Course Descriptions

Below are the 2016 course descriptions.

Shakespeare and His Times

James E. Berg
Visiting Assistant Professor of English and American Literatures

In the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays (1623), Ben Jonson calls the world’s most famous author "not of an age, but for all time." Jonson might more accurately have said that Shakespeare was both of an age and for all time: his work endures partly because it is a product of its times, designed to appeal to its times. To see how this is so, we will read three plays—A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, and Othello—in the context of the religious, political, and domestic culture of Renaissance England, yet also with the goal of understanding their relevance today, especially in terms of character, gender, and race. We will attend closely to original staging conventions, and to the tension between reading the plays as poetry and staging them as scripts.

Toxic Trespass: Before Love Canal and Beyond Flint

Molly S. Costanza-Robinson
Associate Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Environmental Studies

Chemicals form the very basis of our modern existence, but some of these chemicals, even ones found routinely in our homes, are known or suspected to pose risks to human and environmental health. In this course, we will explore the modern history and science of society’s interaction with known or suspected toxins. Case studies will highlight our evolving understanding of environmental toxicity, issues of environmental justice, and the notion of toxic trespass—the exposure to known or suspected toxins without our knowledge or consent.

War: What is it Good For?

Amy T. Yuen
Associate Professor of Political Science

War is expensive. It costs lives, treasure and opportunity, so why does it happen? History and political science have turned this question over and over to understand why human society employs violence in conflict. We’ll explore the fundamental causes of war and peace as presented by modern studies of conflict in political science. We’ll explore the validity and limits of these ideas with cases of conflict, both on a global scale and within countries. Finally, we conclude with an evaluation of a quasi-evolutionary hypothesis that war has served some purpose in shaping a more peaceful human society. Are the trends of war changing? Should we look to the future of human conflict with a sense of optimism or pessimism?

Conservation and Place—Connecting with the Forests and Wetlands of Bread Loaf

Marc Lapin
Associate in Science Instruction in Environmental Studies

In this course we will be outdoors for much of the time as we explore the forests, wetlands and streams surrounding the Bread Loaf campus and learn about the recent conservation project that has protected the lands in perpetuity. We will study ecological relationships and ecosystem values at local and landscape scales and will also participate in contemplative pedagogy practices that help build direct relationship with people, earth and life systems. Readings and discussions will address questions of connecting to place and the roles of science and other ways of knowing. Participants must be able to comfortably walk up to three miles of woods roads and trails each day and spend several-hour stretches out in the woods.

Treasures from the Vault: Examining Middlebury’s Anti-Slavery Archive

William Nash
Professor of American Studies and English and American Literatures

Deepen your understanding of the efforts people undertook in the fight against American slavery, and experience the excitement of hands-on work with archival primary source materials. Readings will provide the context and background information we need. The College Special Collections has treasure trove of published and unpublished documents to examine and annotate together. We will move beyond library to local sites connected to Vermont’s anti-slavery movement.

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