Fall 2011 First-Year Seminar Programs
We know it’s easier to learn about something you’re interested in, so check out the listing below, and find a course you’re passionate about pursuing!
FYS 084. Anatomy of a Few Small Machines.
One can treat the products of technology as “black boxes”—plain in purpose but mysterious in function. A more flexible and exciting life is available to those who look on all such devices as mere extensions of their hands and minds—who believe they could design, build, modify, and repair anything they put their hands on. This course helps students do this primarily through practice. Only common sense is required, but participants must be willing to attack any aspect of science and technology. Field trips are required. Taught by professor Gene Clough.
FYS 127. Experimental Music.
Whether in classical, jazz, popular, or category-defying music styles, experimentalists challenge inherited definitions and social conventions of music by favoring expanded sound sources, unconventional formal structures, and radical performance practices. This seminar examines the roots, history, and musical documents of American experimental music from Benjamin Franklin to Frank Zappa. Taught by professor Hiroya Miura.
FYS 172. Power and Perception: Cinematic Portraits of Africa.
Most Americans have “seen” Africa only through non-African eyes, coming to “know” about African society through such characters as Tarzan and such genres as the “jungle melodrama” or the “nature show.” In this seminar, films from the North Atlantic are juxtaposed with ethnographic and art films made by Africans in order to examine how to “read” these cinematic texts. Related written texts help to answer central questions about the politics of representation: What are the differences in how African societies are depicted and why are different issues and points of view privileged? Taught by professor Elizabeth Eames.
FYS 177. Sex and Sexualities.
This course studies the representation of sex and sexualities, both “queer” and “straight,” in a variety of cultural products ranging from advertising and novels to music videos and movies. Topics may include connections between sex and gender queerness suggested by the increasingly common acronym LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer); the advantages and inadequacies of using such labels; definitions and debates concerning pornography, sex education, public sex, and stigmatized sexual practices such as sadomasochism; the interrelations between constructions of sexuality and those of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, and class; and the necessities and complexities of ensuring consent. Taught by professor Erica Rand.
FYS 234. The U.S. Relocation Camps in World War II.
During World War II, the United States government interned more than 110,000 American citizens of Japanese descent and resident Japanese in “relocation camps” far away from their homes. This course studies the history of Asian immigration to the United States; the political, social, and economic conditions of the United States prior to internment; the relocation camps themselves; and the politics of redress leading to the presidential apology over the wartime “mistake” a half-century later. Taught by professor Atsuko Hirai.
FYS 262. Stealth Infections.
Specific microorganisms, including some bacteria, viruses, and prions, have recently been associated with specific chronic, long-term diseases. Some of these diseases, termed “stealth infections,” include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, ulcers, cervical cancer, obsessive compulsive disorder, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease. In this seminar, students explore the links between microorganisms and these particular diseases and consider several questions: What is the scientific evidence linking microorganisms with these stealth infections? Have the organisms co-evolved with their human hosts? How are the organisms transmitted? Can we control them? What might be the public health impact of such stealth infections? Not open to students who have received credit for Biology 127 or First-Year Seminar 236. Taught by professor Karen Palin.
FYS 271. Into the Woods: Rewriting Walden.
On 4 July 1845, Henry David Thoreau declared his independence and moved to a shack in the woods near Walden Pond. Ever since, many individuals have repeated his experiment in one form or another. This course examines a number of these Thoreauvian experiments and their historical context. Why do these individuals take to the woods? What do they find there? What do their experiences say about American culture and society? In seeking answers to these questions, students read a variety of literary, historical, and autobiographical texts. Taught by professor Gwen Lexow.
FYS 274. Physics in the Twentieth Century.
An introduction to great twentieth-century discoveries in physics, including the wave-particle duality of light and matter, quantum effects, special relativity, nuclear physics, and elementary particles. Laboratory experiments such as the photoelectric effect and electron diffraction are incorporated into the seminar. This seminar can substitute for Physics 108 and is designed for students who had a strong background in high school physics. Taught by professor Hong Lin.
FYS 277. The Fantastic in Modern Japan.
From the surreal novels of Murakami Haruki to the utopian and dystopian visions of Miyazaki Hayao’s animated films, contemporary Japan offers the international world a rich array of cultural products centering on the fantastic. Western response tends to see the futuristic visions of these novels and films as expressive of Japan’s level of comfort with the post-industrial world of high technology, but is that impression accurate? What is the genre of the fantastic? How is it used by writers and filmmakers in Japan today? What questions do they raise about self, society, and the environment? What answers do they offer? This course examines the nature of the fantastic as an artistic genre and its expression in a variety of recent Japanese films and stories. Taught by professor Sarah Strong.
FYS 289. The Life of the Buddha.
The Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Sakyamuni, is famed as the founder of the Buddhist religion. Though he lived in Northern India about 2,500 years ago, most of what we know about him consists of legends that were developed by Buddhists over the centuries. The course examines these legends, with an eye on the factors that led to their evolution, and the ways in which changing conceptions of the Buddha reflect developments in Buddhist thought. At the same time, it serves as a basic introduction to the fundamental teachings and practices of Buddhism. Taught by professor John Strong.
FYS 297. The Idea of Europe.
What is Europe? Is it the cradle of all that is civilized and cultured, or the blood-soaked ground of empires, genocidal despots, and revolutions? Today, in the first years of the twenty-first century, we are witnessing the most peaceful attempt ever at creating a unified economic, political, legal, and social entity that is European. But is a European cultural identity necessary for the success of a unified Europe, and can one be created? Or is an imagined European community as illusory as Tito’s ill-fated attempt to create a multiethnic, multi-religious, multi-linguistic Yugoslav community? In the seminar, students examine, critique, and propose alternatives to many of the received ideas about what it means to be European. Taught by professor Dennis Browne.
FYS 299. Contemporary American Poetry.
What have poets been doing for the last fifty years? How has poetry kept up with the other arts? How has poetry changed as America has changed? In this course, students examine American poetry since World War II, looking at both the established canon and less well-known experimenters. Students also discuss works of contemporary art, to see whether poets and artists are thinking about similar questions. Poets may include Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Robert Creeley, and Adrienne Rich. Taught by professor Steve Dillion.
FYS 300. Exploring Education through Narratives.
In this seminar, stories, once the primary way knowledge passed from one generation to another, are the basis for examining educational topics and issues. Students read fictional, biographical, autobiographical, and other narratives to learn more about some aspect of education and/or schooling. Topics include teachers and teaching; teacher/student roles; gender identity; students’ experiences in school; and how race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, or other differences may cause some to feel like outsiders. Students conduct field work and independent research. Taught by professor Anita Charles.
FYS 320. Trials of Conscience.
Why would a citizen risk her life to criticize laws that she thinks are immoral? Why do governments sometimes insist on show trials whose guilty verdicts are foreordained for such individuals? In this course, students examine trials from the classical and medieval periods including Socrates, Rabirius, Perpetua, St. Joan, Thomas More, Galileo and examine the following questions: What role does litigation play in both generating and containing a critique of society? What rhetorical strategies do the actors in our trials deploy to shape their identities in opposition to their communities? Why do these strategies fail to convince the jury but eventually persuade subsequent generations? Taught by professor Margaret Imber.
FYS 327. Katahdin to Acadia: Exploring Maine Geology.
This course introduces students to field geology by exploring many geologic landscapes in Maine. This hands-on, field-oriented course on the 500-million-year-old geologic history of Maine includes one required daylong fieldtrip (Mount Washington or Vinalhaven Island), and one required overnight trip (Acadia National Park or Baxter State Park). Local half-day trips to Streaked Mountain, the Poland Spring, Sunday River, Morse Mountain, Seawall Beach, Pemaquid Point, and Rangeley round out the field excursions. Field trips involve strenuous hiking and/or sea kayaking in a range of weather conditions. Learning to read maps and recording observations in field notes and sketches form a major focus of the course. Taught by professor Dyk Eusden.
FYS 329. Latin American Time Machine.
The nations of Latin America often appear in popular films or newspaper headlines as places of economic turmoil, homes to military dictators, or unfortunate victims of environmental disaster. What lies beyond tales of sunglass-wearing caudillos or vanishing rainforests? This course examines the historical roots of issues and events in present-day Latin America, such as the U.S. embargo on Cuba, the Zapatista uprising in Mexico, immigration, and the illegal drug trade. The course is grounded in historical analysis and methods; in addition to books and articles, students analyze newspapers, images, films, and firsthand accounts of events. Taught by professor Karen Melvin.
FYS 340. Planetarium Production.
Since 1963, the College’s Ladd Planetarium has been a resource for school and civic groups in the Lewiston-Auburn area. In this seminar, students conceive, write, and produce planetarium shows for public presentation and educational outreach. Students might choose to develop shows on topics such as constellation myths of different cultures, an interesting astronomical object or class of objects (comets, the Orion Nebula, supergiant stars, or supernova explosions), important historical developments in astronomy (for example, ancient Greek cosmology, Galileo’s amazing first nights with the newly invented telescope, or Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the expansion of the universe), or the development of and scientific results from a major contemporary ground-based or space-based astronomical observatory. Previous experience with astronomy is helpful but not required. Taught by professor Eric Wollman.
FYS 345. Ancient Myths and Modern Movies.
Movies are one of the ways that modern societies create stories to discuss important cultural values. Not surprisingly, filmmakers often invoke ancient myths, which once served a similar function. In this course, students explore the ways in which myths give members of a society, whether ancient or modern, meaningful tools to describe and explore issues, values, and conflicts. Students read ancient myths such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Euripides’ tragedies, such as The Trojan Women and Iphigeneia at Aulis, and then consider their modern versions in movies such as the epic Troy and the whimsical Big Fish. Taught by professor Lisa Maurizi.
FYS 352. The Identity of Persons.
It is common enough to hear that being Irish, or being a woman, or being African American, or being a professor, is central to some person’s identity. But what is a person? What is a person’s identity? And how can something like ethnicity, or gender, or race, or profession be central—or fail to be central—to a person’s identity? This seminar encourages consideration of these questions by introducing students to the long philosophical tradition of reflection on the concept of a person, the notion of identity, and the role that self-description plays in constituting the person and her identity. Taught by professor Mark Okrent.
FYS 354. Environment as Story.
Writers passionate to explain the natural world and environmental problems often inform by story, weaving scientific fact with human experience. What makes this approach so effective in teaching as well as in inspiring action? In this course, students examine the work of several environmentalists whose writing crosses “disciplinary boundaries” to engage diverse audiences. Students consider the creative possibilities that such work inspires, and practice distinct kinds of writing their own environmental concerns might invite. The course may include two field trips. Taught by professor Sharon Kinsman.
FYS 366. The Humanimal.
Nonhuman animals constitute an integral part of human societies. They figure in our languages, food, clothing, and entertainment. They can be best friends or sources of profit. These different dimensions produce ambivalent and sometimes contradictory attitudes towards animals. This course introduces students to the complex role of animals in past and current human societies through topics such as animals in agriculture, animal sports, animals in medical research and biotechnology, companion animals, zoos, and conservation. Throughout, students attend to shifting perceptions of animals by examining research on animal intelligence and emotion, and resulting calls for animal rights. Taught by professor Sonja Pieck.
FYS 376. Inequality, Community, and Social Change.
Many high schools include some kind of community service among their graduation requirements, suggesting a series of assumptions about the role of schools (and colleges/universities) in their communities. This seminar addresses the relationship between community engagement and higher education, as well as broader questions about community action and social change. Along with an introduction to how social scientists think about social inequality, the seminar offers students an opportunity to spend two hours per week participating in service learning projects with organizations oriented toward social change/social justice in the Lewiston community. Seminar discussions and assignments focus on exploring our local community, and connecting our community experiences with readings about community engagement, social responsibility, and social change. Taught by professor Emily Kane.
FYS 381. Visualizing Identities.
This course examines definitions of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and culture in diverse visual materials. Students think critically about the ways that we articulate and interpret self and other. Each week students analyze examples of visual culture as a means to evaluate constructions, experiences, and interpretations of identities. Themes explored during the semester include gender, feminisms, masculinities, race and ethnicity, globalism, and cultural identity. Taught by professor Aimée Bessire.
FYS 389. Psychology and Film.
Motion pictures can have a powerful influence on the perceptions, attitudes, and behavior of audience members. In this course students view several films and examine their depiction of various psychological topics including human development, perceptual and cognitive processes, social interactions, and abnormal behavior. Are the characters stigmatized or are the portrayals accurate? In what ways do movies affect viewers? Can this medium be used as a therapeutic technique in addition to providing entertainment? Using primary readings as guidelines, students explore these and other questions through discussion and written assignments. Taught by professor Kathy Mathias.
FYS 391. Addictions, Obsessions, Manias.
This course traces the development of pathological identities and behaviors in nineteenth-century literature and culture. Topics include alcoholism, cigarette smoking, coffee drinking, narcotic use, fetishism, kleptomania, erotomania, collecting, shopping, and gambling. The class explores the metaphoric nature of bad habits and considers how higher culture, including literature itself, may be grounded in forms of addiction. Taught by professor Terri Nickel.
FYS 395. The Sporting Life.
Sporting events such as the Super Bowl, World Cup, Olympic Games, and March Madness suggest the magnitude of importance of sports in many people’s lives. The fact that so many people so passionately engage in sports as participants and spectators also indicates its significance. The import of sport can be considered from a myriad of perspectives, from the social and natural sciences to the humanities. In this interdisciplinary course, students consider a variety of sources including academic articles, personal memoir, fiction, film, and observation. Taught by professor Su Langdon.
FYS 397. Poverty.
In this seminar students address the following questions: What does it mean to be poor? Who are the poor? Why are they poor? How can we ease the plight of the poor? Can we end poverty? Taught by professor Michael Murray.
FYS 398. The Color of Chemistry.
The course explores the chemical basis of color. Topics include the electronic and geometric structure of atoms and molecules and how light and matter interact. The accompanying lab provides students with an opportunity to synthesize and isolate colored materials and compounds. Taught by professor Rachel Austin.
FYS 399. Reading Dancing, Writing Dance.
Talking about performance is tricky, especially dance performance. What is the performance supposed to mean? How do you know if it is “good”? What if you’ve never seen dance before? In this course students hone their ability to identify and express their views about performances while deepening their understanding of how dance is made, how it expresses cultural values, and how it relates to other art forms. Students focus on two types of writing: reviews and research. They visit the dance studio to learn firsthand how dances are constructed. Taught by professor Rachel Boggia.
FYS 400. The United States in the Middle East.
Since the late eighteenth century American diplomats, sailors, merchants, and missionaries have been involved in the Middle East and North Africa. This course examines the history of the complex relations between the United States and the Middle East over the last two centuries. How have American perceptions of the Middle East changed over time? How has U.S. involvement influenced state formation, regime consolidation, and people’s daily lives in the region? What were the major successes and failures of American foreign policy in the region? Students explore these questions through a variety of sources, including memoirs, documentaries, and U.S. diplomatic documents as well as scholarly books and articles. Taught by professor Senem Aslan.
Reading the Wild in Film and Literature
We imagine the wild as both a place (wilderness) and a concept indicating something beyond restraint or limit, something purely free or even impermissible. Why are we so attracted to wild places, and why do we value the presence of the wild in our culture? This course examines depictions of the wild in films, poems, essays, and stories, and it grapples with how the wild relates to gender, identity, modern conflict, exploitation, and spiritual and aesthetic values. Students write both informal reflections and analytic essays, and they present research on representations of the wild in literature and film. Taught by professor Misty Beck.
FYS 402. Sound and Image.
The course begins with an introduction to the history of technologies that have linked sound and image. Students watch representative films from each decade since 1920 and learn about musical soundtracks, foley sound effects, dialogue, and song as performed on screen. They explore the history of music videos as they have been and are used in popular culture. The course ends with a brief exploration of experimental sound/video installations, and individual production of creative video and soundtrack. Taught by professor Bill Matthews.
FYS 403. Reading for Love: The Cultural Sociology of the Romance Story.
What can works of fiction tell us about the social context in which they are created? How do stories that are targeted at different kinds of readers compare with one another? How do stories in a particular genre change over time? This course poses such questions about the sociology of fiction with a special focus on romance stories. Students explore creative conventions and examine how readers (ourselves included) understand fiction. The course emphasizes a comparative approach to analyzing fiction and teaches students to interpret texts and compare them with an eye to their broader cultural implications. Taught by professor Ben Moodie.
FYS 404. On the Road to Spain.
This seminar looks at the ways in which Spain has been imagined and experienced as a destination for real and virtual travelers from the United States. Through the study of literature, journalism, films, and television programs that describe actual trips and depict imagined journeys, students explore how images of Spanish culture, landscape, and history have figured in American constructions of individual and collective identity. Theoretical issues related to the phenomena of travel and tourism, the activity of travel writing, and the ways in which notions of race, gender, and nation determine the traveler’s experience of Spain frame the analysis of texts and audiovisual materials. Taught by professor David George.
FYS 405. Zombies: Can Math Help?
Our goal is to devise defense strategies to prepare for a zombie attack. To achieve this goal, we use mathematical models to allow us to simulate and better understand possible attacks. For maximum preparedness, we consider multiple scenarios. Do zombies move quickly or slowly? When a zombie bites a human, does the human become a zombie immediately, or might there be hours – even days – of incubation time? How easy is it for zombies to create more zombies? When we change our assumptions, we must change our mathematical models accordingly, and our strategies for human survival may also need to change. Taught by professor Meredith Greer.Next: Faculty Mentors