First-Year Seminars

All first-year students are strongly encouraged to enroll in a first-year seminar. 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.


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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] G. Clough.

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] R. Corrie. Interdisciplinary Programs.

FYS 150. Hamlet.This course undertakes an intensive study of Shakespeare's play, with particular emphasis on the various ways it has been interpreted through performance. Students read the play closely, view several filmed versions, and investigate historical productions in order to arrive at a sense of Hamlet's changing identity and enduring importance. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] M. Andrucki.

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] M. Bruce. Concentrations   |   Interdisciplinary Programs.

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? Not open to students who have received credit for Anthropology 255. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] 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] D. O'Higgins. Concentrations

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] A. Hirai. Concentrations   |   Interdisciplinary Programs.

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [S] [W1] K. Palin.

FYS 270. A Drug's Life.The social, political, and economic importance of prescription drugs is ever increasing. It can take more than fifteen years for a drug to make its way from the initial research laboratory to the local pharmacy. This course examines what is entailed in bringing a new drug to market, covering everything from the practical aspects of research and manufacture to the controversies and public policy issues which have arisen over pharmaceutical development in the last few years. Topics include current methods of drug discovery and development, "lifestyle" drugs, animal testing, clinical trials, the FDA, affordability, marketing, and distribution. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] J. Koviach-Côté. 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] G. Lexow. Interdisciplinary Programs.

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. Not open to students who have received credit for Physics 108. Enrollment limited to 15. [S] [L] [Q] [W1] H. Lin.

FYS 284. Burning Our Planet.From the first campfires of the Paleolithic people several hundred thousand years ago to the invention of the modern internal combustion engine in the twentieth century, fire has played a key role in human cultural, economic, and technological development. The deliberate use of fire, however, has resulted in major modification of the planet's environment, including widespread changes in the landscape, a loss of biodiversity, and global warming. This course examines the history of and relationship between humans and fire, and the impact of fire on the planetary environment. Enrollment limited to 15. [S] [W1] B. Johnson. 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] B. Sale. Concentrations   |   Interdisciplinary Programs.

FYS 308. Searching for the Good Life.What are the things that bring people happiness? Does marriage, for example, bring more happiness or unhappiness to those who choose it? Does wealth make people happy? If so, how much wealth is enough to ensure happiness? Is a productive career likely to bring happiness? How well do most individuals do at selecting the things that will bring them sustained happiness? Is happiness even the right yardstick to use in measuring the goodness of life? And at the end of life, what constitutes a good death? In this seminar, students grapple with these and related topics in regular discussions, projects, and papers. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] M. Sargent. Concentrations

FYS 309. Matters of Life and Death.When is it morally justifiable to engage in an action that results in death? This seminar considers some of the most difficult moral questions currently being debated in our society. Issues discussed include euthanasia, abortion, genetic engineering, war, and terrorism. Particular case studies are explored, and careful attention is given to the ethical arguments that can be made for contending positions on these questions. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] D. Cummiskey. Concentrations

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] M. Rice-DeFosse. Concentrations

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] K. Melvin. Concentrations

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] S. Dillon. Concentrations

FYS 341. King Arthur: Myth and Legend.The story of King Arthur of Britain and his Knights of the Round Table is one of Western civilization's most enduring legends. This course explores those elements of the Arthur story that make it so universally compelling and the ways in which its details have been adapted according to the needs and desires of its changing audience. Topics considered include feudal loyalty and kinship, women and marriage, monsters and magic, the culture of violence and warfare, and the stylistic and narrative features of the legendary mode. While students read these legends critically, they also explore their popularity: How and why has the myth of Arthur proven so universally appealing? Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] S. Federico. 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] L. Maurizio. Concentrations

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

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

FYS 383. Imaginative Writing.In this seminar, students explore imaginative writing both as noun—literature to be examined—and as verb—a skill to practice. By reading and discussing a wide range of poetry and prose from Emily Dickinson to Dave Eggers, students develop analytical and aesthetic awareness. Through research and critical writing on literary subjects of their choice, they practice their scholarly skills. By writing and discussing in workshop their own work as well as critically describing its relationship to the work of professional writers and poets, students enter the conversation in the field, as critics and as writers and poets. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. R. Strong.

FYS 384. Seeing the World through Mathematics.Is there a difference between "natural math" and "abstract math" or between "street math" and "school math"? What is mathematics, after all? Students consider some of the complex mathematical tasks that creatures carry out in their daily lives, often without even realizing they are "doing math." Such tasks include the ways in which desert ants and lobsters navigate their environments, honeybees dance to indicate food locations, and humans perform elaborate mental arithmetic. Students learn about some of the fascinating new areas of research by mathematicians in an effort to understand how we learn math. Enrollment limited to 15. [Q] [W1] Offered with varying frequency. P. Jayawant.

FYS 385. Power and Authority in Latin America through Film.From Pre-Columbian times to the present, Latin America's leaders have ruled in diverse ways. Monarchs, caudillos, sultans, totalitarian leaders, the military, a hegemonic party, and even drug lords have governed the region. How is it possible for an individual or small group of leaders to dominate an entire country without democratic consent? What mechanisms of political control do authoritarian leaders employ? How do they gain legitimacy? Students explore these questions through film, readings, writing assignments, and discussion. A final project explores the ways in which a political actor in students' local environment exercises power and authority over them. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. C. Pérez-Armendáriz.

FYS 386. Chinese Traditions, Great and Small.Chinese civilization has flowered in rich diversity. What is the basis of Chinese philosophy and religion? How does it manifest in Chinese medicine, science and technology, architecture, and cuisine? How do Chinese communicate through music, calligraphy, painting, and poetry? What comes to mind when we think of Chinese fiction and traditional theater? This course offers an introduction to the ongoing humanistic traditions of China. Students reflect both on how the approach to a culture influences the answers we find and on how the questions we decide to ask shape our perceptions. Discussions focus on primary works translated into English and an analysis of original artifacts. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. X. Fan. Concentrations

FYS 387. Introducing Diasporas.This course examines various forms of dislocation, dispersion, and transnational migrations of people that may be the consequence of forced or voluntary migration; self-exile or expulsion; or flight from war, ethnic conflict, or natural calamity. Students consider such topics as histories of slavery and indentured labor, the material aspects of migrant labor, the experiences of homelessness, the ideologies of "home" and nation, examples of diasporic cultures (e.g., African, Asian, and Latin), the politics of multiculturalism, questions of identity (belonging, "national origins," assimilation, acculturation), and issues relating to race and racism, sexuality and gender. Examples drawn from literature, music, food, and film illuminate the discussion. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. S. Houchins.

FYS 388. War and Poetry.Homer's Iliad, one of the earliest surviving poems in the West, portrays the experience of war. This course focuses first on this ancient epic and then turns to the lyric poetry of two modern wars: the American Civil War, 1861–1865, and World War I, 1914–1918. In addition to close reading of poems, students examine biographies about and autobiographies by the poets, both as literary forms and as representations of experience. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. R. Bunselmeyer.

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. K. Mathis.

FYS 390. The "Hollywood Indian": Native America in Film.From John Wayne westerns to Dances With Wolves, the film industry has portrayed Native Americans in many different lights. Often depicted as barbaric murderers, noble savages, or peaceful environmentalists, Native Americans have occupied certain stereotypical spaces within American popular media. As a medium that affects cultural and other understandings, how has film shaped and reflected the ways in which Americans understand Native American peoples? How have these portrayals changed over the years, and how have they affected Native peoples themselves? How have Native American filmmakers changed this industry? Through film critique, readings, and discussion, this course explores the many facets of Native Americans in film. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. K. Feldhousen-Giles.

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. T. Nickel.

FYS 393. DiY and Mash-up Culture.How did consumption become creative? How did musicians associated with punk, hip hop, electronica, and dub reggae create new art from the discarded refuse of late twentieth-century life? This course takes up the do-it-yourself ethic as a defining impulse in contemporary musical culture, informing the democratic amateurism of punk, the "found sound" innovations of the experimental avant-garde, and the collage aesthetic of the digital "mash-up." Students explore Lawrence Lessig's Creative Commons, with its challenges to copyright law, and engage with the work of John Cage, Bikini Kill, Brian Eno, the Raincoats, M.I.A., and Girl Talk, among others. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. D. Chapman.

FYS 394. Voice and Identity.This course explores the human voice in its musical incarnations. Students begin by learning how the voice operates physiologically, and then examine the relationship between musicians' conscious and unconscious vocal manipulations and their emotional, racial, gender, and sexual representations. Listening and reading assignments are complemented by experiential performance assignments. At the end of the course, students are able to theorize how vocal sound plays a role in shaping identity. Students are required to sing in class. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. J. Woodruff.

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

FYS 396. Genealogy and the Art of Inquiry.Family histories are full of fact and fiction: Some names and dates are recorded on official documents, but details are lost and gaps remain. In this course, students examine primary and secondary sources in order to construct their family tree and reconstruct their family stories. Bringing genealogical research and academic research together, students not only investigate their family's background but also make an extensive inquiry into larger questions of history, place, and culture. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. H. Oakes.

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? Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] Offered with varying frequency. M. Murray.