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 career. 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 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] H. Miura.

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 BDSM; the interrelations between constructions of sexuality and those of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, and class; and the necessities and complexities of ensuring consent. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] E. Rand. Concentrations   |   Interdisciplinary Programs.

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 enrolled in Biology 127. Enrollment limited to 15. [S] [W1] K. Palin. 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. Concentrations   |   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 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] S. Strong. Concentrations   |   Interdisciplinary Programs.

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] J. Strong. Concentrations

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? In 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] D. Browne.

FYS 299. Contemporary American Poetry.What does poetry look like in the twenty-first century? Have the new media changed the poetic landscape? Who still cares about poetry? This course focuses on poetry written after 2000—poetry found both in books and online. Students think about poems in different formats: on television, video, and film, in music, and in the fine art of the slam. Perspectives on the relevance or non-relevance of poetry also are considered. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] S. Dillon.

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 fieldwork and independent research. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] B. Sale. Concentrations   |   Interdisciplinary Programs.

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? Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] M. 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 weekend 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. Not open to students who have received credit for Geology 107. Enrollment limited to 15. [S] [L] [W1] J. Eusden.

FYS 329. Latin American Time Machine.This course examines the historical roots of modern Latin America. Students consider Latin America's origins: early encounters between Spaniards and native inhabitants of the Americas. The legacies of these events are everywhere in present-day Latin America and have deeply influenced Latin American society, politics, and culture. Specifically, students focus on interactions between Spaniards and Aztecs, including Hernando Cort├ęs, Moctezuma, and Malinche. They examine how Aztecs and Spaniards lived and saw their worlds before contact and study then what happened after they did meet during the early sixteenth century. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] K. Melvin. Concentrations

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] E. Wollman. 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, and 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 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] M. Okrent. Concentrations

FYS 354. Environment as Story.Writers passionate about explaining 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 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] S. Kinsman.

FYS 366. 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 toward animals. This course introduces students to the complex role of animals in past and current human societies through topics such as domestication, animal sports, animals in medical research, companion animals, zoos, animal intelligence, and animal rights. Throughout, students consider the shifting roles animals play in the development of human identity (e.g., gender, race, class and sexuality). Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] S. 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 and 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 and social justice in the Lewiston community. Seminar discussions and assignments focus on exploring the local community, and connecting students' community experiences with readings about community engagement, social responsibility, and social change. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] E. 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] A. Bessire. Concentrations

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. Students explore the metaphoric nature of bad habits and consider how higher culture, including literature itself, may be grounded in forms of addiction. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] T. 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] S. Langdon. Concentrations

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] M. Murray. Concentrations

FYS 398. The Chemistry of Color.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. Not open to students who have received credit for Chemistry 107A or Chemistry/Environmental Studies 107B. Not open to students who have received credit for CH/ES 107B or Chemistry 107A. Enrollment limited to 15. [S] [L] [Q] [W1] R. 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 have 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] R. 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] S. Aslan.

FYS 401. 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] M. Beck. Concentrations

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 learns 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] W. Matthews.

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. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] D. George.

FYS 405. Zombies: Can Math Help?.The goal of this course is to devise defense strategies to prepare for a zombie attack. To achieve this goal, students use mathematical models to simulate and better understand possible attacks. For maximum preparedness, students 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. Enrollment limited to 15. [Q] [W1] M. Greer.

FYS 406. Holidays and Holy Days: Ritual, Memory, and Celebration in Religions.How many of us know the religious origins of our favorite holidays or why we regard them as "sacred occasions" worthy of observance? What does it mean to observe Passover, celebrate Eid, "keep Christmas," or enjoy a barbecue and fireworks on the Fourth of July? In this seminar, students are introduced to "religion" by examining the holidays of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and American civil religion with an eye toward the history, symbols, stories, and practices behind them. Students are exposed to the nature of ritual, importance of community and collective memory, issues of power and ideology, and the materiality of religion as they examine and critique the most visible expressions of religion in contemporary society. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] J. Larson.

FYS 407. Violence and Public Order.Why do some organizations use violence in pursuit of their goals and others don't? Why are some uses of violence effective and other uses fail? This course explores these questions through the study of three contemporary issues: organized crime, torture, and terrorism. In considering each, students read histories and descriptions of the phenomenon and explore why and when violence is used. They study what these troubling phenomena tell us about political order and how societies have learned to control violence. Students examine a range of texts including memoirs, histories, and theoretical literature, and write a range of papers: a personal essay, a policy analysis, and a research paper. Students also present their ideas in class presentations and structured discussions. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] J. Scheideman.

FYS 408. Identity: Self and Community.Arrival at Bates marks a new phase in the development of a student's identity as an adult and community member. This course explores the lenses through which we experience the world and understand ourselves and each other. Students investigate frameworks for understanding our own identities, then look at the ways in which our personal identities intersect with and influence our relationships with others. Finally, they consider how we connect with each other and live in community in ways that promote well-being. Students explore these concepts through multidisciplinary perspectives and weekly two-hour community-based learning activities in downtown Lewiston. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] S. Russell.

FYS 409. Music and Politics.This course surveys the relationship between music and state, cultural, and identity politics. How do politics affect the lives of musicians around the world? How does music affect the course of global political movements? Students explore artists who are explicitly political in both their music and their public personas, and artists whose music has been appropriated by others for political ends. Topics include the history of music censorship, music and the American civil rights movement, the trial and conviction of Rwandan musician Simon Bikindi, and the political and musical statements of current recording artists such as Lady Gaga. Enrollment limited to 15. [W1] J. Woodruff.