting turning points and with distressing turning points in mind, the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche wrote "that which does not kill us makes us stronger." Retirement or loss of retirement income, end of a love affair, reaching the "golden years" (maturity) or learning that one (or a family member) has a fatal disease are examples of turning points. Portrayals, in film and literature, of individuals coping with obstacles to happiness or overcoming adversity dramatize turning points. Rhetorical, films and literature are cultural artifacts that comfort, guide generations and teach us how to live! Lessons learned from contemporary films and classical literature are a primary focus of this course.

Learning outcomes


  • Apply psychological theory and philosophical and social science research to analyzing these important life changes, emphasizing the logic and critical reasoning skills necessary to cope with them.
  • Understand and analyze the social science and psychology research, relevant to life's turning points and the historical contexts in which that research is applied.
  • Explore historical approaches to analyzing individual responses to life's turning points from a historical perspective, from Aristotle's "rational theory of the emotions" and Stoic and Skeptic variations on it to the psychology theories and research of J. A. Clausen (1995), R. A. Settersten (1999), E. H. Erikson (1963) and Aaron Beck (1979).
  • Evaluate the role turning points play in a flourishing life-style.

Minnesota Transfer Curriculum

Goal 5: History and the Social and Behavioral Sciences

  • Employ the methods and data that historians and social and behavioral scientists use to investigate the human condition.
  • Examine social institutions and processes across a range of historical periods and cultures.
  • Use and critique alternative explanatory systems or theories.
  • Develop and communicate alternative explanations or solutions for contemporary social issues.