Spring FYS Courses
Check here for Spring 2014 FYS courses.
Courses offered in the past four years.
▲ indicates offered in the current term
▹ indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]
FYSE 1003 - Science Fiction
Out-of-control scientific discovery, time travel, aliens, androids, corporate and political domination, reimaginings of race, gender, and sexuality--these and other themes have dominated science fiction over the last 250 years. We will try to understand the ways in which selected writers have seen the world we inhabit and have imagined alternatives to it. Texts and movies include: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; H. G. Wells, The Time Machine; Isaac Asimov, I, Robot; Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness; and Ridley Scott, Bladerunner.
FYSE 1021 - Love and Death
Love and Death in Western Europe, 1300-1900
History is not just names and dates; it also encompasses how ordinary people lived and felt. Emotions have a history because they have changed over time. This seminar deals with aspects of the history of desire and fear in Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the industrial era. Topics will include sex, marriage, child-rearing, disease, suicide, and the belief in immortality. In addition to works of historical analysis, we will read literary and theoretical sources, including Dante, Goethe, and Freud. Our aim is to understand how common emotions have been altered by social and cultural circumstances. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1030 - Love & Friendship
Love and Friendship
We will start with Plato's Phaedrus, to learn about love and its relationship to speaking and writing, and then turn to Aristotle's Ethics, to consider friendship in relation to politics. Then we will read: Jane Austen’s Persuasion; Shakespeare Sonnets; Montaigne's essay, "Of Friendship"; Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Flaubert’s Madame Bovary;
Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina; and Plato’s Symposium. We will also study The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric, by Sister Miriam Joseph, and we will watch two movies: The Philadelphia Story and Anna Karenina.
FYSE 1040 - Communism & Fascism
Communism and Fascism
In this seminar we will study two major "totalitarian" regimes of the 20th century, Nazism in Germany and Stalinism in Russia. We will concentrate on the cultural and philosophical origins of Fascism and Bolshevism. Readings will include selections from the writings of Marx, Mill, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Lenin, and Hitler, as well as cinematic works. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1041 - Economics of Social Issues
The Economics of Social Issues
In this course we will examine current social problems from the perspective of an economist. We will use the tools of economics as a framework for understanding important social issues such as poverty, discrimination, access to health care, crime and drugs, immigration, welfare reform, affordable housing, quality and affordability of childcare, solvency of social security, gun control, divorce, and the environment. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1045 - Contemporary Canadian Fiction
Contemporary Canadian Fiction
"To Americans, a bestseller in Canada is like a tree falling in the forest," said critic Ron Charles. In this seminar we will examine the richness of contemporary Canadian fiction in English, from Michael Ondaatje, Yann Martel, and Guy Vanderhaeghe; to Alice Munro, Alistair MacLeod, and Carol Shields, with special focus on the brilliant short story writers Canada has produced. We will examine the works themselves, as well as their relationship to U.S. and British literary traditions and institutions. We will also consider cultural differences between the United States and Canada and how culture affects literary production.3 hrs. sem./disc.
FYSE 1049 - Myth & Cosmology
Myth and Cosmology
In this seminar we will trace some of the fundamental concepts underlying ancient ways of approaching the world. We will compare the Chinese, Biblical, Hindu, Navajo, and Maori creation traditions, the divination cultures of East Asian and African nations, and the rich symbolism that emerged out of some of the major centers of ancient civilization. Through our reading of myths, scholarly writings, and literary works, we will explore the ways China and various other cultures understood and dealt with the world around them, from flood myths to astrology, from the Yijing to omens and geomancy. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2010, Fall 2013
FYSE 1056 - The Black Death
The Black Death
In this seminar we will examine the great plague of 1348, the Black Death, as an epidemiological, cultural, and historical event. What was the plague? How did it affect European society in the short term, and what were its repercussions? Was the Black Death truly a turning point in European history, or have its effects been overrated? Finally, we will look at the role the plague has played as a metaphor in society and will discuss modern plagues like the hemorrhagic viruses and AIDS using fiction and film as well as the works of modern scholars. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1062 - Econ/Culture Great Depression
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? Economy and Culture in the Great Depression
The Great Depression of the 1930s changed economics forever. It also brought forth a period of distinctly American, socially-engaged literature and visual art. New relationships were forged between the U.S. government and working people, the arts, and the market. In this seminar we study economics to understand the collapse of the American economy; we study painting, photography, music, drama, and oral history to understand the rapid social change taking place. As a group, students will develop a digital media project representing one or more aspects of the 1930s experience. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1066 - Voices Along The Way
Voices Along the Way
This seminar designed for international students is an introduction to contemporary American culture via literature and film. Our exploration of the American landscape and mindscape will begin with three topics: a sense of place, family relationships, and the American educational scene. We will conclude with a fourth topic, 'creating an identity," within which we will explore our own potential contributions to a global community. We will respond to each of these topics by writing essays, creating web pages and digital stories, and designing multi-media presentations. We will read stories and essays by John Updike, Amy Tan, Gloria Naylor, Theodore Sizer, James Baldwin, Raymond Carver, William Faulkner, and Jamaica Kincaid; we will consider films including Dances with Wolves, The Godfather, Stand and Deliver, and Dead Poets’ Society; and we will research and compare our own and each other’s cultures as a basis for determining what we consider to be “American.” 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2011, Fall 2013
FYSE 1081 - Greek Phil., Tragedy, & Comedy
"The Ancient Quarrel": Greek Philosophy, Tragedy, and Comedy*
In Plato's day there was a “quarrel” between philosophy and poetry, a rivalry for the ethical education of citizens. How do the tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles communicate ethical dilemmas? Does Aristophanes in The Clouds suggest a serious critique within his comic satire of Socrates? Why does Plato banish the poets from his ideal city in The Republic, but develop his own philosophical poetry? Why does Aristotle in the Poetics emphasize the catharsis of the tragic emotions? Finally, we will consider Nietzsche's interpretation in The Birth of Tragedy: Socratic rationalism deals the fatal blow to tragedy, yet Plato transforms Socrates into a tragic figure. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1084 - Culture and Cognition
Culture and Cognition
The values and commitments of our cultural environment can shape our ways of knowing, habits of thought, sense of self, emotion, identity, and other psychological processes. Through readings from cultural psychology and other related literature, class discussion, films, and experiential activities, we will explore the relationship between mind and culture. We will also pay attention to how schooling shapes this process within various cultures, particularly with "western" and "eastern" examples. This seminar may be of special interest to those who have lived in other cultures or who are planning to study abroad, to anyone interested in issues of identity and education in our multicultural society, and to those who would like to develop a broader understanding of multiple ways of viewing human reasoning, sense of self, and the social interactions that result.
FYSE 1097 - Expatriate Fiction
Expatriate Fiction: Looking in a Foreign Mirror
The discovery of our own cultural identity is usually prompted by contact with another culture. Paradoxically, this leads us to wonder where "we" begin and our nationality leaves off. In this seminar we will begin by reading stories and novels in which characters are tested by foreign encounters and wind up questioning the very notion of individual identity itself. Texts include Paul Bowles's The Sheltering Sky, E. M. Forster's A Passage to India, Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea, Graham Greene's The Quiet American, and others. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1099 - Cultural History of the Piano
Piano, Piano: The Cultural History of the Piano
Why do so many people have a piano in their living room? In this seminar we will try to answer this question by exploring the cultural history of the piano. As we study the piano’s special place in our (musical) culture, we will learn about the technical as well as social aspects of this instrument’s developments over the past 300 years. We will hear virtuosos like Franz Liszt and Keith Jarrett, study milestones of the pianistic repertoire, and discuss representations of this instrument and its artists in literature, the arts, and film. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2010, Fall 2012
FYSE 1107 - Shaping the Future
Shaping the Future
The release of genetically engineered organisms into the environment has great potential for agriculture and industry, however the consequences posed by the transfer of genetic material from one organism to another are uncertain. Germline gene therapy is proving to be a major molecular-genetic advancement for medical science, yet there is much controversy over whether genetic manipulation of germline constitutes an ethical approach for the treatment of inheritable disease. The use of gene splicing to develop biological weapons is yet another issue that has considerable social, political, and ethical impacts. This seminar will use writing as a tool to explore these and other biotechnological advances and their societal implications. Classroom discussions, debates, and writing exercises will emphasize the ethical considerations brought about by the Human Genome Project, the introduction of DNA fingerprinting into the U.S. judicial system, and the pending arrival of "edible vaccines" on grocery store shelves to name a few.
FYSE 1108 - Chemical & Biological Warfare
Science Demonized: Chemical and Biological Warfare
The Geneva Protocol of 1925 called for a halt to chemical and biological warfare. Since that time, creation of new technologies and advances in the fields of chemistry, molecular biology, and biochemistry have created the threat for even greater devastation. In this seminar we will examine the development and use of these agents, with attention to their chemical, biochemical, and biological mechanisms. Discussion and readings will focus on specific agents such as anthrax, plague, "super" viruses, and chemical nerve poisons. Texts and readings by Camus, Alibek, Miller, Tucker, and others will trace the creation and use of these weapons from WWI to the present. International efforts to prevent deployment and medical strategies to protect military and civilian personnel will also be considered.
FYSE 1114 - Classic Comedy
What is comedy? What are its values and view of life? What makes things funny? Why do we laugh and at what? What should or should not be ridiculed? In this seminar we will consider classic comedies and ideas about comedy from Aristophanes through Shakespeare, Moliere, and Shaw, to Stoppard, with comparisons to classic comedies of American cinema and other forms of comic expression. Having a sense of humor is a prerequisite of this course. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1120 - Earth Resources
Earth Resources: Origin, Use, and Environmental Impact
The global economy, world politics, and many aspects of our environment are dependent on the extraction and use of materials taken directly from the Earth. Unfortunately, within our lifetimes, we will be faced with significant shortages of many of these resources. In this seminar we will focus on how resources such as oil, coal, aluminum, and even gem minerals are generated by geological processes, how they are extracted and processed, and how these activities impact the Earth's environment. Numerous field trips during the laboratory portion of the seminar will allow us to view first hand the impacts of resource extraction, processing, and use. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1121 - Representations of Urban Italy
Representations of Urban Italy: Rome, Florence, Venice
Rome, Florence, and Venice are central to the Western image of the city. With ancient Rome as a model, we will enrich our historical knowledge of these cities and their famous sites. We will explore how literature, urban planning, and the arts represent them. Genres to be explored (in English) will include travel memoirs, classic films (Rome Open City, La dolce vita), adaptations of novels (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Room with a View), “magic realism” (Winterston’s The Passion), detective fiction (Donna Leon, Michael Dibdin), modern and contemporary Italian prose and film (Moravia, Ozpetek’s Facing Windows), and toga epics (Gladiator, Rome). Culinary history and practice will be included. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1123 - Encounters with Middle East
Close Encounters with the Middle East
In the west, few other cultures have evoked such strong emotions or have been so widely misunderstood as the cultures of the Middle East. In this seminar, we will explore alternative understandings of the region by examining various types of historical and contemporary narratives. Rather than focus exclusively on political events and trajectories, we will investigate social and cultural experiences of peoples in the Middle East which have emerged through the intersection of history, identity, modernity, gender relations, and popular expression. This approach allows students to become familiar with the region’s inhabitants and cultures, and to think beyond the static images commonly portrayed in today’s media. In this seminar we will draw on various sources including film, media, literature, music, among others, and will interpret their ongoing significance in today’s world. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1132 - Shakespeare and Music
Sounds and Sweet Airs: Shakespeare and Music
Shakespeare's plays are the stories we tell ourselves to explain to ourselves who we are. We have told them over and over, and they have proven to be infinitely adaptable to our needs. Composers, too, have been drawn to them from the beginning, adding their music to the music of Shakespeare's language. In this seminar we will study a number of plays, among them Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the operas, ballets, film scores, and symphonic works they have inspired from the 17th century to the present.
Fall 2012, Fall 2013
FYSE 1134 - Empires
Why do empires rise and fall? Are "democracy" and "empire" always a contradiction in terms? Can imperialism be a good thing? For whom? Drawing on classical and contemporary sources, we will explore the origins and fates of empires from Ancient Greece to the present. We will start by reflecting on why Eurasia dominated the world prior to the twentieth century, rather than the other way around. We will then explore the similarities and differences in both the principles and practices of particular empires, as well as how those characteristics evolved over time. Special attention will be given to Rome, Britain, Austria-Hungary, the Ottomans, Russia/Soviet Union, and the United States. An overarching aim of this seminar is to view the global power of the 21st century United States in proper perspective. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2010, Fall 2013
FYSE 1144 - Jane Austen and Film
Jane Austen & Film
Why did a writer born over 200 years ago become a hot property in Hollywood? The explosion of film adaptations of Austen's novels has sent readers scurrying to Austen's six major works: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. We will study these novels and their film and video adaptations, while examining the differences between the language of film and the language of fiction, and while considering Austen's appeal to 21st century men and women. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2011, Fall 2013
FYSE 1145 - Voices Along The Way
Voices Along the Way
In this seminar designed for international students, we will examine American culture through the lens of “migrations,” the 2012-13 theme of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity. We will study how migrations form the essence of American culture, philosophy, and history. We will read texts by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros. Throughout the seminar, we will work on discussion, oral presentations, research, and writing, which will include both short and long papers. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2010, Fall 2012
FYSE 1149 - Neural Disorders
Amazing progress has been made recently in understanding and treating neural disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's disease, multiple sclerosis, and others. In this seminar we will examine how these advances were made, and their biological, psychological, and sociological implications. By studying recent research, case histories, and new approaches to treatment, we will examine how such disorders are caused, how they progress, and what psychological effects they have on patients, family, friends, and society. Students will read recent literature, write reviews and position papers, engage in daily discussions, and present on topics of their choosing. 3 hr. sem.
FYSE 1153 - Poems, Poets, Poetry
Poems, Poets, Poetry
In this seminar, we will read a wide range of lyric and narrative poems and explore ways of responding to them, in discussion and in writing. We will contemplate the resources of language and expressive form and structure upon which poets variously depend and draw. We will ask such questions as: can a poem really be "analyzed " or "explicated", and what assumptions lie behind such an attempt? The aim of this seminar is to assist in making poetry accessible and enjoyable without diminishing its complexity or its challenge, and to encourage a sense of poems as companions for life. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1158 - Passages from India
Passages from India
In this seminar, we will focus on the literature, politics, and culture of 20th century India. We will discuss writing by Raja Rao, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Ismat Chughtai, Mahashweta Devi, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, and others. Drawing on both popular and documentary films, we will explore this literature in the contexts of colonialism, nationalism, class and caste politics, gender, the state, regionalism, religion, notions of development, and globalization. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013
FYSE 1160 - How We Know
How We Know
The words "Scientists report…" preface many news stories. But we "know" these facts from the results of experiments. How we design experiments can predetermine the answers we get. For example, the 2000 U. S. Census was a head count, but a carefully designed sampling procedure would have given more accurate results. Or consider- how many tennis balls should we drop to determine which brand bounces highest? Will room temperature affect the results? In this course we will design and carry out experiments in both natural and social sciences, our writing will focus on crafting research lab reports. 3 hrs. lect/lab
FYSE 1163 - Letter of the Law
Letter of the Law
In this seminar we will study the representation of law and lawyers in a selection of literary works from Sophocles’s Antigone to John Grisham’s A Time to Kill. We will be concerned with issues of justice, equity, the letter of the law, law and customs, law and politics, and punishment and retribution as they manifest themselves in some of the following works: Antigone, Billy Budd, The Lottery, The Trial, In Cold Blood, and A Time to Kill. We will also view some episodes of L.A. Law. Writing will emphasize the development of a strong critical stance, precise thinking and use of language, and effective implementation of evidence in supporting an argument.
FYSE 1167 - Shakespeare's Characters
Shakespeare’s reputation owes much to his characters; yet well-known as they are, they remain mysterious. What did they mean in Shakespeare’s time, and how do they still succeed? What explains the charisma of Bottom, the idiot who cannot act? What can we learn from Beatrice’s banter with Benedick, or Henry V’s flirtation with Princess Katherine, about Elizabethan—and our own—understandings of gender and language? What prompted 19th century critic William Hazlitt to declare, “It is we who are Hamlet”? Addressing such questions, we will develop critical thinking and writing skills. Texts include three of Shakespeare's plays (e.g., A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet) and contextual readings. We will also study a film of one of these plays. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2011, Fall 2012
FYSE 1170 - Dealing with Atrocities
Dealing with Atrocities
Occurrences of atrocities affecting large numbers of people show no sign of ending. How do these atrocities start and why? How do societies rebuild afterwards, and how might this rebuilding conflict with the healing process of individuals? How can the often competing goals of justice and reconciliation be balanced? What do subsequent generations in society owe to victims of large-scale atrocities? To explore these and other issues, a few main cases will be examined in depth – such as events in European colonialism and the Holocaust – as well as students choosing additional examples for comparison and further research. 3 hr. sem.
Fall 2010, Fall 2013
FYSE 1174 - The Art & Era of Andy Warhol
The Art and Era of Andy Warhol
During his lifetime, Andy Warhol was often regarded as a charlatan, but since his death in 1987, his art, life, and career have been the subjects of unceasing investigation and speculation. Was his art a put-on? How should we interpret his often-contradictory statements? What is his place in the history of art and of his era? We will study his art works closely, evaluate his own words, and consider the evaluations of others in an attempt to understand his significance. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1175 - The Game of Go
The Game of Go
Go is an ancient board game which originated in East Asia and is now played and studied by over 30 million people worldwide. The game is intellectually demanding and rigorous as well as highly creative and intuitive. In this seminar we will study the fundamentals of play, record and critique our games, and learn the history of Go and some of its outstanding practitioners. Additionally, we will gain some appreciation of Asian arts and cultures through our readings and writing projects. There will be plenty of game practice, analysis, some film and anime discussion, and a class tournament. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1184 - The Journey Within
The Journey Within: The Spiritual Pursuit in Literary and Mystical Traditions
A fundamental teaching of the world’s religious traditions is that the source of love, the fulfillment of life, and the treasure of heaven are found within. With texts from antiquity to the present as our guides, we shall explore themes such as the concept of the soul, the discovery of a deeper self, the spiritual awakening, and the nature of the mystical experience. We shall consider questions related to religious and psychological experience such as: Where does the self reside? Why is it important to “know thyself”? What is the state of consciousness described as enlightenment? How does one rise above the sorrows and struggles of the world? Finally, we shall try to understand how turning within does not mean fleeing from the world, but engaging in the world around us in a more profound and meaningful way. Readings will include works from the Upanishads, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, St. Teresa of Avila, Tolstoy, Emily Dickinson, Herman Hesse, and J.D. Salinger. 3 hrs. sem.
Spring 2012, Fall 2013
FYSE 1189 - Liberal Arts & Martial Aikido
Liberal Arts & The Martial Art of Aikido
In this course we will explore both the concept of balance as an intellectual and kinesthetic idea. Balance as an intellectual idea will be approached through an examination of the meaning and purpose of a Liberal Arts education. The kinesthetic exploration of balance will take place through twice-weekly practice of the martial art of Aikido. The links and limits of the Aikido-Liberal Arts connection will be discussed as we explore whether an integrated notion of balance is possible. No previous martial arts experience is necessary and all levels of athletic ability are welcome.
FYSE 1198 - Darwinian Medicine ▹
Is it better to fight a fever or let it run its course? Why do pregnant women get morning sickness? In this course, we will look at modern humans and their health from the perspective of evolutionary biology. Students will be introduced to the basics of evolution by natural selection and will learn to interpret morphological, biochemical and behavioral aspects of humans and their pathogens in this context (such as how and why the level of virulence of a disease changes when human habits change). Readings will include Why We Get Sick, Evolving Health, and numerous papers from the primary literature. 3 hrs. sem./disc.
Spring 2011, Spring 2014
FYSE 1199 - Smart Energy Choices
Smart Energy Choices
As readers of the popular press, we are deluged with information about the strengths and limitations of many energy sources. Using the tools of quantitative thermodynamics, we will compare and contrast fossil fuels and nuclear energy, as well as alternative energy sources such as plant-derived biofuels, hydrogen (in combustion and fuel cells), solar power and wind power. We will also examine the economic and environmental consequences of each of these energy sources. It is strongly required that students have a full year of high school chemistry and physics. 3 hrs. sem/3 hrs. lab
FYSE 1201 - Into the Forest: Fairy Tales
Into the Forest: Fairy Tales from Past to Present
In this seminar we will study the evolving history of fairy tales, beginning with the earliest Western version of the Beauty and the Beast story, Apuleius's Amor and Psyche. We will consider several key stories and their variants, including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Bluebeard, focusing in each case on the cultural and social contexts that helped to shape them. Considering early versions of these tales by Giambattista Basile, the brothers Grimm, and Charles Perrault as well as feminist revisions by Angela Carter and A. S. Byatt, our critical focus will include the representation of gender and the problematic conjunction of sex and violence in these stories. In addition to literary narratives we will also study films inspired by fairy tales, including Pan's Labyrinth and Coraline. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1202 - Criminal Heroes
Literature possesses the ability to make us sympathize with and even champion characters whose actions we would abhor in real life, and some have declared this power to be socially dangerous. In this seminar we will read novels, poems, and plays that attempt to depict genuine criminals—not the falsely accused or the merely misunderstood, but honest-to-God rotters—as their heroes. While doing so, we will attempt to understand what aspects of our everyday morality these authors are asking us to reconsider, reject, or re-commit to. Readings will include Disgrace, Lolita, Brighton Rock, and poems by Byron and Browning. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1203 - Beast in the Jungle
The Beast in the Jungle
In this course, we will explore some literary texts in which the practice of exploration itself yields a complex confrontation with, and often breakdown of, identity and will. The westerner’s longing to separate him or herself from home and make contact with a foreign “other” arises from the high purposes that set imperial adventures in motion in the first place. Readings will include Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Forster’s Passage to India, Waugh’s Handful of Dust, Bowles’ Sheltering Sky, Stone’s Dog Soldiers, Duras’ The Lover, Greene’s A Burnt-Out Case. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1206 - French Films/American Remakes
FYSE 1207 - Stories, Myths & Natl Identity
Stories, Myths, and National Identity
What is national identity, and how important is it? How does national identity interact with and affect personal identity? How is the age of a nation determined? How does a nation become a state? Can a state become a nation? What are "invented traditions"? We will look at the way different texts and media are used in creating a sense of belonging, or not belonging, to a nation. We will study texts by Herodotus, Goethe, Fichte, Wagner, Shakespeare, Defoe, Nora, Yeats, Cooper, Turner, others. We will view films including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Capra), Lawrence of Arabia (Lean), Last of the Mohicans (Mann), The Promise (Trotta). 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1211 - Godel, Escher, Bach ▹
Gödel, Escher, Bach
At the turn of the 20th century, mathematics took an introspective turn when its practitioners attempted to organize reasoning itself into an axiomatic system of theorems and definitions. The results were provocative and ended in a kind of paradox when logician Kurt Gödel proved that all formalized logical systems would necessarily contain some unprovable truths. Reading Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach, we will discover the connections among seemingly disparate fields of mathematics, visual arts, and music. Our journey will pass through the philosophical worlds of Lewis Carroll, Artificial Intelligence, non-Euclidean geometry, Zen Buddhism, and crash head-on into questions about the nature of human consciousness and creativity. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1212 - Mathematics For All
Mathematics for All
What kinds of mathematical knowledge are necessary for full participation in contemporary democratic society? How well, and how fairly, do our schools educate students in quantitative skills and reasoning? By what measures might we judge success? We will learn about different approaches to mathematics education in light of these questions. Readings will include selections from Mathematics for Democracy: The Case for Quantitative Literacy (L.A. Steen, Editor), as well as recent articles by education researchers. To connect theory and actual practice, students in this class will conduct a service-learning project in a local school. All are welcome, regardless of mathematical background. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2010, Fall 2013
FYSE 1213 - Science in a Gendered World
Science in a Gendered World
We depend on science to produce objective knowledge about ourselves and our world. But what factors shape science itself? In this seminar we will investigate how issues of gender have influenced the institutions, practices, content, method and applications of science. We will examine patterns of women’s under-representation in the sciences, and consider the role of gendered assumptions in the production of knowledge about the sexes. We will also investigate philosophical questions of how science ought to be practiced, and whether or how gender needs to be taken into consideration. For example, how can we ensure that scientific results are not gender-biased, and how can we ensure the direction of research serves the interests of all? 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1214 - Space, Time, & Measurement
Space, Time, and Measurement
The ability to precisely measure time and distance is essential to modern science and technology. As measurement technologies developed, they led to scientific discoveries that redefined our fundamental understanding of space, time and measurement themselves. We will follow this process from Galileo’s pendulum through Einstein’s theory of relativity and modern applications in quantum mechanics and cosmology. We will use historical and scientific texts, analytic writing, and a few hands-on activities to understand these ideas and their impact on science and society. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1222 - Playing the Part
Playing the Part: Text Analysis and the Revelation of Character
In this seminar we will apply the actor’s techniques of text analysis and character development to the study of dramatic literature in the hopes that these tools can illuminate the texts in ways conventional approaches might not. This is not a performance class nor is acting experience a prerequisite. We will read six plays, and, using the technical tenets of Stanislavsky-based method acting, chart the characters’ progress through the script. We will watch plays on film, and travel to see a professional production. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1225 - Romantic Comedy in Film & Lit.
Romantic Comedy in Film and Literature
How has romantic comedy portrayed courtship and gender relations? We will explore the subject by looking at classic plays and contemporary films. In particular, we will consider the long standing conventions of the romantic comedy to better understand its evolution and contemporary expression. We will begin by reading a selection of Shakespeare's comedies such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It, among others. In addition, we will watch screen adaptations, such as Much Ado About Nothing and related films such as Shakespeare in Love. We will then consider other dramatists of romantic comedy including Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw. Finally, we will shift our focus to contemporary romantic comedy on screen and how the genre has evolved in popular culture. 3 hrs. sem./screen.
FYSE 1227 - Whither Russia
Over just the course of your lifetime, it might seem as if Russia – a country of rich cultural heritage, tremendous geographic size, military might, and natural resource wealth – has been thoroughly transformed. What kind of country has it become since the Soviet Union dissolved? To what extent has it democratized and integrated into the global economy? How have its people fared during this period? The answers to these questions remain the source of much debate. In this seminar we will explore the how’s and why’s of Russia’s transformation, addressing the consequences for its people and its global role. e)
FYSE 1228 - World of Winston Churchill
World of Winston Churchill
In this course we will examine the making of the modern world through the life of Winston Churchill, one of the architects of Post-WWII Europe and the contemporary Middle East. As a parliamentarian, champion of the British Empire, war-time leader, international negotiator, and unparalleled orator, Churchill’s impact is extraordinary. Major course themes will include British parliamentary life, colonial empire, World War I, state formation in the Middle East, the rise of Nazism, World War II, the United Nations, and the early Cold War. Course materials will include historical and political analysis, as well as Churchill’s speeches and film screenings. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1229 - Discovering Infinity
"Infinity" has intrigued poets, artists, philosophers, musicians, religious thinkers, physicists, astronomers, and mathematicians throughout the ages. Beginning with puzzles and paradoxes that show the need for careful definition and rigorous thinking, we will examine the idea of infinity within mathematics, discovering and presenting our own theorems and proofs about the infinite. Our central focus will be the evolution of the mathematician’s approach to infinity, for it is here that the concept has its deepest roots and where our greatest understanding lies. In the final portion of the course, we will consider representation of the infinite in literature and the arts. (four years of secondary school mathematics) 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1230 - Fictions of Growing Up
Fictions of Growing Up
One kind of novel that has retained great appeal is the so-called ‘novel of education’ (German bildungsroman ) which traces the individual’s growth from adolescence into adulthood. We will read some of the best known “novels of education” written in English (by Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, James Joyce, Edith Wharton, J.D. Salinger, and Jeffrey Eugenides). We will consider whether the novels confirm the findings of important psychologists (Freud, Erikson, Maslow) about adolescence and maturity. Through extensive reading, writing, and discussion we will learn to express ourselves with greater clarity, accuracy, and power. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1232 - Making Babies Brave New World
Making Babies in a Brave New World
In this seminar we will examine the fundamentals of human reproduction and modern reproductive intervention strategies. As rapid discoveries in medical technologies have allowed us to push the limits of the human body, questions remain as to whether we should pursue, permit, or regulate such advances. We will explore scientific, societal, ethical, and individual issues surrounding the control of fertility and infertility, fetal life, birth, and the neonatal period. Through critical review of the literature, writing, and informed dialogues, students will gain an understanding of key topics in reproductive medicine. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2012, Fall 2013
FYSE 1246 - Race/Difference in 20th-C Amer
Race & Difference in Twentieth-Century America
In this seminar we will investigate "race" as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon in the United States across the 20th century. By examining a variety of primary source material, including novels, autobiographies, and essays (e.g., Nell Larson’s Passing, 1929; Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets, 1967; Ruth Frankenberg’s White Women, Race Matters, 1993; and Vicki Nam’s Yell-Oh Girls, 2001), and films (e.g., Birth of a Nation, 1915; Imitation of Life, 1959; and Crash, 2004), we will analyze how the concept of race changed over time and how individuals and institutions defined and experienced race. Themes and topics to be covered include race and popular culture, race and identity, and race and social relations. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1247 - Everyday Life in South Africa
Everyday Life in South Africa, 1948-Present
In this seminar we will explore some of the social worlds of South Africans amid the country's recent decades of turbulent and dramatic change. We will look at how different groups within the nation's diverse population have understood and experienced the rise of the apartheid system, its demise, and its legacies in their "everyday" lives and interactions. We will draw from various sources - non-fiction, fiction, film, music, and other forms of popular culture - to interpret these social dynamics and their ongoing significance in a post-apartheid society. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1255 - Collapse of Complex Societies
Facing the Apocalypse: How Complex Societies Fade and Collapse
In this seminar we will examine how and why historically complex societies have failed. We will explore the roles of population pressure, environmental degradation, warfare, and other factors in the collapse of such ancient urban societies as the Classic Maya, Chaco, and the Roman Empire. Likewise, we will explore how societies seemingly well-adapted to their geographic environments, such as the Vikings in Greenland, ultimately succumbed to extinction. Reviewing academic and popular explanations for societal collapse worldwide, we will ultimately engage the modern era and investigate the fragility of contemporary societies.
FYSE 1257 - Laughter/Tears: Beckett, et al
Laughing Through Tears: The Comedy of Beckett, Pinter, and Frayn
In this seminar we will explore various comic forms in the plays of Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, and Michael Frayn, including farce, satire, comedy of manners and menace, situation comedy, and parody. Students will be engaged in class discussion, oral presentations, film viewing, and extensive written work. Acting experience is helpful but not a requirement. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1259 - Science and Science Fiction
Science and Science Fiction
More than just rocket ships, ray guns, and robots, science fiction frees us from the bounds of Earth’s present condition and allows us to explore worlds with alternate possibilities and futures, both positive and negative, for humankind. Often through interactions with and examples of things decidedly non-human we discover more about what it means to be human. We will read both science fact and science fiction (but not fantasy) literature to try to understand more about our humanity, our present world, and what might become of each in the future. Topics will include space travel, energy and the environment, the nature of the universe, and the meaning of life. We will write both fact-based essays as well as fictional stories. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1260 - Holocaust Landscapes ▹
The Holocaust was a profoundly geographical event that caused mass displacement and migration, destroyed or fundamentally changed communities, and created new places to control, exploit, or kill millions of people. In this seminar we will focus on material and mental landscapes – the places and spaces – of the Holocaust, particularly as victims experienced these landscapes, and how such landscapes have been selectively re-imagined as sites of memory. History, geography, autobiography, and visual sources will provide material for class discussion, research, and writing. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2010, Spring 2014
FYSE 1263 - African American Migrations
We Got to MOVE:African American Migrations
In this course we will consider the phenomenon of migration in 20th century African American life. We will draw on texts from fields such as literature (works by Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Lorraine Hansberry, and Dinaw Mengestu), art (paintings by Jacob Lawrence and Kerry James Marshall, FSA photos), music (blues, soul, and hip hop), sociology (Cayton and Drake, Black Metropolis), American Studies (Griffin, Who Set You Flowin’), and history (Berlin, The Making of African America). Our objectives will be to understand both the actual impact of the migrant experience on the African American community and African American artists’ creative responses to it. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1272 - Lit.& Philosophy of Friendship
Literature and Philosophy of Friendship
In this seminar, we will explore major works of literature and philosophy from earlier centuries on the topic of friendship to see how they support or challenge our own notions of what defines a “true” friend. What are the obligations of friendship? Is it like love or antithetical to it? How is friendship between the sexes different from same-sex friendships? Can an enemy be a friend? Can only humans be friends? What does our choice of friends say about us? Readings include Aristotle, Seneca, Plutarch, Augustine, Aquinas, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Bacon, Kant, and Emerson, as well as selected texts in non-European traditions. 3 hrs. sem.
Spring 2012, Fall 2013
FYSE 1282 - Chaos, Complexity, Self-Org
Chaos, Complexity, and Self-Organization
How does the complex emerge from the simple? Can complex phenomena, such as life and consciousness, be reduced to a purely physical description in terms of “fundamental particles” interacting through “fundamental forces”? Are there phenomena so complex that they cannot be reduced to a more fundamental level? Questions such as these lie at the heart of complexity science, a new conceptual framework for understanding emergent complexity in the natural and social sciences. Texts will include James Gleick, Chaos, and M. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity. Students will learn to write simple simulation programs using Mathematica software. Students with high school algebra, pre-calculus, and some familiarity with computer programming will be comfortable with the content of this course. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1286 - Keys to Dan Brown's Inferno
The Keys to Dan Brown’s /Inferno/
In this project-oriented seminar we will seek to examine, identify, and distinguish fact from fiction in the Dan Brown novel, Inferno (May 2013) popularized already on television and social media. We will explore in greater depth the codes, symbols, and secret passageways of Florence, Dante’s own Inferno, and Brown’s other novels. We will create and publish electronically a 21st century illustrated annotated guide to the novel using the latest in new technologies, wikis, Google mapping, graphics, and video.
FYSE 1287 - LA Immigration & Amer Dream
Latin American Immigration and the American Dream
Transnational migration, especially from Latin America, is transforming the ethnic composition of the United States at a time when our class inequalities are widening and our consumption levels are becoming unsustainable. In this seminar we will focus on migration streams from Mexico, Central America, and other parts of Latin America, and explore the implications for future generations. Will large migration streams make American society more tolerant and increase economic opportunities for the poor? Are large migration streams the product of inevitable historical forces, or do they instead result from decision-making by American elites? 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1291 - The Art of the Personal Essay
The Art of the Personal Essay
"One writes out of one thing only -- one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give. This is the only real concern of the artist, to recreate out of the disorder of life that order which is art." Launching ourselves from James Baldwin’s assertion, in this seminar will examine the artfulness of the personal essay by reading and critiquing examples from the genre’s beginnings in Michel de Montaigne’s Essais (“attempts”) in the 1580s, through such major modern American essayists as E.B. White, Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Stephen Jay Gould, to the contemporary scene of Dave Eggers, David Sederis, and emerging graphic essayists . What is essential to the genre? What has changed and continues to change? We will also attempt to force the last drops from our own personal experience.
FYSE 1292 - Cultural Formations of 1980s
The Cultural Politics of the 1980s
In this seminar, we will investigate cultural formations in the United States during the 1980s through a critical examination of fiction, music, television, art, and film. We will connect texts produced during and about the period with social, political, and economic transformations that began with the so-called “Reagan Revolution.” We will analyze social issues concerning race, class, gender, and sexuality through a variety of topics, including the Culture Wars, globalization and outsourcing, the ascendance of Wall Street, the rise of AIDS, attacks on the welfare state, the emergence of hip hop, and the Drug Wars. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1294 - Making History
History is ‘made’ as much by those who write about events as by those who cause and experience them. The Titanic, the Boxer Rebellion, and Alexander the Great share a power to generate historical meaning in multiple time periods. In this seminar we will look at the ways people make past events meaningful for themselves in their own historical circumstances. Using recent books about the Titanic disaster and the Boxer Rebellion as case studies, we will focus on the narratives of Curtius Rufus and Arrian to study how Greeks and Romans explained and emulated Alexander. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1295 - Visions of Mortality
Visions of Mortality
In this seminar we will examine the nature, meaning, and implications of our mortality. We will begin by examining historical and contemporary philosophical views on death and by considering questions such as: Can an understanding of death tell us anything about what makes life good? How should the fact of our mortality influence the lives we lead? We will then address contemporary biomedical issues regarding death, considering questions such as: How does technology influence our conception of death? What attitude ought we to embrace regarding increasing advances in life-extending medical treatments? Readings will likely include works by Tolstoy, Lucretius, Nagel, Camus, and Callahan. 3 hrs. sem.
Spring 2010, Fall 2012
FYSE 1296 - US Constitutional Democracy
America's Constitutional Democracy
America’s constitutional democracy rests on a foundation of political theory, constitutional law, and historical experience. By examining the writings of John Locke, James Madison, Alexis de Tocqueville, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and by reading a series of key Supreme Court rulings, we will explore how Americans have grappled with key questions involving liberty, equality, representation, and commerce. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1297 - African Diasporas in Americas
Introduction to the African Diasporas in the Americas
In this seminar we will focus on the impact of the African diasporas on American societies. We will begin by comparing and contrasting historical and demographic trends across the Americas, using as a point of reference specific examples of the African legacy in Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, and the United States. With the help of readings, films, musical texts, and independent research, we will spend the remainder of the semester studying three major themes: (1) trans-national movements such as Pan-Africanism, Negritude, and Black Power; (2) African diasporic religions such as Voudun, Santeria, and Candomblé; and (3) the role of “blackness” in the creation of musical styles from jazz and reggae to tango and samba. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1298 - Not on Stage/Out on Stage
Not On Stage/Out on Stage: US Gay and Lesbian Drama
From Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour to Tony Kushner's Angels in America, U.S. playwrights have given us a powerful testament to the struggles of homosexuals. In this seminar we will learn how to analyze American gay and lesbian plays from the conceptual, structural, and emotional perspectives of both director and actor. Secondary readings will locate the texts within the evolution of the construction and representation of homosexuality throughout the twentieth century: from closetedness, through Stonewall and the consolidation of gay and lesbian identities, and finally to the expansion of sexual diversity through “queerness.” In addition to discussions, we will stage scenes and watch cinematic renderings of scripts when available. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1299 - Making Urban African America
Making Urban African America
In this seminar we will primarily explore: (1) the history of how a particular urban African American environment (Black Chicago) was built; and (2) the ways that artists from that community used their creative media to chronicle and explain the reactions of the people housed in that built environment. We will draw on readings in history, sociology, geography, and critical race theory as we map the development of the city. Armed with those insights, we will examine creative texts from a variety of media including visual art, literature, music, and film.
FYSE 1300 - Ecological History New England
From the Forest Primeval to the Hardwood Grove: Exploring the Ecological History of New England
The New England landscape has been profoundly shaped by people; the traces of human activity can be seen in even its wildest corners. In this course we will trace the evolving relationship between people and forests, as recorded in literature, historical documents, and the trees themselves. We will use a variety of sources to reconstruct how New England forests have changed over the last 300-400 years, while tracing the simultaneous changes in how people perceived the forests around them. We will end by asking what the past teaches us about the future of New England forests in a time of rapid ecological change. 3 hrs sem.
FYSE 1301 - Rome on Stage and Screen
Ancient Rome on the Stage and Screen
In this seminar we will investigate the long history of Roman drama, from the ancient world to Shakespeare’s plays and contemporary films. As we explore the representation and reception of ancient Rome, we will address the following questions: What is the relationship between drama and history? To what political purposes can drama and film be used? How does the representation of characters change over time? How are women portrayed? Why does Rome continue to influence the modern world? Texts will include Octavia and the Satyricon; Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra; films will include Quo Vadis? and I, Claudius.
Fall 2010, Fall 2013
FYSE 1302 - C.S. Lewis Phil/Imagination
C.S. Lewis: Ecology, Philosophy, and Imagination
In this seminar we will explore the writings of C.S. Lewis, with an eye to how important philosophical and theological ideas evident in his non-fiction essays and books find expression in his major works of fantastic fiction - The Chronicles of Narnia and the Ransom Trilogy. Particular emphasis will be given to the implications of his view of nature and ecology. We will focus on Lewis’s own writing, especially his fantasy novels, but will also read a small selection of writing about Lewis, such as Alan Jacobs’ The Narnian.
FYSE 1303 - Rewriting Shakespeare
The boundary between creative writing and critical thinking is not always a clear one. Novelists, poets, and playwrights respond to other creative writers in their own work, borrowing elements of plot, character, and theme as they reshape existing material. Shakespeare borrowed from prior writers, and recent writers have woven aspects of his works into their own, occasionally with great success. In this seminar we will read, discuss, and write about three plays by Shakespeare in conjunction with three literary texts that respond to or “rewrite” them. Hamlet will be paired with Tom Stoppard’s Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, King Lear with Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, and The Tempest with Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day.
FYSE 1304 - Solvitur Ambulando
/Solvitur ambulando/: “It Is Solved by Walking.” The phrase is Latin, but it goes back to Diogenes and expresses the practical and embodied elements of problem solving and the creative process. We will look at the literature and lore of walking throughout history, myth, philosophy and literature, and take three walks of our own, alone, and with partners. Reading will include Wordsworth, Stevenson, Thoreau, Rebecca Solnit, Chatwin, Dr. Johnson, Montaigne, Basho, Hirsch, William James, Gary Snyder, and David Abram.
FYSE 1305 - Dead Technologies
The magic lantern, zoetrope, passenger pigeon, typewriter, and Brownie camera live with us today in different forms. These technologies may be dead, but they are not buried. What can we learn about the tools of the present and possibilities for the future by studying the innovations of the past? In this seminar, we will approach research as a creative process and mine historic technologies, works, and documents in preparation for our writing. We will comb through ephemera, visit an archive and a typewriter museum, learn modern tools for video editing and image manipulation, build our own microphones, and develop a magic lantern performance.
FYSE 1306 - Mountains of the Northeast
Mountains of the Northeast
The mountains of the northeastern U.S. are an integral part of the cultural and natural history of this region. In this seminar we will consider topics germane to northeastern mountains including the geologic origin of the northern Appalachians, characteristics of mountain environments, changing perceptions of northeastern mountains over time, mountains as resources for modern society, and challenges facing these environments today and in the future. Readings and discussion will be combined with field excursions to enhance our understanding of mountains from a variety of perspectives. 3 hrs sem./disc.
Fall 2010, Fall 2013
FYSE 1307 - Fascism & Masculinity, 1919-45
Fascism and Masculinity Around the World, 1919-1945
In this seminar we will explore how ideas about masculinity shaped the character and goals of fascist movements around the world between 1919 and 1945. We will investigate conceptions of gender, sexuality, race, and nation as manifested in paramilitary organizations, leadership cults, international sporting competitions, and the reorganization of work and domestic life. Texts will include scholarly monographs as well as films by Leni Riefenstahl, narratives by kamikaze pilots, and debates about cultural “degeneracy.” The seminar will provide an introduction to the historiography of fascism, methods of transnational inquiry, and the study of gender and sexuality.
FYSE 1308 - The East India Company
The East India Company
In this seminar you will be introduced to the English East India Company, from the 17th-century until its dissolution in 1858. Much of our focus will be on the Company’s presence in India, and we will pay particular attention to its transformation from a maritime trading company into a territorial colonial state. We will read a number of controversial texts from the period, immerse ourselves in the worlds of Company and Indian politics, and do guided research using holdings in Middlebury’s Special Collections. Topics will include the rise of the Company as a trading concern, its aggressive competition with other European trading monopolies and South Asian kingdoms, and the importance of opium in its dealings with China. We will end with a discussion of the Indian rebellion of 1857.
FYSE 1309 - True Believer
The True Believer
When he published The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, social thinker Eric Hoffer sought to explain exactly what inspires people to commit themselves passionately to causes defined by their unyielding belief. Like Hoffer, we will examine not only what has motivated individuals over time to join extremist social, political, and religious movements, but also the psychologies of those who have led them throughout history. We will try to determine precisely who the true believer is, and whether true belief is generally of greater benefit or harm to the believer and to broader society.
FYSE 1310 - Age of Michelangelo
The Age of Michelangelo
Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) was one of greatest artists of the Italian renaissance. As painter, sculptor, and architect, he redefined each of those fields of creative endeavor. He was also a prolific writer of letters and poetry, a shrewd businessman, a tireless promoter of his family, and one of the most famous personalities of his era. We will examine the entire range of Michelangelo's achievement in the context of his age. His seventy-two year long career included service to the Medici court in Florence, the short lived Florentine republic, rich connoisseurs in Bologna and Rome, and seven popes. 3 hrs. sem/disc.
FYSE 1311 - Fellini and the Art of Cinema
Federico Fellini and the Art of Cinema
In this seminar we will examine some of the films of the great Italian director Federico Fellini (The White Sheik, I vitelloni, La strada, The Nights of Cabiria, Il bidone, La dolce vita, 8 ½/, /Amarcord). We will analyze these films in relation to contemporary Italian society and discuss how the philosophical and ethical questions they present relate to our own reality today. Special attention will be paid to uncovering the artistic underpinnings of Fellini’s cinema through formal analysis of the films.
Fall 2010, Fall 2013
FYSE 1312 - Boccaccio's Decameron
Narrating the World: Bocaccio's Decameron
The Decameron by the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio is a collection of stories ranging from the tragic to the comic, from the holy to the profane. In this course we will read Boccaccio’s short stories (novelle), discuss critical studies, analyze in depth the relationship of each novella to the whole work, and study the
Decameron using a variety of theoretical approaches. We will also compare the
Decameron with other famous collections such as Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and the Thousand and One Nights.
FYSE 1313 - Exploring Literary Translation
Disturbing Difference: Exploring Literary Translation
Translation is fundamental to cultural exchange in a globalizing world. Yet few of us are conscious of the role it plays in our lives, and fewer still actually practice the art of translation. In this seminar, we will examine current thinking in translation theory, sample excellent translations, talk and write about them, and then develop our own skills by translating works from various genres and languages for consideration by the group. [Note: Students are required to have a strong reading knowledge of at least one language other than English and be prepared to translate from that language into English.]
Fall 2010, Fall 2012
FYSE 1314 - The Mathematical Gardner
The Mathematical Gardner
In this seminar we will have an “orgy of right-brain tomfoolery” as inspired by the writings of Martin Gardner. For several decades Gardner’s contributions to Scientific American in the form of his column on mathematical games bridged the divide between professional mathematicians and the general public. He shared with us like no other, introducing or popularizing topics such as paper-folding, Hex, polyominoes, four-dimensional ticktacktoe – the list goes on seemingly forever. We will examine these mathematical curiosities and Gardner’s literary style – the former for pure pleasure and the latter in the hopes of emulation.
FYSE 1315 - Wagner's Ring
Wagner's Ring: The Twilight of the Gods and the Invention of the Twentieth Century
The four operas of Wagner's Ring des Niebelungen represent one of the most imposing documents of modern Western civilization. This monumental work sums up central strands of 19th century philosophical, political, social, and musical thought and in all those realms it has served as a foundation for key thinkers, ideologies, and cultural productions that shaped the 20th century, from Freud and Jung to Nazism and film scores. We will explore the operas and their sources in depth through listening, reading, and regular viewing sessions, as well as consider the way Wagner’s art has shaped rather than simply mirrored European history. (No previous musical experience is required or expected.)
FYSE 1316 - The Work of Art
The Work of Art: Labor in Contemporary Literature and Visual Culture
In this seminar we will examine imaginative accounts of work and workers in recent literature, art, and film. Garment workers, miners, computer programmers, taxi drivers, teachers, and sex workers will take center stage as we consider the shifting meanings of paid and unpaid labor in contemporary culture. Class materials will consist of an international mix of novels, poems, photographs, performance pieces, theoretical texts, documentaries, and feature films. Topics to be considered include women’s work, labor migrations, the rise of service work and other forms of “affective” labor, and the representation of the body at work. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1317 - The Philosophy of Human Rights
The Philosophy of Human Rights
What are human rights? If there are human rights, what duties or responsibilities, if any, follow from them, and who is morally obligated to bear those duties? In this seminar, we will investigate the philosophical origins and development of the concept of human rights. We will critically analyze both historical and contemporary moral perspectives on the existence and nature of human rights. What does it mean to say that one possesses a human right? In addition to examining the existence and nature of human rights, we will take a close look at the issue of human rights related to world poverty and minority group rights.
FYSE 1318 - Exploring Wilderness Writing
Out of the Wilderness and Onto the Page
For over a century, men and women have engaged in recreational exploration and mountaineering. Many have shared their experiences with the public through journal articles and books, that emphasize the highly personal nature of their adventures. Through readings of fictional and non-fictional accounts we will attempt to appreciate the joy, humor, and sorrow these adventurers have chosen to document. We will also examine debates in print on such issues as ethics, style, and outdoor education, and consider the relative merits of written and filmed accounts. 3 hrs. sem./disc./screening
FYSE 1319 - Afghanistan and Iraq
Afghanistan and Iraq
In this seminar we will examine the ongoing wars and conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The seminar will focus on the history of conflict in the region in the 1990s, the initial war in Afghanistan in 2001, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, and the recent military surge in Afghanistan. Subjects will include military transformation, strategic doctrine, and the rise of counterinsurgency theory and its changing practice on the ground. We will watch documentaries and other films, and read political and military analyses and histories, memoirs, and a work of fiction.
FYSE 1320 - Visual Culture and Science
Picturing Science, Imaging Truth: Visual Culture of the Real
Images, photos, and film are key to our understanding of the world, yet we tend to take these representational practices for granted. Focusing on visual culture of the sciences we will explore the historical link between imaging practices and our perceptions of what is real and what is true. We will analyze the specific strategies through which scientific truth, objectivity, and empiricism are signaled through images across different media. Some questions animating the course are: How do images convey truth? How is the human body represented in science, medical culture, and popular culture? How are race, gender, sexual difference, and the animal-human divide depicted in science?
FYSE 1321 - The Creative Mind
The Creative Mind
Creativity is uniquely human, highly prized, and defines the excellence of individuals. But what does it mean to be creative? What goes on inside the brain of a Mozart, Shakespeare, or Tina Fey during the creative process? Is a creative individual a master of all trades or just one? Is there any relationship between creativity and mental illness? Creativity will be examined and discussed via readings and films from the fields of psychology, philosophy, art, and neurobiology. Three themes will be addressed: the creative experience in art, science, and business; the biological basis of imagination; and the influence of the environment on creativity.
FYSE 1322 - Ethics in Literature and Film
The Moral of the Story: Exploring Ethics through Literature and Film
Ethics is the study of how we ought to live and the people we ought to be. For millennia, theologians and philosophers have constructed arguments that inform our understanding of morality, but for much longer people have told stories that address perennial questions in ethics. What is human dignity? How should we balance respect for the individual with society's needs? Is the pursuit of perfection noble or dangerous? In this seminar we will explore foundational themes in ethics as they are raised in classic English literature, contemporary novels, and films. Readings will include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, and Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. Films may include Gattaca, Talk to Her, and Dirty Pretty Things.
FYSE 1323 - Anthropology & Climate Change
Anthropology and Climate Change
Climate change has become one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century, and much of the discussion about its causes and consequences is based on the biophysical sciences and is strongly influenced by political and economic interests. Anthropology offers a wider set of perspectives on climate change. In this seminar we will examine cross-cultural case studies of past and present responses to climate change. We will look at how technological, economic, social, political, and spiritual dynamics shape the way people understand and react to climate change. Key themes will include gender and vulnerability, social-ecological resilience, climate ideologies, development policy, social scale, and ethnometeorology.
FYSE 1324 - Race and the Fantastic
Race and the Fantastic
How do categories of race in fantastic literature, art, and digital media mirror the way race is understood and lived in the real world? In this seminar we will employ the insights of critical race scholars to study literary works by Mandeville, Swift, Tolkien, and Mieville, as well as a variety of films and games. Principal issues and topics will include: the representation of “absolute others”; models of racial/ethnic hybridity and assimilation; intersections of race, gender and sexuality; and problematic linkages of cultures to phenotypes.
FYSE 1325 - Heterosexual Relationships
Men and Women: Love and Hate in Heterosexual Relationships
This is a seminar on literature, gender politics, and cultural history. We will read a selection of influential literary and philosophical texts on marriage, romance, troubled relationships, and the struggle for power between men and women spanning classical Athens to present, and we will review characters from history, mythology, and popular culture who have influenced our ideas and attitudes about heterosexual relationships. We will discuss theoretical readings by Plato, Freud, McKinnon, and Pateman; and literary works by Aristophanes, James Ellroy, Alice Sebold, Kawabata, Lispector, and Juan Bonilla.
FYSE 1326 - Class and the Environment
Class and the Environment
In this seminar we will explore how and why, in a world being divided into consumer markets, sources of cheap labor and raw materials, and ecological sacrifice zones, the most vulnerable are disenfranchised into communities of poor and working class people. We will examine the future of the environment and “free" market economy and the prospectus of radical green and democratic movements. Through reading, writing, and discussion we will investigate such texts as The Struggle for Environmental Justice to learn how communities face the task of linking protest strategies to the building of positive alternatives.
FYSE 1327 - The Creative Habit
The Creative Habit: Exploring Creativity and Identity
Who am I? How does my perspective of the world shape my identity? What happens if I follow my gut rather than my rational mind? How can creativity become as habitual as speaking, debating, and calculating? These are the questions that underlie The Creative Habit. Drawing on Twyla Tharp’s text by the same title, we will investigate (or excavate!) our creative selves and how an awareness of that self influences our artistic pursuits, decision-making, problem solving, and building relationships. This highly personal and individual creative experience is explored through numerous artistic projects, group activities, discussions, readings, and extensive writing.
FYSE 1328 - Elements of Murder
The Elements of Murder
In this seminar we will study a combination of history, chemistry, factual crime, and fictional crime surrounding the darker side of some of the elements. Mercury, arsenic, antimony, lead, thallium have notorious reputations for causing accidental death and as instruments of murder. Readings will include The Elements of Murder, by John Emsley; Beethoven's Hair: An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific Mystery Solved by Russell Martin; The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie, and Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers. We will spend some time in the lab investigating the properties of these elements. 3 hrs. sem/disc./lab
FYSE 1329 - Caveman Chemistry
Caveman Chemistry and Low-Tech Living
Long before the Industrial Revolution, humans routinely transformed mundane natural materials into incredibly useful goods. Stone into bronze tools! Plants into colorful dyes and fat into soap! Using Caveman Chemistry as our guide, we will create a sampling of our own primitive goods using low-tech methods and explore the chemistry behind these seemingly magical transformations. Complementing our chemical glimpse into the past, we will explore current-day motivations for creating from scratch and reducing personal reliance on modern technology by reading current works, including Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, conduct our own low-tech lifestyle experiments, and meet with local artisans.
FYSE 1330 - Economic Development-Ground Up
Each year $100 billion in aid is spent worldwide to developing countries to help raise “the bottom billion.” In this seminar, we will examine problems of, and (potential) solutions to, economic development, starting from the individual experience of poverty. Employing a microeconomic framework, but also drawing on other social sciences, we will assess how some of that $100 billion is used, examining current development programs and policies (such as health, education, microfinance, labor migration, community-based development, etc.).
FYSE 1331 - The Sixties: Writings on Art
The Sixties: Writings on Art
“I am for an art that helps old ladies cross the street.” So wrote Claes Oldenburg in 1961, defining his version of Pop Art. In this seminar we will explore writings on visual art from 1960 America and Europe by both critics and practicing artists. We will engage the difficulties of using language to explain visual material, and the challenges this creates for artists, critics, and historians, with particular emphasis on understanding the cultural and political shifts of the 1960s. We will read essays, statements, reviews, and interviews from the period, in addition to recent contextual and critical material.
FYSE 1332 - Reading Africa
What do we know about Africa? In this seminar we will explore this vast continent through novels written about it. African and non-African writers will help us discover the continent’s geographies, histories, cultures, and politics. We will study particular issues affecting Africans over the centuries including colonialism, dictatorial rule, the aid business, women’s rights, and racism. With the help of films and student presentations, we will focus on Algeria, Nigeria, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
FYSE 1333 - Epidemics
In this seminar we will explore epidemics from a social scientific perspective. Examining disease outbreaks from the black plague to swine flu, we will explore questions like: What is an epidemic? What are the social factors that put certain populations at risk for disease? Why do some epidemics get extensive media attention, while others that kill many more people remain invisible? In this seminar we will read and discuss case studies of epidemics and theoretical perspectives on why they happen. Students will carry out a research project on an epidemic of their choice.
FYSE 1334 - Theatre and Social Change
Art Matters: Theatre and Social Change
In this course we will begin with the question: how can art, specifically theatrical art, impact the world around us? The course will explore, first historically, and then with a contemporary focus, various companies, playwrights and activists involved in theatre for change (political, social, environmental). The class will contain an experiential component – students will be required to devise and perform various scenarios designed to impact a specifically targeted issue (or issues). Readings will include theory, literature (plays by authors such as Brecht, Peter Weiss, Eve Ensler), and the histories of various groups.
FYSE 1335 - Cold War Culture
Cold War Culture
“Without the Cold War, what’s the point of being American?” So asks Rabbit Angstrom, the main character in John Updike’s 1990 novel, Rabbit at Rest. In this course, we will examine the Cold War’s impact on American culture throughout the period 1945-1991, with a focus on art, literature, television, film, consumer culture, and politics. Texts will include Luce, The American Century; Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking; Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle; and Plath, The Bell Jar. Films will include The Thing from Another World!/, /Dr. Strangelove, and Terminator. 3 hrs. sem
Fall 2011, Fall 2013
FYSE 1336 - Tell About the South
“Tell About the South”: Exploring Southern Cultures*
In William Faulkner's novel Absalom, Absalom!/, Southerner Quentin Compson's Harvard roommate says to him: "Tell about the South. What's it like there. What do they do there. Why do they live there. Why do they live at all?" These questions, posed by a Canadian, underpin our class study. In this seminar we will investigate the widespread perception of the South as a distinctive region that may--or may not--be in jeopardy of disappearing into a more homogenous national identity. By examining southern culture through a variety of disciplinary lenses, we will begin to explore why, how, and with what results this regional identity has evolved. Together we will explore the South’s social, economic, and cultural development, focusing on artistic representations of the region in literature, film, photography, music, and popular culture.
FYSE 1337 - Forests and Carbon Neutrality
Can Vermont’s Forests Help Us Achieve Carbon Neutrality?
As interest in finding local energy sources has risen in recent years, Vermont’s landscape is increasingly being looked to as a source of local, renewable fuel. In this course, we will explore the ecological consequences of increased use of forests for energy production and examine how the shift towards biomass-based energy contributes to Middlebury’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality. Using both published research and our own field investigations at local research sites, we will explore the ability of the local landscape to supply biomass, and consider the possible unintended ecological consequences of that change in land use. 3 hrs sem.
FYSE 1338 - Biology of Stress
Biology of Stress
Stress is a concept that permeates many aspects of our daily lives, yet most people know surprisingly little about the underlying biological causes of the body’s stress response. In this course we will explore the physiological, behavioral, and cognitive consequences of chronic and acute exposure to stressors. What are the evolutionary benefits of the stress response? How are various diseases linked to stress? Why are some people better at coping with stress than others? We will use Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky as our primary text, and this will be supplemented with readings from scientific journals. 3 hrs sem.
FYSE 1340 - Race, Class & Educ. Inequality
Race, Class, and Educational Inequality
In this course we will critically examine race and class inequality in education. We will primarily focus on the U.S. education system, paying particular attention to the often-confusing labyrinth that students and families must navigate. Students will be asked to reflect on their own educational path and how their social position has potentially shaped their educational experiences, opportunities, and outcomes. We will engage theatre, hip-hop, and popular media sources to interrogate the ways schools, students, and teachers are portrayed. Finally, we will examine the impact of educational policies on students, families, and teachers. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1341 - The Bronte Sisters
The Brontë Sisters
Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë produced some of the most outstanding and outrageous fiction and poetry in English. In this course we will read four of their novels: the classic Jane Eyre and the somber, visionary Villette (both by Charlotte), the wild and gothic Wuthering Heights (Emily’s only novel), and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (by Anne), a strident critique of women’s social oppression. In addition, we will read some of their poetry and their fanciful juvenilia. Readings will also include theoretical, historical, and biographical essays about the Brontës’ lives and literature. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1342 - Creativity in the Digital Age
Creativity in the Digital Age
How have the digital tools of contemporary culture shifted notions of creativity and originality? In this course we will examine digital authorship in remix culture, fan culture, and cross-media production. We will explore shifts in notions of author and audience as they play out in online sites like Facebook, Livejournal, Youtube, and Twitter. We will read academic and popular writing addressing these questions, and students will also investigate questions of digital culture through creative production. Class work will include primary and secondary research, analytic writing, blogging, and video remix. 3 hrs. sem/3 hrs. screening
FYSE 1343 - The Migrant Experience
The Migrant Experience
Migration is a powerful force shaping both individual identities and composition of communities. Some scholars have argued that mobility increasingly defines what it means to be modern. In this course, we will explore migration experiences through literary works ranging from The Grapes of Wrath to How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents. We will supplement these works of literature with selections of research articles from the social sciences that engage the questions and situations depicted in the works of fiction. Through readings, class discussions, and an array of writing assignments, we will gain a deep understanding of the migration experience as well as how scholars from different disciplines approach migration as an object of study. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1344 - Culinary History of Italy
Time Around A Table: A Culinary History of Italy
Food is a window into the culture and values of any society. In this seminar we will explore the history of Italian culture by investigating the ever-changing issues relating to food, through books, articles, films, recipes, and cooking. How did production and consumption change over time? What did the Ancient Romans eat? What was Italian cuisine like before pasta and tomatoes? What triggered the Italian appetite to change? Such questions allow us to examine what culinary choices reveal about today’s Italy. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2011, Fall 2013
FYSE 1345 - Art of Contemplation
The Art of Contemplation
What would it be like to attend to oneself, to others, and to the world with the concentration and insight of a Zen-inspired poet? How does a forest, a river, a neighborhood, or a city feel to an artist or writer in open attentiveness to the immediate environment? This course invites students to experience contemplative knowing of self and surroundings through practices of meditation, observation, journaling, photographing, and sketching. We will define contemplative knowing through our own critical engagement with essays, poems, installations, and films arising from meditative practices in ancient and modern times. Our study begins with Japanese literary and visual artists Saigyo, Basho, Buson, and Ozu. We will then explore recent examples of contemplative engagement in works by international artists Andy Goldsworthy, Olafur Eliasson, Tabaimo, and Maya Lin. We conclude with a problematical question: does contemplative observation open us to compassion for others? To probe this issue we will examine works by street photographer JR and documentary filmmaker Zana Briski. 3 hrs. sem/disc.
FYSE 1346 - Math Models Bio & Epidemiology
Mathematical Modeling in Biology and Epidemiology
Population growth, species interactions, and the transmission and treatment of infectious diseases have long been central foci in biology. Mathematical modeling has tremendously influenced the ongoing research in these areas and has greatly contributed to our understanding. In this course we will investigate a variety of discrete and continuous mathematical models used in these areas. We will explore original research and will learn how to critique existing models. We will formulate and investigate our own questions by building, analyzing, and testing new models. (Calculus) 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1347 - Everything A Cappella
Singing A Cappella
In this seminar we will explore the role of vocal music in art, society, and personal expression through the history and style of a cappella singing from antiquity to the present. We will create a cappella group performance projects that emphasize vocal sounds, different cultural traditions, and individual talents. Group discussions will address how this music reflects human experience and society. Writing assignments will include music reviews and essays. Concepts in vocal technique, improvisation, and ensemble singing will be explored. Specific interest in vocal music is encouraged but no prior vocal study is required.
FYSE 1348 - The EU, A Global Actor
The EU: A Global Actor
With 27 members and 498 million citizens, the European Union (EU) has become a global actor that is hard to ignore. In this course, we will focus on the historical development of this unique economic and political entity and on its increasing importance in the world. We will reflect on both the opportunities and the limitations of the EU to solve global issues. We will study the inner workings of the EU as well as its role in several policy areas such as trade, development, security, and environmental policy. We will also address the EU’s impact on neighboring countries and the bilateral relations of the EU with key players in the world, notably the United States, Russia, and China. 3 hrs sem.
FYSE 1349 - Amer Constitutional Democracy
American Constitutional Democracy
In this seminar we will examine the principles and practices of the American political regime. Our goal is to grasp the evolving relationship between major public controversies in American politics, and the theoretical writings on liberty and equity that have influenced America’s political development. Topics and texts will include the founding debates and documents, Tocqueville’s interpretation of American democracy, Mill’s defense of liberty, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and a range of landmark Supreme Court cases that confront the enduring tension between majority rule and the protection of minority rights. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1350 - Prejudice in America
Prejudice and Discrimination in America
Prejudice and discrimination have long been the focus of psychological research, yet clear solutions to these intractable problems remain elusive. In this course we will explore the origins of stereotypes and their relationship to prejudice and discrimination. We will consider historical and contemporary prejudice, explore its prevalence, its social and personal consequences, as well as possible avenues to reduce or eliminate its existence. We will read research literature, news stories, legal writings, fiction, and social commentary. Although we will focus primarily on ethnicity and race, prejudice based on sex, sexual orientation, and other dimensions will also be considered. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1351 - Ancient Alexandria
Ancient Alexandria: Crucible of Religious Innovation
Alexandria was one of the most important cities of the ancient Mediterranean world. Melding elements of Pharaonic Egypt and Alexander the Great’s world, it became a major center for the arts and sciences. It also became a crucible for religious innovation, which will be the focus of this seminar. Reading both ancient and modern sources, we will examine the ways Alexandria’s earliest leaders linked Egyptian and Hellenistic religious traditions, the role of Alexandria’s Jews in the shaping of Diaspora Judaism, the contributions its churches made to the development of Christianity, and how the proponents of these traditions interacted with one another. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1352 - Narrating Space & Place
Narrating Space and Place
In this seminar we will study how space and place are represented in literature, film, and art. We will get acquainted with theories about the differences between space and place, place and non-place, as well as the exchanges between urban, suburban, and rural environments. We will read texts by Jorge Luis Borges, Georges Perec, and César Aira; discuss the theories of Gaston Bachelard and Marc Augé; analyze artwork by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Johann Moritz Rugendas; and comment on modern urban planning in Latin America. Writing assignments will focus on strategies for narrating and describing places, both the real places we live in, and the imaginary spaces we project in our mental world, from college campuses and rural towns, to metropolises and cemeteries. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1353 - Poetry in Exile
Poetry in Exile
In this seminar we will read and study poetry written in Spanish and English. We will cover a selection of 20th and 21st century Spanish-American and Spanish poets who wrote in exile, such as Vicente Huidobro, Pablo Neruda, Jorge Luis Borges, Federico García Lorca, César Vallejo, Cristina Peri Rossi, Julia Álvarez, and many others. Our main purpose is to undertake close readings of poetic texts, taking into consideration issues of voice, space, and diasporas. This seminar will be taught in Spanish and will cover comparisons between the two languages. This is an appropriate seminar for native speakers of Spanish, students who are bilingual, and students who have scored 720 or above on the Spanish SAT II, or 5 on the Spanish AP.
FYSE 1354 - The American Dream
The American Dream: Fact or Fantasy?
This seminar is designed for non-native speakers of English, and aims to answer the question, “What is the American Dream?” We will consider the ways that the American Dream has been conceptualized by historians, politicians, journalists, activists, and artists. We will read works by authors such as Alexis de Tocqueville, James Baldwin, Betty Friedan, Howard Zinn, Maya Angelou, Julia Alvarez, and Jennifer Hochschild. Film screenings include How the West Was Won (1962) and Crash (2004). Students will develop a range of skills for academic speaking, reading, and research, and will write multiple drafts of short and long papers. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1355 - Oratory: Winning the Soul
Oratory: Winning the Soul with Words
What do the great speeches of history have in common with a winning slam poem, an inspirational locker room speech, or a TEDTalk gone viral? Do the tools of persuasion change when the speaker is fictional? With guidance from Aristotle and Winston Churchill, we will apply the principles of rhetoric to a wide variety of speeches in which a highly-motivated speaker attempts to “win the soul” of the audience. In addition to analytical writing, students will deliver two short speeches of their own, completing an immersion into oratory designed to help them communicate with precision, empathy, and authority.
FYSE 1356 - Disability/Difference/Society
Disability, Difference, and Society
In this course we explore the varied and evolving meanings of disability—as condition, lived experience, and analytical framework—and the contexts that shape these meanings. Dominant issues, including representation, education, employment, bioethics, institutions, community, and policies and rights, will serve as our touchstones for research, analysis, and learning. We will pay rigorous attention to the links between disability and other significant social categories, such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, gender, sexual orientation and identification, and age. While the United States is highlighted in this class, transnational and global components will figure significantly as well. Course materials and assignments offer different disciplinary approaches and writing styles, fostering both individual and collective work. Films, on line exhibits, music, advertising, popular media, and the material world reflect the wide range of sources on which this course draws.
FYSE 1357 - White People
White people are often invisible when it comes to having a race. In this course we will begin by considering the formation of whiteness in post-Civil War America. We will read histories of whiteness, such as Grace Elizabeth Hale's Making Whiteness and David Roediger’s The Wages of Whiteness, as well as consider important milestones in whiteness, from the films Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind to the blog "What White People Like." Finally we will use essays, blogs, photographs, and videos to make white people at Middlebury visible by documenting how they represent themselves through belief systems, language, dress, and rituals. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1358 - Values and Objectivity
Values and Objectivity
Objectivity is desirable in many forms of inquiry, including science, law, and scholarship. Many think that objectivity requires that inquirers’ social, political, and moral values play no part in their judgments. But is this the correct link between objectivity and values? If so, how much of our current inquiry is genuinely objective? If not, how would it be possible to speak objectively about values? Does objectivity presuppose its own set of values? Are some social and political arrangements (e.g., democracy) more effective in securing objectivity? 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1359 - The American Art Museum
The American Art Museum
Americans are awash in a sea of art. Only some of it, however, finds its way into museums where it is seen in temporary exhibits or permanent collections. Who decides what gets in or stays out? Why do museums have most of their collections hidden away? What roles do auction houses, art dealers, and collectors play? What determines the monetary value of art? In this seminar we will probe answers to these questions and create an exhibit of objects that tells us much about ourselves but is unlikely ever to be seen in a museum. Our primary text will be The Art Museum From Boullée to Bilbao by Andrew McClellan. 3 hrs sem.
FYSE 1360 - From Synapse to Self
From Synapse to Self
The discoveries of psychology and neuroscience challenge long-standing Western conceptions of personal identity, the permanence of the self, and the nature of free will. Can networks of neurons alone store memories and give rise to thought, agency, and moral behavior? Are all thoughts and behaviors biologically determined? Is our sense of a unitary, permanent self an illusion? In this seminar we will explore these questions; examine the relationships between nervous system function, mental processes, and personal identity; and survey the development and influence of "brain science" by reading and discussing the works of scientists, philosophers, novelists, and artists. 3 hrs sem.
FYSE 1361 - Intro to Contemporary China
Introduction to Contemporary Chinese Culture, Politics, and Society
Is China poised to rule the world? Are we already living in the shadow of China’s economic dominance? Is China’s soft power transforming global culture? Is China a fragile superpower? In this seminar we will prepare to answer these questions, all of which have been raised in recently published books, by studying some of the important people, events, ideas, stories, and films in 20th- and 21st-century China. Our inquiry will be guided by the assumption that we cannot understand what China’s rise means until we acquire a basic understanding of Chinese culture, politics, and society. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1362 - Sophocles and Athens ▹
Sophocles and Athens
What can we learn from Sophocles, the tragic playwright whose life spans the Athenian 5th century BCE? Why do his tragedies—composed against the background of Athens’ incredible achievements, its radical democracy, but also its ever more aggressive foreign policy—reflect so poignantly on the human condition? In this seminar we will trace Sophocles’ effort to probe the mysteries of the soul, both of the individual and of the community, and to confront the riddle of human existence. In addition to studying his seven surviving plays in their historical context, we will also consider their profound impact on later thought and art, including opera and film. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2012, Spring 2014
FYSE 1363 - Humans, Computers, & Souls
Humans, Computers, and Souls
In this seminar we will contrast two philosophies of human nature, known as physicalism and integrative dualism. The physicalist view, represented by noted figures such as philosopher Daniel Dennett and biologist Richard Dawkins, understands humans as complex biochemical computers whose minds are reducible to physical brains. A competing view, referred to by philosopher Charles Taliafero as “integrative dualism”, sees humans as both spiritual and physical beings. We will touch on philosophy of computation, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and philosophy of soul, with readings from Dennett, Dawkins, Taliafero, and also Raymond Kurzweil, C.S.Lewis, and others. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1364 - Spark, Creativity, Life, Art
Spark! Creativity, Life, Art
In our seminar, we will explore processes by which ideas emerge and are given life as works of art that are performed, exhibited, installed, or projected. Our exploration will be hands-on and experiential, an opportunity to dig deeply into personal creativity and to experiment with many media. We will pay special attention to individual ways of perceiving, handling materials, making choices, creating products, and making meaning. We will write about everything: experience, belief, discovery, readings, artists, process, and product. Readings will come from traditional and contemporary literature about creativity. A self-designed final project will cap the semester. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1365 - Soc Entrepreneurship-Justice
Social Entrepreneurship and Social Justice
What is social entrepreneurship? What is social justice? How do these ideals complement each other? In this seminar we will study the theory and practice of social entrepreneurship and apply what we learn to issues related to the development of societal solutions to large-scale: poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and expansion of human rights. Students will undertake research projects on how to implement a specific solution, based on their own ideals and interests, in collaboration with the Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1366 - Literature's Seven Deadly Sins
Literature's Seven Deadly Sins
Because sin is the indispensable engine of most stories worth telling, this seminar will introduce students to the critical analysis of poetry, drama, and fiction through an encounter with literary representations of each of the Seven Deadly Sins. While our main business will be to investigate how literature invites us to understand—and perhaps even love—the sinner, we will also take time to consider both the traditional (religious, moral, philosophical) and modern (psychological, political) understanding of these moral lapses, and to speculate about why different observers perceive one or the other of them as being especially heinous or, conversely and perversely, a virtue in disguise. Readings will include Dickinson, Yeats, Shakespeare, Pinter, Coetzee, and Dickens.
FYSE 1367 - Remembering the Civil War
Confederates in Our Attic: Remembering the Civil War
“The Civil War is our felt history—history lived in the national imagination,” wrote Robert Penn. Certainly, the Civil War occupies a prominent place in our national memory and has served to both unite and divide Americans for the past 150 years. In this seminar we will examine the cultural, social, and intellectual terrain of myth, manners, and historical memory of the American South. We will focus particularly on the ways in which Americans have chosen to remember their civil war through literature, (Gurganus’ The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Frazier’s Cold Mountain), film (Gone with the Wind, Glory, Ken Burns’ Civil War, Sherman’s March, C. S. A./), and other visual arts (including works by Kara Walker, and civil war photography from Brady to the present). We will also consider institutions, places, and objects associated with historical memory (Gettysburg, Richmond’s Monument Avenue, Stone Mountain, disputes over displays of the Confederate flag) with an eye toward exploring the war’s presence in the collective imagination of the nation. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1368 - Many Faces in Science
Many Faces in Science
Are scientists very different from artists? In this seminar we will read biographies of Nobel Prize winning scientists including Marie Curie, Richard Feynman, James Watson, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Linus Pauling, and Kary Mullis to learn the human and artistic sides of these scientists. While we will look at the impact and significance of the work of these scientists, we will not focus on technical details of their science. We may, in the end, discover that they are also fun-loving, creative artists, far from the “scientist” stereotype. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1369 - U.S. Economy & Immigrants
Immigrants and the U.S. Economy
The demise of national origin quotas for U.S. immigration in 1965, and its replacement with an emphasis on family reunification, opened the gates to a large and increasing flow of immigrants from the developing countries. Accordingly, this seminar will focus, within an interdisciplinary framework, on such currently pressing immigration issues as: are native-born low-skill workers displaced by recent immigrants? Is English language proficiency crucial for immigrant assimilation in the labor market? What is the role of close-knit communities in facilitating immigrant entrepreneurial activities? The mixture of perspectives should help shed light on diverse immigration policy options. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1370 - Fiction Northern New England
Fictions of Northern New England
In this seminar we will read recent works of fiction set in northern New England. Our goals will be to develop critical thinking, reading, writing, and speaking skills while becoming more familiar with the region where you are attending college. Our focus will be the cultural, social, and economic circumstances that shape character and setting. Readings will include Where the Rivers flow North, by Howard Frank Mosher; In the Fall, by Jeffrey Lent; The Cider House Rules, by John Irving; Olive Kitteredge, by Elizabeth Strout; Affliction, by Russell Banks; Empire Falls, by Richard Russo; The Beans of Egypt, Maine, by Carolyn Chute. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1371 - Virginia Woolf in Context
Virginia Woolf in Context
In this seminar we will focus on the novels, essays, and short stories of Virginia Woolf, considering them in the light of her social, political, and artistic contexts and commitments. We will explore in particular the tension in her work between Victorian values and aesthetics and the progressive goals of the modernist movement. Our readings will take us from the early novels (Voyage Out, Night and Day) to the later experimental works (To the Lighthouse, Orlando, The Waves). Some of the topics central to the seminar will be Woolf’s engagement with modernism and its key figures (such as James Joyce); her treatment of gender and sexuality in her essays and elsewhere; and her struggles with mental illness. We will intersperse our reading of Woolf’s prose with consideration of some film versions of her work, and we will conclude the seminar with a reading of Michael Cunningham’s 1998 creative homage to Mrs. Dalloway: The Hours.
FYSE 1372 - The Personal & the Political
The Quiet American’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting the Thing around your Neck: The Personal and the Political
If one of the ideas behind the famous 1960s statement “the personal is political” is to suggest that how we conduct ourselves in our private lives can affect structures of power in society at large, the reverse is also true. The political/social/cultural systems in which we live affect, if not determine, the kinds of relationships we have with other people. In this seminar we will explore some of these reciprocities in works of fiction by Graham Greene, Milan Kundera, Virginia Woolf, Chimamanda Adichie, E. M. Forster, with some complementary readings in political theory. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1373 - Diversity in a Global World
Managing Diversity in a Globalizing World
While Canada has been a pioneer in adopting a multicultural approach to govern its society, France stands out for its reluctance to embrace a similar model. In this seminar we will compare these two countries’ experiences managing ethnic diversity through a variety of sources: theoretical writings, ethnographies, memoirs, and films. Throughout our examination of the Canadian and French contexts, we will also interrogate current debates over multiculturalism in the United States. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1374 - The Champlain Basin
The Champlain Basin
From the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks Mountains to the west, the Champlain Basin is a natural laboratory in which to study many of the forces that shape the earth. In this seminar we will use the fundamentals of physical geology and limnology to develop an appreciation and understanding of the geologic landscape of Vermont and New York. We will investigate how these mountains were built, how rivers and glaciers erode them, and how the Champlain Basin came into its present shape. Excursions will include local field areas as well as work on Lake Champlain using Middlebury’s new research vessel the R/V Folger 3 hrs sem/3 hrs field each week
FYSE 1375 - America: Liberty & Justice
America: 'With Liberty and Justice for All'
" . . . with liberty and justice for all": These words conclude the Pledge of Allegiance, written over one hundred years ago to reflect the values of the American nation in the wake of civil war and dramatic social change. Yet throughout the history of this republic, the fruits of liberty and justice have been unavailable to many. We will explore how Americans have envisioned these ideals, and the struggles waged by different groups to realize them. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1376 - WWII & Japan's Long Postwar
WWII and Japan's 'Long Postwar'
With the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989, debate re-ignited over Japan’s prewar empire, wartime atrocities, and role in the Cold War – all of which converged in the question of Japan’s “long postwar.” Through a variety of novels, films, and essays, we will explore how this question continues to serve as a paradigm for addressing questions of Japan’s postwar cultural identity, economic prosperity, and social dislocations. Our larger objective will be to analyze how the tensions between the diverse national histories, experiences, and memories of World War II continue to inform the geopolitics of East Asia today. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1377 - Terror in the Soviet Union
The Revolution Devours her Children: Violence and Terror in the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union holds the distinction of being one of the most violent regimes in history. The regime promised its citizens peace and abundance, but the main way it found to establish this worldly utopia was to purify society through violence. Long before Stalin, state-initiated terror was used to cleanse the hearts and minds of the general public. In this seminar we will examine how terror played an integral role in the revolutionary project, how the show trials, secret police, and the gulag developed. Our sources will include secret archival documents, private diaries, court testimonies, fiction, films, and historical scholarship. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1378 - American Environmentalism
American Environmentalism in the 1970s
Modern environmentalism in the United States emerged as a political and cultural force in the 1960s and 1970s. In this seminar we will examine its historical roots and emergence in American life through readings of primary documents and texts, including popular media, photographs, advertisements, and films. We will pay particular attention to media portrayals of the environment in crisis and to criticisms of environmentalism for its failures to address issues of social inequality, particularly those of class and race. Student work will include essays, oral presentations, and independent and group research projects. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1379 - Art and the Environment
Art and the Environment
“The land is not the setting for the work but a part of the work.” So did the artist Walter de Maria describe The Lightning Field (1980), a site-specific, environmental work of art built in an isolated part of western New Mexico. In this seminar we will discuss the different ways that recent artists have used, commented upon, and at times altered their surrounding environment. We will take an expansive view of the term "environmental" in our seminar as we explore natural, urban, media-based, and conceptual artistic environments. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1380 - Information & Structure
Information & Structure
In this seminar we will study the relationship between raw information and the structures that are used to organize, translate, transmit, and make sense of it. We will consider information broadly, ranging from physical to virtual and from analog to digital, as it is acted upon by structures including physical, chemical, biological, physiological, and neurological phenomena, as well as by the human constructs of language, art, mathematics, engineering, and computer science. Along the way we will encounter the concepts of entropy, approximation, noise, and ambiguity that are inherent in the information that surrounds us in both our academics and daily lives. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1381 - Physics for Educated Citizens
Physics for Educated Citizens
Climate change, dirty bombs, meteor impacts, energy sources, radiation, spy satellites, night-vision goggles, computer chips: All can be understood with physics. Education is another name for feeding your curiosity within structured guidelines, and curiosity will be central to this seminar. Our resources will be a textbook, Physics for Future Presidents, and non-technical articles, many of which you will seek out on your own. Our aim will be to develop a working knowledge of physics as it applies to important topics, and to effectively communicate that knowledge through discussions, oral presentations, and formal writing. No prior physics is required. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1382 - Wars Within: Civil Conflict
The Wars Within: Causes and Consequences of Modern Civil Conflict
Why does civil war break out? How does a state return to a ‘civil peace’? What role does the international community play, if any? In this seminar we will explore the cycle of civil war and civil peace through the lens of social science. We will consider the utility (or futility) of state-building efforts and debate the proper role of intervention by the international community following a frank assessment of the effects outsiders have had on civil wars. Prominent cases will include such conflicts as Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, and the developing crisis in Syria.
FYSE 1383 - Muslim Politics in the West
“The Muslim” — Politics and Perceptions in the West*
Do Muslims pose special challenges for Western societies? Are Muslims particularly prone to violence? Are “their” values compatible with “ours?” In this seminar we will explore constructions of “the Muslim” in Western societies by discussing the following topics: the history of Muslim migration to the West; portrayals of Muslims by Western writers and media; Muslims voices about their place in Western societies; the extent of anti-Muslim sentiments throughout the West; and contemporary political conflicts such as those surrounding the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, the Danish cartoon controversy, and the banning of veils in France. 3 hrs. sem./disc.
FYSE 1384 - Reading the Book of Job
Reading the Book of Job
Why do the innocent suffer? Why do we want to believe that the world is “fair” and “ordered”? The Book of Job asked these questions millennia ago. Framed by a prose tale about the “patience of Job,” with a happy ending, the core of the book is a debate in poetry, between an impatient Job and his “friends”, with no satisfactory ending at all. We will study the book itself and its retellings and interpretations through novels, poetry, drama, philosophy and art, including works by Kafka, Camus, William Blake, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Kant, and Robert Frost. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2012, Fall 2013
FYSE 1385 - Great Transformations
In this seminar we will explore the phenomenon of globalization by examining historical moments of rupture and revolution—the transition to modernity, the rise of the state and national identity, the social movements of 1968, the collapse of communism, and the rise and crisis of neoliberalism. We will examine both classic and recent texts, films, music, and manifestos to understand what constitutes a truly great transformation. Emphasis will be placed on the global stage, but the American experience will also be highlighted. 3 hrs sem.
FYSE 1386 - Latin Am & Status of Writing
Latin America and the Status of Writing
Formal education, and in particular higher education, is heavily based on writing as a recording technology. In this seminar we will examine how Latin Americans have questioned the institution of writing in the “modernization” of society, focusing on issues such as the clash between cultures of literacy and orality, the literary rendering of oral performances, and contemporary scenes of narrative production (the cartonera movement, hip-hop, and graffiti artists). We will develop our conceptual framework by reading authors such as Ángel Rama, Walter Ong, and Jack Goody, and focus our eyes and ears on works by Latin American artists such as Ricardo Palma, Mario Vargas Llosa, Rappin’ Hood, and Graciliano Ramos. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1387 - Childhood Identities
Visualizing Iberian Identities through Childhood
This seminar will be taught in Spanish. What can we learn about culture, history, and national identity from a child’s perspective? How do competing national and cultural ideologies shape narratives of childhood? In this seminar we will explore the ways in which narrative, film, and painting represent childhood as an experience intimately tied to social, political, and cultural histories in Spain, and to questions of self and national identity. We will read works by authors such as Pérez Galdós, Pío Baroja, Federico García Lorca, Fernando Fernán Gómez, Ana María Matute, Manuel Rivas, and Emily Teixidor. We will view films including El espíritu de la colmena, Cría Cuervos, El viaje de Carol, Barrio, and Pa Negre. We will view paintings by Murillo, Goya, Sorolla, and Picasso.
This is an appropriate seminar for native speakers of Spanish, students who are bilingual, and students who have scored 720 or above on the Spanish SAT II, or 5 on the Spanish AP. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1388 - Not Just Child's Play
Not Just Child’s Play: Depictions of War, Work, Trauma, and Rebellion in Childhood
The UN Child Bill of Rights states that “The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation,” yet whether as victims or willing participants, children far under eighteen often enter the work force, and many live at the epicenter of armed conflicts. Through fiction, non-fiction, memoir, and film, we will consider historical and contemporary depictions of global youth, from the Holocaust to modern sweatshops and memoirs of childhoods gone awry, with an eye toward understanding the political, economic, and social consequences of childhood cut short. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1389 - Six Novellas
An in-between genre, the novella wanders like a novel but narrows in like a short story. In this seminar we will explore the form and meaning of six novellas by exceptional writers of modern and contemporary fiction. Texts will include Toni Morrison’s Sula, Marguerite Duras’ The Lover, Tao Lin’s Shoplifting from American Apparel, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy. Students will respond both formally and informally to these works through literary analysis and narrative criticism. Discussions will include critical attention to constructions of race, gender, dis/ability, class, and sexuality as well as investigation of notions of home, family, and spirituality. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1390 - Geography of War and Peace
The Geography of War and Peace
Whether it is military maps employed in the defense of the Han dynasty or the logistic support for cruise missiles in the Gulf War, geography has always been associated with war and the exercise of power. However, the field of geography also has a lesser known tradition that emphasizes social justice and resistance to oppression. In this seminar we will examine how geography and geographers engage in the propagation and execution of wars and in the education and mobilization for peace. Students will be actively involved in unraveling the story of the geography of war and peace through research projects, fieldtrips, and an online exhibition. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1391 - Cults and Violence
Cults and Violence
It is often assumed that religious cults are prone to violence since many seek to transform society into an idealized state based on their theology. Yet history suggests that cultic groups are more often the targets of violence or that they peacefully await the millennial kingdom. In this seminar we will consider a range of factors that produce cultic violence. We will examine such cases as violence and anti-Mormonism in 19th-century America; the collective suicide of 900 Peoples Temple members in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978; the 1993 assault by the American government on the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas; and apocalyptic violence by the Japanese group Aum Shinrikyo. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1392 - Sociology & Utopia
Perfect? Utopias, Dystopias, and the Sociological Imaginary
Don’t mess with perfection: the promise, as well as the trap, of utopian visions. Utopian literature criticizes existing worlds, offering plans for a better society, and better people to stock it. Since one person’s utopia can be another’s dystopia, this “good society” often intensifies tensions it promises to resolve. From Plato’s Republic to Marx’s Communist Manifesto, we will study utopias and dystopias as theories of society and as expressions of sociological perspectives. We will use sociology to explore the possibilities and limits of utopian thinking, and then turn the tables and use utopias to rethink the uses of sociology. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1393 - Introduction to Mindfulness
Introduction to Mindfulness
Basic sitting and walking meditation will be taught and practiced. We will use the breath to foster relaxed attention and to gain perspective on our restless minds. We will emphasize these techniques and learn how to use them in daily life and academic endeavors. We will read texts from the contemporary Tibetan and Zen Buddhist traditions, but the meditation will be employed in nonsectarian fashion applicable to any belief system. Truth should be verified by one’s experience. Students will write papers, give presentations, and keep journals. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1394 - Renaissance-Use/Abuse of Power
The Use and Abuse of Power During the Renaissance
What comes to mind when you hear the words “Renaissance power?” Corruption, beheadings, and excommunication? The Tudors and the Medici? In this course we will examine Renaissance texts that address how to obtain, preserve, and exercise power. We will begin with the amoral politics of Machiavelli’s The Prince, and conclude with a selection of Montaigne’s Essays, in which the author asserts that extending mercy is the noblest virtue. Along the way, we will read Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice in order to explore how race, religion, and gender reconfigure power arrangements in complicated, and often unexpected, ways. Our literary texts will be complemented by films such as The Princess of Montpensier, The Merchant of Venice, and episodes from the television series The Borgias. No prior knowledge of the Renaissance is expected, as we will discover the period together through our readings and viewings. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1395 - Literature on Trial
Literature on Trial: Banned Books, Dangerous Books, Dirty Books
Some of the best-known works of literature—from Animal Farm to Madame Bovary to The Satanic Verses—have been banned, removed from library shelves, forbidden in schools, or otherwise condemned at the state or national level. The reasons for such censorship vary as widely as the troublesome texts themselves: works are outlawed for obscenity, religious blasphemy, political dissent, or other conflicts with the reigning socio-political system. In this course we will read a range of works banned by various countries; in addition, we will read reports of the legal and political debate which accompanied the censorship of these works. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1396 - Digital Media Literacy
Digital Media Literacy
From Wikipedia to texting, Facebook to PowerPoint, digital media have dramatically changed how we read, write, and communicate in the 21st century. In this course, we will explore what it means to be “literate” today, considering how we read, research, write, create, and present ideas and information, and how these changes impact our society. We will focus on educational practices, with outreach into local schools to explore how we should teach literacy for the next generation, and prepare students for a 21st century liberal arts education. 3 hrs. sem/lab
FYSE 1398 - Speechmakers Studio
Our teachers will be great speeches wherever we find them: from Antiquity and the Elizabethan stage, to Hollywood, the Civil Rights Movement, and TEDTalks gone viral. We will explore various theories of oratory, and, like students of classical rhetoric, we will emulate masterworks in order to sharpen our own persuasive skills. As speakers, we will practice vocal and physical techniques used by actors, as well as their methods for scene preparation. Throughout the semester, students will write and deliver speeches of their own, completing an immersion into speechmaking designed to help them communicate with precision, empathy, and personal conviction. 3hr. sem./disc.
FYSE 1399 - The Ramayana ▹
The Ramayana/: A Tale of Love, Valor, and Duty*
The Ramayana (‘Journey of Rama”) is an ancient, yet still powerfully relevant, Hindu epic that narrates the story of Prince Rama, a divinely human avatar (descent) of the cosmic deity Vishnu. Rama’s ultimate destiny is to triumph over evil, but his victory is fraught with moral dilemmas about fate, loyalty, duty, gender relationships, the definition of an ideal man and ideal woman, and the conflict between good and evil. Close readings, analysis, and discussions of the epic will be augmented with imagery drawn from different media, both historical and contemporary. Connections will be made to contemporary politics and social issues. 3 hrs. sem.
Fall 2013, Spring 2014
FYSE 1400 - The Vermont Landscape
The Vermont Landscape
The Vermont landscape has changed dramatically over the last 10,000 years. In this course we will systemically examine how geological, biological, and human forces have affected Vermont. In particular, we will explore the role of Native cultures on the landscape; ecological revolutions set off by the arrival of Europeans and the industrial revolution; the growing population of Vermont; and the effects of farming, logging, international trade, transportation systems, and energy development on the landscape. We will conclude by focusing on current themes, such as the rise of the local food movement and climate change. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1401 - Bad Kids
Young people are a regular source of panic for adults. Families, schools, medicine, and psychology communicate what it means to be a "normal" young person; reformatories, courts, prisons, and other institutions convey the consequences for rule breaking. The social control of young people depends on the categories created to differentiate them from adults. In this course we will: examine the labels of child, juvenile delinquent, at-risk youth, hyper-criminal, adolescent, teenager, and emerging adult to understand the ideas of normalcy embedded in these socially constructed categories; consider how class, race, and gender intersect with the mechanisms of control exerted over young people who deviate from the norm; and explore social movements and youth cultures that attempt to resist adult pressures to be good boys and docile girls and redefine the experiences of young people. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1402 - The Social Life of Wilderness
The Social Life of Wilderness
In this seminar we will examine evolving American ideas of “wilderness” from a social science perspective. We will explore how ideas of what wilderness is—or should be—play out in complex cases including the removal of Native Americans from some U.S. National Parks and the establishment of wilderness parks in poor countries that cater to tourists. Through a focus on the nearby Adirondack Park, which contains both land designated in the New York state constitution as “forever wild” and the homes of 130,000 people, we will explore historian William Cronon’s question: “How do you manage a wilderness full of human stories?” 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1403 - Open Class Learning Hisp World
Open Classrooms: Learning in the Hispanic World
What do children and teenagers need to learn—both inside and outside of the classroom—in order to become adults in Hispanic societies? How does the experience of learning in modern Spain and Latin America compare to our experience here, at Middlebury College? With these questions in mind, we will examine conflicting portrayals of young learners in Spanish-speaking contexts through literature and film. Two extreme definitions of learning will be explored and, if necessary, challenged: learning can be understood as fostering the growth of independent individuals, but also as a disciplinary process that stifles freedom and reproduces inequality. Our reflection will focus on issues of personal identity, affectivity, family relationships, class, gender, politics, and nationhood. This seminar is appropriate for native speakers of Spanish, bilingual students, and students who have scored 720 or above on the Spanish SAT II, or 5 on the Spanish AP. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1404 - Language and Identity
Language and Identity
In this seminar we will explore the multiple ways in which language is used in society to express, create, and perform identities. We will analyze—from a sociolinguistic perspective—how variation in speakers’ linguistic resources (pronunciation, syntax, word choice, language choice, etc.) can serve as tools to shape, stereotype, or subvert national, regional, ethnic, racial, gender, and other types of identities. We will draw examples from linguistic research, literature, film, television (particularly “reality” TV), political discourse, popular songs, internet memes, and other media in the United States context as well as in other societies. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1405 - Language and Social Justice
Language and Social Justice
In this seminar we will explore questions: What is the relationship between language and power? How does linguistic prejudice contribute to social inequality? Is language a human right, and if so, what are the implications? We will engage with scholarly, journalistic, and artistic works, including writings by Julia Alvarez, James Baldwin, Deborah Cameron, Lisa Delpit, William Labov, Rosina Lippi-Green, Thomas Ricento, Richard Rodriguez, Amy Tan, and many others. Students will develop a range of reading, writing, and oral presentation skills, and will receive frequent feedback on their work throughout the semester. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1406 - Food Battles ▹
Food Battles: A Critical Look at Food in Our Lives
The development of high yield agricultural practices have allowed people to migrate en masse to cities with the opportunity for different lifestyles. It also meant the birth of “big business food” and some highly unethical practices. In response, the government established the FDA; but does it truly help the health of the nation? In this course we will examine commercial food from field to table, giving special attention to controversies such as genetically modified food, use of pesticides, food additives (including sugar and salt), and animal welfare issues. We will discuss the FDA’s role in safeguarding the public and whether the food industry is anything more than a profit-making business. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1407 - Gender & the Making of Space ▹
Gender and the Making of Space
In this seminar we will investigate the complex relationship between gender and architecture, examining how the design of the built environment (buildings, urban spaces, etc.) can reinforce or undermine ideas about the respective roles of women and men in society, from the creation of masculine and feminine spaces to the gendered nature of the architectural profession. By looking at both visual evidence and textual sources, we will also uncover how the social construction of gender roles and gendered spaces are—and continue to be—inflected by race, class, and sexuality.
FYSE 1408 - Environmntl Literature/Justice
Environmental Literature and Justice
In this seminar we will embark on an exploration of environmental issues in American literary narratives. We will look at the environmental movement in the U.S. and read, analyze, discuss, and write about texts such as: Carson’s landmark work of 20th century environmental consciousness-raising, Silent Spring; Steinbeck’s novel about Dust Bowl migrants, The Grapes of Wrath; Silko’s protest against uranium mining and nuclear testing on indigenous lands in Ceremony; and Callenbach’s vision of an ecologically sustainable world in Ecotopia. By considering these and several other texts, we will also investigate environmental issues through the lens of the environmental justice movement and take a closer look at today’s environmental inequalities, encompassing race, class, and gender. 3 hrs. sem.
FYSE 1409 - Circus Maximus
In this seminar we will examine entertainment in ancient Rome, specifically the city's festivals, circuses, and games, including theatrical performances, burlesque, acrobatics, athletics, chariot races, wild-beast fights, and gladiatorial contests. We will explore the infrastructure of entertainment, both the 'infamous performers' associated with sport and spectacle—namely, prostitutes, gladiators, and actors—as well as Rome's most famous venues: the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus. Lastly, we will investigate the emergence of parallel forms of entertainment in the modern world, most notably the American circus in the 19th and 20th centuries, and more recent circuses, such as Bread & Puppet and Cirque du Soleil.
FYSE 1410 - Nomadic Cultures in Film
Nomadic Cultures in Film
In this seminar we will study how filmmakers have channeled sedentary cultures’ apprehension of—as well as fascination with—nomadism. We will explore a selection of films that focus on a variety of nomadic cultures: nomadic empires (Mongol); traditionally itinerant cultures such as the Roma (Golden Earrings) and Native Americans (Dances with Wolves); contemporary global nomads (Eat, Pray, Love); and science fiction nomads (The Road). What makes a nomadic lifestyle both attractive and menacing? What role does the ethnic and social background of nomads play in the way they are perceived by non-nomads? How have concepts such as cultural identity, home, and belonging shifted with the development of new global communications? 3 hrs. sem./screening
FYSE 1411 - Social Class & Environment
Social Class and the Environment
In this seminar we will explore the consequence of growth, technological development, and the evolution of ecological sacrifice zones. Texts will serve as the theoretical framework for in-the-field investigations, classroom work, and real-world experience. The Struggle for Environmental Justice outlines resistance models; Shadow Cities provides lessons from the squatters movement; Ben Hewitt's The Town that Food Saved describes economy of scale solutions, and David Owen's The Conundrum challenges environmentalism. Texts will guide discussions, serve as lenses for in-the-field investigations, and the basis for writing. 3 hrs. sem.