First-Year Seminars

Each first-year seminar offers an opportunity for entering students to develop skills in writing, reasoning, and research that will be of critical importance throughout their academic careers. Enrollment is limited to fifteen students to ensure the active participation of all class members and to permit students and instructor to concentrate on developing the skills necessary for successful college writing. Seminars typically focus on a current problem or a topic of particular interest to the instructor. First-year seminars are not open to upperclass students. They carry full course credit.

General Education Information for the Classes of 2009 and 2010. One designated seminar may be used in fulfilling General Education requirements. In addition, one designated seminar may be used to fulfill the quantitative requirement. Designations are listed in the introductory paragraphs of departments in the Catalog.


FYS 069. Psychology and Peace.This seminar considers the contribution of psychological concepts to the development and maintenance of world peace. The concepts are used both to analyze the conditions that have led to the current level of international tensions, and to evaluate proposals for the promotion of world peace. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. R. Wagner.

FYS 135. Women in Art.Beginning in the 1970s in response to the feminist movement, the investigation of women's roles in the production of visual culture has expanded the traditional parameters of art history. Now a leading method of analysis, this approach provides exciting insights into fields ranging from Egyptian sculpture to contemporary photography. This seminar discusses women as subjects, makers, and patrons. Topics include Egyptian royal imagery, women as Renaissance subjects and painters, Venus in Renaissance marriage paintings, women as Impressionist painters and subject matter, artists and models in the twentieth century, and women in the New York art world since World War II. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. R. Corrie.

FYS 152. Religion and Civil Rights.Traditionally, the civil rights movement has been viewed as a political and social reform movement initiated to secure the citizenship rights of African Americans. This seminar supplements this view by exploring how religion shaped the vision and experience of civil rights activists. Topics include such dimensions of the movement as the centrality of the black church, the prominence of religious leaders, the use of theological language, the ritualization of protest, and the prevalence of sacred music. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. M. Bruce. Concentrations

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 novels and ethnographic 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? Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. E. Eames. Concentrations

FYS 191. Love and Friendship in the Classical World.The ancient meanings of friendship and the ways in which friendship was distinguished from love are the subject of this course. Students read and analyze ancient theorists on friendship and love, such as Plato and Cicero, and also texts illustrating the ways in which Greek and Roman men and women formed and tested relationships within and across gender lines. The topics under discussion include: friendship as a political institution; notions of personal loyalty, obligation, and treachery; the perceived antithesis between friendship and erotic love; the policing of sexuality; friendship, love, and enmity in the definition of the self. All discussions use the contemporary Western world as a reference point for comparison and contrast. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. D. O'Higgins. Concentrations

FYS 198. Childhood and Literature.Many writers, especially in the last two centuries, have turned to childhood for inspiration and subject matter. Whether the childhood they write about is their own or another, imagined or observed, these writers find in the early years of life a mysterious and fertile wilderness, a place to think evocatively and clearly about the most essential human questions. Such questions shade from the psychological to the social to the metaphysical and aesthetic, but they provide multiple windows upon cultural habits, and some excellent opportunities to think across disciplines. Students read, discuss, and frequently write about many different sorts of literature and childhood—memoirs, poetry, essays, short fiction, and novels. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. R. Farnsworth.

FYS 201. Using the Land.Land use is one of the most significant environmental issues we face today. This course examines the relationship between humans and land, as well as issues such as the ability of current land management practices to ensure the survival of human and other species, and the relative rights of human and other species to the land. Readings represent an American perspective and include Walden, Wilderness and the American Mind, Sand County Almanac, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and Desert Solitaire. Not open to students who have received credit for Environmental Studies s26. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. T. Wenzel.

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. A. Hirai. Concentrations

FYS 242. Blackness (and Whiteness) in the Social Imagination.Aspects of ourselves we hold most dear, most changeless, are in actuality socially fashioned. Drawing on perspectives from various disciplines, students reflect on the historical and symbolic formation of "blackness" and "whiteness" as modes of social assortment as well as the clamor and silences that surround their pervasive presence. How did they become rooted in the modern social imagination? How are the two related, what is their relationship to other ethnic and racial categories, and how do they intersect with issues of class and gender? How are they lived and experienced, and how do they change over time? For example, how did some immigrant groups, like Jews and the Irish, "become white" in the twentieth-century United States? Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. C. Carnegie. Concentrations

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. G. 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [S] [L] [Q] [W1] Offered with varying frequency. H. Lin.

FYS 278. Hell's Fire.The idea of hell and damnation plays a crucial role throughout much of Western culture. It provides a dark shadow of religious belief and evocative imagery to continually evolving concepts of divine justice, sin and its commensurate punishment, and the end of time. This seminar undertakes an archeology of knowledge regarding the history and practice of hell and damnation. Students investigate philosophical and religious writings, great works of literature such as Dante's Inferno and Goethe's Faust, and view representations of hell in the arts and film. The seminar concludes by posing the question: Do hell and damnation, now secularized and this-worldly, continue to live on in the modern period, as in Auschwitz and the Gulag? Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. D. Sweet. Concentrations

FYS 298. Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Human Populations.Volcanic eruptions, such as Vesuvius (79 C.E.) and Nevado del Ruiz (1985), and earthquakes, such as San Francisco (1906) and Sumatra-Andaman Islands (2004), are devastating to human populations and profoundly affect social and cultural histories. Consequently, volcanoes, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are central themes of myth, legend, contemporary description, and current scientific study. Volcanism and seismicity are an integral and inevitable part of the global tectonic cycle, ensuring that Earth remains a habitable planet. Students explore the scientific knowledge and human dimensions of volcanism and seismicity through readings, writing assignments, and discussions drawn from varied literature and visual media. Small group projects assess the volcanic and seismic hazards for populations living near major volcanoes and active faults, such as in Istanbul, Seattle, and Jakarta. Enrollment limited to 16. [S] [W1] Offered with varying frequency. J. Creasy. Concentrations

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. H. Regan.

FYS 302. Understanding Namaste.This course blends theory and practice, discussion and action as it explores the history and components of a holistic understanding and practice of yoga. Readings include three sacred texts of yoga tradition, the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras, and the Upanishads, along with materials addressing physical yoga. Students have the opportunity to practice yoga during one class per week. In reading, discussion, and practice students explore the questions: How might I lead my intellectual and daily life? What do these principles, conceptions of body, mind and breath, and yoga practice offer me as a student and individual? And what does "om" mean? Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. H. Gurney.

FYS 318. Through the Eyes of Children.Is the experience of childhood universal or culturally specific? What do children from diverse French-speaking countries have in common? Children are often the least "acculturated" members of any particular society. What can we learn about culture from a child's perspective? These questions are probed by exploring childhood in a number of French-speaking countries and communities. Students examine (in English) a selection of narratives and films from the French-speaking world that feature the points of view of children. The course not only considers the ways in which narrative and film present childhood experiences in specific cultures, but also explores perspectives on issues such as family structure, sexual and gender orientation, child abuse, and colonialism. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. M. Rice-DeFosse.

FYS 325. The Body.From our earliest experiences we understand the world through our bodies. But how we think about the body is shaped by social and cultural forces. This seminar explores cross-cultural conceptions of the body by considering the following questions: What is the body? How does the body reflect collective and subjective notions of sexuality and gender? To what extent is what we do with our bodies a reflection of a particular identity? Or is bodily expression an indication of conformity to social norms? To explore these questions students examine how different cultures conceptualize the body, focusing on specific cases that challenge basic beliefs about what a "normal" or "natural" body is. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. H. Lindkvist. Concentrations

FYS 326. Choices and Constraints.Are humans free to chart the course of their own lives, or are their fates predestined by their social locations? This seminar explores the tension between personal agency and social forces that structure human lives. The history of the intellectual debate over the roles of agency and structure frame classroom discussion of ways in which personal experiences are shaped by both social structures and systems of inequality based on race/ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Acknowledging the role of individuals as agents of social change, students grapple with their responsibilities in perpetuating and transforming social institutions such as family, religion, health care, and the workplace. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. H. Chirayath.

FYS 330. Moral Questions and Political Choices.Life in a global context asks us to answer and act on complicated moral questions. On what basis do we make these choices? In a world framed by oversimplified political rhetoric and media images, how do we learn to think deeply about poverty, genocide, war, children's health, women's roles, human rights, or human happiness? This course explores the many-sided moral questions embedded in political discussions and decisions. Students read political philosophy, fiction, essays, and media articles, and write both research papers and personal essays. The purpose is to better understand our potential as humans and as citizens in an ever smaller and more interactive world. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. A. MacLeod.

FYS 334. Film Art.This seminar is an introduction to the study of cinema art. Examples are drawn from the silent era, classical Hollywood, the European art film, and American independent film. Students examine the basic elements of cinema: image, sound, music, structure. They watch two films each week, read film criticism, and write short papers on each film as well as a longer paper at the end of the course. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. S. Dillon. Concentrations

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. L. Maurizio. Concentrations

FYS 346. Desire, Devotion, Suffering.Love and pleasure were much cultivated in classical and medieval India, side by side with the spiritual practices better known in the West. Royal courts and rustic villages reveled in songs, stories, and dramas about courtship and passion among humans, demons, and gods. Students read a range of lyric and dramatic poetry in English translation from North and South Indian traditions featuring Buddhist, Hindu, and Muslim poets. The works deal with desire and disgust; earthly love carried into religious realms; and the transformation of erotic desperation into spiritual gain. Lectures and prose readings provide cultural background and interpretive strategies; music, slides, and film clips connect literature to the performing arts, including Bollywood movies. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. S. Sengupta. Concentrations

FYS 347. Passion and Sustenance: On Crafting a Life.If "work" is the opposite of "play," is adulthood tantamount to misery? How do we build a future that ignites our passion and sustains us in the long haul? This course explores concepts of work, vocation, community, and sustainability, and invites students to integrate those in imagining a future. Students read complex and engaging texts, from William Morris to Barbara Kingsolver, and undertake research, skill-building, and program-planning that can have concrete effects on their lives and those of others. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. A. Bartel. Concentrations

FYS 348. Literature through Cataclysm.What happens to the literature of conservative societies that undergo cataclysmic change? In the early to mid-twentieth century, three countries ruled by a czar or emperor were propelled by cataclysms—the Russian Revolution, World War II in Japan, and serial wars in Vietnam—into radically new political and social orders, and also sparked new literary and cinematic expression. This course studies literature, nonfiction, and film on both sides of the cataclysms. Each student chooses a fourth country or culture for individual exploration. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. W. Hiss. Concentrations

FYS 354. Passion, Work, and Words.Can one particular passion for the environment form the thread of a vocation rich in meaning and task? In this course, students examine the written work and lives of several environmentalists. Each, daring to enlighten diverse audiences with engaging, accessible writing, created challenging and satisfying vocations. Their writing crosses "disciplinary boundaries" and suggests ways that our own passions and knowledge can be narrated. Students consider the creative possibilities that such work inspires, and imagine and practice distinct kinds of writing their own vocations or environmental concerns might invite. The course may include two half-day field trips. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. S. Kinsman.

FYS 355. How Did They Know That?.Over 2000 years ago, Greek astronomers knew the earth must be round—the curved shadow cast on the moon during an eclipse was evidence. Around 250 B.C.E., Eratosthenes had additional proof: the noontime sun cast shadows of different angles in cities of different latitudes. He went on to produce an ingenious geometric argument which he used to calculate the earth's circumference with remarkable precision. Who else made discoveries like this? How much was known? How were people affected? Students uncover history behind "old" facts in astronomy, biology, physics, and mathematics, and study a "new" twentieth-century discovery: chaos theory. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. S. Ross.

FYS 359. The Epic Tradition in the West.When Mahatma Gandhi was asked, "What do you think of British civilization?" he replied, "I think it would be a very good idea." This course investigates the extent to which the epic tradition in the West has contributed to a civilized society. Attention is also given to literary conventions of the genre, allusions to precursors, and uses of the epic by more contemporary writers. Texts may include Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, Dante's Inferno, and Walcott's Omeros. In order to compare the Western epic to other traditions, students also read and analyze Gilgamesh, written in Iraq around 1000 B.C.E.. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. C. Malcolmson.

FYS 360. The People's War.Soviet losses in World War II were enormous, both military and civilian. In the decades after the war, losses and triumphs were memorialized while the repressions of Stalin's regime remained hidden. This course explores fiction, memoirs, and films about the war: stories of civilians and soldiers, women in combat, Stalingrad and Leningrad, Soviet Jews who were war heroes as well as Hitler's victims. Students reflect on what these stories tell us about human lives in extreme conditions; how these stories compare with American accounts of the "greatest generation;" and how different media represent and reflect on violence, heroism, and moral choice. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. J. Costlow.

FYS 361. Making Music Together.What feelings do people derive from singing "Happy Birthday" together or playing in a band? How are those different from what they feel when humming to themselves on a mountain trail? What kinds of social skills do they need and do they learn when they make music together? How do members of an ensemble perform different musical tasks, yet make their music speak with a single voice? Students observe the workings of musical ensembles as members or as outsiders and examine fictional and scientific accounts of ensemble performance. Experience in musical performance is not required. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. J. Parakilas.

FYS 362. Biomedical Ethics.The rapid changes in the biological sciences and medical technology have thoroughly transformed the practice of medicine. The added complexity and power of medicine has in turn revolutionized the responsibilities and duties that accompany the medical professions. This course explores the values and norms governing medical practice from multiple perspectives, including Asian and Islamic approaches. Topics include the rights and responsibilities of health care providers and patients; the justification for euthanasia; and the problems of access, allocation, and rationing of health care services. Not open to students who have received credit for Philosophy 213 or s26. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. D. Cummiskey. Concentrations

FYS 363. The Rhetoric of Women: Politics, Prime Time, and Pop Culture.This course explores the rhetorical engagement of women in the public sphere. Students examine the unique situations, constraints, and consequences for women in the political world; depictions of women on television; and the construction of various feminine archetypes in popular culture. Both the rhetoric used by women, and that used to describe women is examined. Texts and artifacts include political speeches, music, tabloids, news stories, television programs, and film. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. S. Kelley-Romano.

FYS 364. Red Sox Nation: Baseball and American Culture.Focusing on the franchise and fan base known as Red Sox Nation, this course examines the history of baseball from the nineteenth century to the present. It considers how and why baseball became "America's game" and the ways that baseball reflects cultural and economic interests. In particular, students examine how prevailing ideas about gender, race, and class have shaped the sport. Other topics of interest include the relationship between baseball and family dynamics, regional identity, and religion. Texts include historical studies, documentary and feature films, fan forums, and baseball parks themselves. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. M. Creighton.

FYS 365. Let's Play.Has free, unstructured play all but disappeared from neighborhoods and communities in North America? If so, should we be worried? In this seminar, students examine play from psychological, historical, and cultural perspectives. Animal play, the commercialization of children's play, special places, and organized sports are some of the topics discussed. In addition to reading and writing, students work with children in community settings in which play occurs. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. G. Nigro.

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. S. Pieck.

FYS 367. The Chemistry of Life.The correlation of form and function is key to understanding much of chemistry and biology. This course utilizes concepts from general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biological chemistry to describe and determine molecular shape and its impact on the behavior of molecules. DNA, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates are of particular interest. Topics vary from why the sky is blue to how new pharmaceuticals are developed. The lab portion of the course provides hands-on opportunities to form and test hypotheses about how the shape of a compound affects its function. Enrollment limited to 15. [S] [L] [Q] [W1] Offered in the Hughes Summer Scholars Program. Offered with varying frequency. J. Koviach-Côté.

FYS 368. The Writing on the Wall.The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, signaling the end of the forty-year cold war. However, the Wall still retains a powerful hold over the American imagination as a prime historical artifact of political and personal division. What did it actually entail to slice an existing country in half? How did people living in both East and West come to rely on the Wall to define who they were? What physical or symbolic walls do we erect in modern identity politics, and how are our worldviews shaped by existing political and geographic boundaries? In order to probe these complex ramifications, students analyze political speeches, espionage thrillers, love stories, films, Wall graffiti, interviews, news reports, and monuments and memorials. They also use the Virtual Wall, an online expansion to the course. Not open to students who have received credit for German 120. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. E. Anderson.

FYS 369. Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists.The sub-prime mortgage crisis, the Enron scandal: What hath capitalism wrought? Our everyday economic interactions are within the framework of capitalism. Undergraduate study in economics typically takes this social system as given while rarely shining critical light on it. Apologists tout capitalism's attendant political freedom and wealth accumulation; detractors complain about its resulting materialism and injustice in the distribution of wealth. Economists, social philosophers, and theologians have critically examined capitalism. Students in this course read and discuss works by some of these authors and prepare their own papers arising from their study of capitalism. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. G. Perkins.

FYS 370. Understanding War.Using selections from the literature of war in the twentieth century, this course examines and compares six different ways of understanding war: narrative history, analytical history, historical novel, personal memoir, poetry, and film. One major text of each kind is studied and discussed. How writers use form, style, and language to convey their meaning is emphasized. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. R. Bunselmeyer.