2014-15 Offerings by Semester

« Spring 2013 Fall 2013 Winter 2014 »


CRN: 92411

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.


CRN: 92412

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.


CRN: 92414

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.


CRN: 92592

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.


CRN: 92413

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.


CRN: 91980

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.


CRN: 92415


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: 92416

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.


CRN: 91538

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.


CRN: 92417

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.


CRN: 92597

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.


CRN: 92419

French Films/American Remakes


CRN: 92420

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.


CRN: 92421

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.


CRN: 91987

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.


CRN: 92423

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.


CRN: 92431

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.


CRN: 92424

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.


CRN: 92430

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.


CRN: 92432

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.


CRN: 92426

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.


CRN: 92433

Solvitur Ambulando

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.


CRN: 92427

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.


CRN: 92428

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.


CRN: 92434

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.


CRN: 92593

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


CRN: 92429

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.


CRN: 92015

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.


CRN: 92435

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.


CRN: 92436

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


CRN: 92580

Speechmakers Studio

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.


CRN: 92439

The Ramayana

The Ramayana: Rama’s Journey through the Arts
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. Although Rama’s ultimate destiny is to triumph over evil, his victory is fraught with moral dilemmas about fate, loyalty, duty, self-sacrifice, gender relationships, and the conflict between good and evil. We will explore and analyze the myriad ways this gorgeous story has inspired artistic responses from India to Southeast Asia and well beyond, in a variety of different media: poetry, dance, theater, sculpture, painting, graphic arts, television, and film. 3 hrs. sem.


CRN: 92440

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.


CRN: 92441

Bad Kids

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.


CRN: 92442

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.


CRN: 92443

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.


CRN: 92444

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.


CRN: 92445

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.


CRN: 92553

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.


CRN: 92569

Circus Maximus

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.


CRN: 92573

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


CRN: 92645

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.