Course Descriptions

Geologic Controls on Human History in the Champlain Valley

Will Amidon
Associate Professor of Geology

This course will explore the origin of the Champlain Valley landscape and how that landscape influenced the pattern of exploration, settlement, and development of the Champlain Valley. We will spend roughly equal time discussing the geologic events that shaped the landscape and the subsequent historical events that played out in it. For example, we will consider how geologic events made the Champlain Valley a home for Native peoples, an avenue of early exploration and war, and a source of industrial and agricultural productivity. The course will include a field trip to the Crown Point State Historic Site and other locations of interest.

James Brown, Bob Marley, and Beyoncé: Protest Music as Political Mobilization Across Countries

Kemi Fuentes-George
Associate Professor in Political Science

This course looks at how music is used as a form of protest and solidarity against global and local forms of sociopolitical repression. Though often presented in a heavily stylized format, the themes, ideas, and content of politically oriented music is often no less important a means of communicating vital social and political facts to the mass public. The primary focus is on understanding and comparing repression across different contexts, so the material has a very noticeable comparative politics theme. We will discuss, for example, the government and state structure of various countries, including the United States, Nigeria, Jamaica, and Chile from the 1960s to the modern era. In addition, we will pay attention to issues of transboundary solidarity among, for example, the black diaspora in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. By the nature of the course, the material will be interdisciplinary; we will read, in addition to comparative politics literature, articles in sociology and critical theory.

Literature and the Religious Imagination

Amy Hungerford
Bread Loaf School of English

Encounter writers who have created compelling visions of religious or spiritual existence through the medium of literature. In this seminar we will read selections of American poetry from the 19th through the 21st centuries; prose excerpts from Henry David Thoreau, William James, and Marilynne Robinson; and one novel—J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. Together with these writers, we’ll explore how imagination acts on the world to produce experiences of strangeness, surprise, transformation, connection, and terror.

Quest for Empire: The Ancient Maya at Their Apogee

James L. Fitzsimmons
Professor of Sociology and Anthropology

In the seventh century AD, a group of men and women tried to create an empire in the Maya area, a region stretching roughly east to west from the Mexican state of Chiapas to western Honduras. They failed. Comparable to the Delian League of Classical Greece, their experiment was a Maya league led by a single ruling family, or Great House, the House of Kaan “Snake.” Although it failed, the Kaan League coincided with the apogee of Classic Maya (250–900 AD) civilization. Using archaeology and written history (hieroglyphics), including ceramics and other materials from Middlebury collections, we will survey ancient Maya civilization at its apogee. We will also explore why the nascent empire failed and how it set the stage for the dramatic collapse of Maya civilization in the eighth century.

Socratic Legacies Today: Dialogue, Questioning, and Citizenship

Martha K. Woodruff
Associate Professor of Philosophy

In this course, we will discuss several short Socratic dialogues by Plato and their contemporary relevance. Plato’s Socrates inaugurates the humanistic turn toward ethics and civics: who am I and how should I lead “the examined life”? How should we live together? How should we seek justice and respond to injustice? We will then read Virginia Woolf’s 1925 essay on the Greeks to discover her literary inspiration from Plato; Martin Luther King’s 1963 letter to trace his revival of Socrates as a model for “nonviolent gadflies”; and Martha Nussbaum’s 2010 essay to examine her argument that democracy today needs the humanities in the Socratic tradition.

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