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CRN: 92530

Science Fiction

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.


CRN: 92542

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.


CRN: 92533

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.


CRN: 92560

Mozart Operas

Mozart Operas: Swains, Countesses, and Magic Flutes
In this seminar we will delve into how opera comes about, its place in our culture, and its aesthetic, with our explorations centering on musical components. We will focus on the text and music of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute. The main work will be viewing, listening to, and understanding these great works, with excursions into operas old and new. Special attention will be given to writing, varying from response and research papers to some creative writing. Assignments will be given throughout the semester in the various disciplines that come together in operas. We will have informal presentations of your creative work in class and, if possible, gather them in a public performance late in the semester. Music background preferred. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92547

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.


CRN: 92541

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.


CRN: 92537

The Poet's I


CRN: 92677

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 the cities and their famous sites. We will explore how literature, urban planning, and the arts represent them. Genres to be explored (in English) include poetry and travel memoirs; literature and film of ancient Rome, including toga epics; contemporary novels and films (e.g., Michael Dibdin, Donna Leon; this year’s Oscar-winning The Great Beauty). Research projects will focus on the cities’ distinctive cuisines, and will include culinary practice. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 91941


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.


CRN: 92550

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.


CRN: 92534

Shakespeare's Characters

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.


CRN: 92546

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.


CRN: 92536

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.


CRN: 92545

Global Japanese Culture

Global Japanese Culture
In this seminar we will examine the construction of Japanese cultural identity as products, ideas and people move across the borders in and out of Japan. Social scientists have been particularly interested in the appropriation of non-Japanese practices and products in Japan, as well as, the great success of some of Japan’s cultural and consumer products from Toyotas to Pokemon in the global marketplace. We will examine the issues of cultural hybridity, identity, and globalization using text such as Millennial Monsters, Remade in Japan, and Japan after Japan. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92549

Animal Cognition

Animal Cognition
Can animals use language? Are animals self-aware? Do animals try to deceive others? Are animals able to reason and make decisions? Can most of animals’ behavior be explained with simple learning mechanisms, making humans uniquely cognitive beings? In this seminar we will explore similarities and differences between animals and humans with regard to their mental abilities. In considering this issue, we will read and discuss scientific studies as well as popular literature anecdotes that examine various aspects of animals’ ability to think, with the goal of assessing how animals’ cognitive abilities compare to humans’. 3 hrs. sem./disc.


CRN: 92532

The Trojan War

The Trojan War
The myth of the Trojan War exerted a defining influence on Greek and Roman culture, and has played a central role in the Western tradition ever since. In this seminar we will examine the historicity of the Trojan War and how ancient writers used it to explore themes such as the nature of heroism, the workings of the gods, and the relationship between the individual and society. We will also consider how our modern ideals about heroic action compare with those of ancient times. Readings will include selections from Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Vergil, and Ovid. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92662

The Geology of National Parks

Geology of National Parks
The collision of continents, the passage of glaciers, and time itself have sculpted our country, creating landscapes that have captivated humankind's attention for generations. This seminar will develop the sequence of events that have led to the formation of many such natural wonders found in our national parks. The seminar will proceed through lectures focused on basic geology and plate tectonic theory; textbook readings about specific parks; in-class and homework exercises that develop familiarity with important geologic materials and methods; and weekly video "excursions" to the parks. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92551

Literary Narratives

Literary Narratives
Beginning with a sequence of related tales from the Arabian Nights, we will focus sharply on a series of works composed of multiple and sometimes radically divergent narratives. We will explore ways in which authors working in a variety of traditions succeed in creating unified literary experiences that exceed their individual parts, paying particular attention to matters of sequencing, pacing, juxtaposition, and repetition, as well as shifts in narrative pattern, perspective, and tone. Among the authors we will consider are Poe, Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Sherwood Anderson, Hemingway, and Nathanael West. Especially recommended for students contemplating a major in Literary Studies. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92548

Transitional Justice

Transitional Justice: Reckoning with the Past
In this seminar we will examine how emerging democracies reckon with former authoritarian regimes and their legacies. In contrast to stable democracies, societies in transition that seek to overcome a legacy of large scale human rights violations—and minimize the risks of their recurrence—must search for a delicate political compromise that will bring some justice without undermining the new order. Several case studies from Asia, Latin America, South Africa, and postcommunist Europe will help us understand the forces and factors that shape the dilemma: to prosecute and punish versus to forgive and forget. Course readings will be supplemented by documentaries and fiction films. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92543

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.


CRN: 92544

The 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.


CRN: 92531

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.


CRN: 92529


Disability, Difference, and Society
In this seminar 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.


CRN: 92535

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.


CRN: 92562

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is fascinating from medical, public health, and ecological perspectives. In this seminar we will explore the disease in an interdisciplinary fashion. We will look at the history of—and controversy around—its diagnosis, treatment, and control. Because Lyme has a tick vector and animal reservoirs, we will consider how the local environment affects it. Connections to other zoonotic diseases (SARS, West Nile, EEE) will be made. Readings will come from Bull's Eye: Unraveling the Medical Mystery of Lyme Disease by Eldow, Lyme Disease: The Ecology of a Complex System by Ostfeld, and primary sources. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92563

Computing and Society

Computing and Society
Computing has contributed to tremendous advances in communication, science, medicine, economics, the arts, and many other fields and areas of our lives. We now employ myriad computational tools that enhance our ability to interact and to express ourselves creatively. Our access to vast amounts of information and raw data holds the promise of helping us solve some of humankind’s most vexing problems, from global health and poverty to climate change. In this seminar we will study some of the big ideas in computing that underlie the ongoing explosion of innovation we are experiencing, and will analyze the many ways in which computing affects society. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92564

Narratives of Identity

Narratives of Identity
"Who are we,” writes Scott Turow, "but the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, and believe?” In this seminar we will examine different narrative strategies and literary devices that writers use to construct identity. What are the time-honored conventions and bold innovations used in stories, novels, and memoirs to fashion selves? Can Damon Galgut's daring experiments in his autobiographical novel In a Strange Room create an identity with the power and conviction of that found in The Autobiography of Malcolm X? What insights are to be found in Toi Derricotte’s exploration of racial identity in The Black Notebooks? Always, we will consider ethnicity, class, gender, place, and politics as they shape identity in the stories we hear, tell, and believe. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92565

Talking the Talk

Talking the Talk
In this seminar we will discuss literary works that show particular interest in dialogue or that explore difficulties of communication among characters of different cultural, educational, and linguistic backgrounds, and among figures who vie for dominance within conversational and related arenas. We will consider writers’ uses of regional dialects, cant, and slang, and gender (and other) differences in spoken language. Readings will include novels by James, Conrad, Lawrence, Forster; stories by O’Connor; and a play by Pinter. Writing will emphasize the development of a critical stance, precise thinking and use of language, and effective implementation of evidence in supporting an argument. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92566

Espionage in Film and Fiction

True Lies: Espionage in Film and Fiction
We will study the depiction of fictional spies in literature (Ian Fleming’s Bond novels), film (The Bourne Identity), television shows (Alias, Homeland), and parodies (Burn After Reading) in an attempt to address the following questions: Why have narratives about spies and spying been so commercially successful since the mid-19th century? How has the genre changed to reflect the development of new technologies and major historical events (WWII, the Cold War, and the War on Terror)? How do ideas of gender and nationalism affect the depiction of the extraction of information in controversial ways, e.g., bribery, seduction, torture, and hacking? 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92567

Global Youth

Global Youth
In this seminar we will explore global manifestations of youth culture and politics. We will map connections across time and place, exploring how young people around the world respond to global economic change, unemployment, lack of opportunity, and barriers to education and mobility. We will use key concepts from Human Geography, such as scale, space, place, region, and globalization to explore both everyday experiences and momentous mobilizations of young people. We will work to understand geographies of difference and of interconnection, linking the uses of social media, organizing, and cultural production around the world with those of students at Middlebury. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92568

Civil War & Civil Rights

Civil War & Civil Rights
War is a time of national emergency, where the rules governing everyday life often get suspended to meet a more pressing need. What rights of citizens remain protected in these circumstances, and what gets sacrificed? Using scholarly works and historical documents from the American Civil War, we will explore the challenging issues that government leaders faced, including the suspension of habeus corpus, confiscation of private property, profiling of certain social groups, censorship of the mails and the press, and conscription of civilians for service in the military. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92569


The Impressionists: Painters of Modern Life
Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cassatt: these familiar names evoke works of art beloved by museum-goers around the world. However, in their own times, these artists were considered radical creators of shocking canvases that threatened the French art establishment. In this seminar we will examine how and why Impressionism emerged as the first important style of modern art by following its evolution from a style that was reviled by the critics to its eventual acceptance. To provide a framework, we will examine works by important writers including Baudelaire and Zola, as well as the political and social situation in France. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92570

Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling
Epic Asian tales such as India’s Bhagavad-Gita, Iran’s Shahnameh, and China’s Xiyouji have inspired artists for centuries and continue to capture the imaginations of comic book artists today. In this seminar we will delve into the Asian classics and their many painted, sculpted, and printed interpretations in order to understand why artists depicted these compelling narratives in such drastically different ways. In short papers, we will explore themes including racial identity, gender roles, and social hierarchies. For the final project students will create their own one-shot comic based on an Asian short story or folktale. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92572

The Story of Geometry

The Story of Geometry
The field of geometry is thousands of years old and over time has undergone a number of revolutionary changes. In this seminar we will study geometry through a historical lens. Beginning with the axiomatic geometry of Euclid, we will trace the development of the subject, learning how the realization in the mid-19th century that one of Euclid’s axioms could be dropped led to the exciting discovery of hyperbolic and spherical geometries. We will learn how these geometries relate to the modern notions of manifolds and curvature, concluding with a discussion of Perelman’s breakthrough proof of the century-old Poincaré Conjecture. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92573

Science & Democracy

Science and Democracy
The scientific method has been heralded as inherently democratic, based as it is on observation rather than authority. Yet the relationship between science and democracy is much more complex, with scientists carrying authority based on their specialized knowledge. In this seminar we will explore the challenges of integrating science and democracy, investigating how science can be used to serve democratic goals and where there are tensions. We will consider such questions as whether or not the commercialization of science makes it difficult to serve the needs of a diverse society well, whether or not it is important to have diverse representation within scientific communities in order to produce objective knowledge, and what the appropriate role of scientific experts might be in developing sound public policy on topics such as climate change, health policy, medical research, and food safety. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92574

Physics of Musical Sounds

The Physics of Musical Sounds
In this seminar we will study the physical phenomena associated with the creation and transmission of sounds, especially those related to conventional musical instruments (both acoustic and electric, including the human voice). The categorization of sounds according to their harmonic content will be discussed, and we will also consider electronic means of production, transmission, and processing of sound. (This course assumes familiarity with high-school trigonometry) 3 hrs sem./lab


CRN: 92575


Globalization: So Far, So Good
In the past two decades, we have seen a number of protests against globalization. The most notable of these occurred in 1999 in Seattle, but protests continue to the present day with demonstrations held at, for example, the World Economic Forum in Davos. In this seminar we will explore the history of globalization and study its military, environmental, economic, sociocultural, and demographic dimensions. We will see, among other things, that people talk about different things when they discuss globalization, and that they may be in favor of some aspects and violently disagree with others. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92576

American Political Tradition

The American Political Tradition
In this seminar we will study the theoretical ideas that informed the creation and development of America’s political system and consider some of the major contemporary challenges to American democracy. Topics to be treated include the political thought of the American Founders, the place of religion in public life, the nature of written constitutions, American political culture, race in American politics, and the role of America in the world. Readings will include selections from the Federalist Papers, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, John Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and many other primary source documents. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92577

The Other in Latin America

In Search Of the Other in Latin America
Who is the Other? What does the Other reveal about me? How does it shape my beliefs and attitudes? In this seminar we will develop a theoretical, analytical, and practical approach to the concept of the Other, conceived as both an exterior entity and a component of the self. We will examine critical texts by modern thinkers such as Octavio Paz, Todorov, and Levinas. We will also discuss fictional and non-fictional narratives primarily focused on the encounter of civilization and barbarism in Latin America. Students will be required to conduct field research on the topic of Otherness, either on campus or in the local community, and write about their experiences dealing with the Other. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92578

Matthew: Then and Now

Interpretations of Matthew: Then and Now
The Gospel according to Matthew was the most quoted gospel in early Christianity, and it remains a favorite today. What is so special about the teachings and stories of Jesus in this text, compared with the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John? This seminar explores how people have read and understood Matthew over time. We will study the book itself and its interpretations in the writings of Augustine, Luther, Teresa of Avila, and Tolstoy, as well as in music and film. We will also examine the text’s changing physical forms and varying translations, especially in Bibles of the European Reformation. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92579

Cinematic Sociology

Cinematic Sociology
In this seminar we will develop our sociological imagination by viewing, discussing, and analyzing popular films. Rather than considering them simply as "entertainment," we will explore the various ways that popular films can be a vehicle for social commentary, analysis, and criticism, particularly about controversial topics such as race, gender, and sexuality. Films to be screened will include The Help, 27 Dresses, and The Little Mermaid, among others. 3 hrs. sem. SOC (C. Han)


CRN: 92580

Food, Identity, and Power

Food, Identity, and Power
Food sustains not only bodies but also national, ethnic, and social identities. Notions of order and transgression, nature and culture, have long affected how and what people eat. Using interdisciplinary approaches, we will examine the practices and politics of food and eating in a range of regions. How does eating, this most basic and universal of human practices, both reflect and create difference? How are symbolic and “real” food systems linked to national and international politics? Finally, how are contemporary food practices influenced by modernization and globalization? 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92581

Sexuality and Power on Stage

Sexuality and Power on Stage: Female Trouble, Closet Homos, and Shameless Queers
What do Webster’s Duchess of Malfi, Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, and Kushner’s Angels in America have in common? In this seminar we will study a selection of major Western dramatic works in which bodies and their desires constitute the central problem for society and the state. Students will learn how to analyze dramatic texts from the director’s as well as the actor’s perspective by focusing on action, diction, characterization, and large themes. Secondary readings will locate each text within its specific historical context. In addition to discussions we will stage scenes and watch cinematic renderings of the plays when available. 3 hrs. sem.