First-Year Seminars

All entering Middlebury students take a First-Year Seminar during their first semester on campus. These seminars are writing intensive courses, limited to 15 students each, and they are taught by regular, full-time faculty members who also serve as students' first academic advisers at Middlebury.

First-Year Seminars Affiliated with Brainerd:
Fall 2017


FYSE 1208 Cities in Crisis (Fall)
“I imagine the American city to be a growing tree,” the historian Sam Bass Warner has written.  “As it bursts forth each spring, it is set upon by clouds of parasites.”  In this seminar we will expand upon Warner’s insight and explore how American cities have coped in the past with natural disaster, the flight of capital, racial and class tensions, and injurious planning.  We will turn to case studies of individual cities in crisis, including New York City, New Orleans, and Detroit, in the quest for an understanding of patterns of vulnerabilities and resilience in urban American history.  3 hrs. sem. HIS, AMR  (J. Ralph)

FYSE 1236 The Malleable Human (Fall)
How human are you?  What does it mean to be human?  From a biological point of view, can lines be drawn that define a human?  When is appropriate to blur these lines and who may do it?  In this course we will investigate what biological boundaries exist that make us human.  We will consider this topic by looking at genetic, mechanical, and chemical modifications to the basic human form and how they influence our perceptions of ‘humanness’. 3 hrs. sem. (J. Ward)

FYSE 1286 The Keys to Dan Brown’s Origin (Fall)
In this project-oriented seminar we will seek to distinguish fact from fiction in Dan Brown’s novel, Origin (September 2017), in the context of his previous novels: Angels&Demons, The DaVinci Code, The Lost Symbol, and Inferno. We will explore in greater depth the art, codes, symbols, and secret geography of Amsterdam. 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. 3 hrs. sem. EUR, LIT (T. Beyer)

FYSE 1432 Sexuality and Power on Stage: Female Trouble, Closet Homos, and Shameless Queers (Fall)
What do Sophie Treadwell's Machinal, Martin Sherman's Bent, and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America teach us about the history of sexual marginalization? In this seminar we will study a selection of US American plays in which gender, desire, and sexuality constitute a problem for society and the state. Students will learn how to analyze dramatic texts from the director’s and the actor’s perspectives with a focus on action, structure, characterization, and space in addition to genre and larger themes. Cinematic renderings of the plays and in-class staging exercises will help us engage the embodied dimension of performance. 3 hrs. sem.  ART, AMR (C. Medeiros)

Shakespeare's Sonnets (Fall)
Of the sex triangle that structures William Shakespeare’s enigmatic series of sonnets, Stephen Booth has quipped: “Shakespeare was almost certainly homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual.” Of the 154 poems, most people know only one or two of the most innocent (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”), but the series as a whole has scandalized prudish readers for centuries with its confessions of heterosexual lust, homoerotic love, envy, jealousy, misogyny, abjection, pride, and some moping—all in some of the most exquisite verse ever composed in English. In this course we will examine, discuss, and write about the language of Shakespeare's sonnets and their literary historical context as well as the range of critical theories (and sometimes utterly wacky notions) about their mysterious contents, including those from the likes of Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and William Wordsworth. This is a feminist, queer-friendly, sex-positive course. LIT
(T. Billings)

 FYSE 1493 Soviet Espionage and the American Atomic Bomb Project (Fall)
Only in the past several years has the public learned the full extent of Soviet espionage activities against the United States during World War II.  Documents released from Soviet intelligence archives and wartime Soviet diplomatic cables decrypted by the National Security Agency's Venona Project detail the extraordinary success of Soviet intelligence in obtaining information about the American atomic bomb project (Manhattan Project) and other wartime secrets.  Why were so many Americans willing, even eager, to spy, or serve as agents of influence, on behalf of the Soviet Union? We will read various secondary texts on this subject and use the Venona documents themselves as primary texts.  3 hrs. sem. HIS. (J. Dunham)

 FYSE 1496 Reason, Morality, and Cultural Difference (Fall)
Different cultures have different standards of what counts as true, rational, and moral. Are all of these standards equally good? Which considerations could possibly support this position? Furthermore, should we accept the consequences that follow from the claim that all of these standards are equally good—for example, that the structure of the universe changes in accordance with a culture’s commitments to modern science, or that it is morally acceptable for some cultures to engage in genocide? By reading, discussing, and writing about contemporary philosophical readings on these topics, we will address these questions. 3 hrs. sem.PHL (K. Khalifa)

 FYSE 1498 Religion and State in China (Fall)
To explore the perennial question of the relation between politics and religion, we will examine the long, rich history of this issue in China. How did the imperial state draw on religion for legitimacy and set itself up as the arbiter of religious life? How did religious communities respond? We will consult primary sources on the emperor’s role as the Son of Heaven, the imperial state’s varying views and treatment of Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist, Christian, and folk religious practices, and religiously-inspired rebellions. We will conclude with attention to the cycle of persecution and revival of religion under the current regime.  PHL, NOA (E. Morrison)

 Your Connected World (Fall)
It’s not what you know. It’s who you know. In this course, we will examine how social networks—our links to other individuals and groups—form and why these networks matter. Do birds of a feather flock together? How do social networks shape our most personal decisions like who we fall in love with, the music we listen to, or the way we vote? How has the Internet, through virtual communities and social media, affected our ability to make, break, and transform our connections to others? We will answer these questions drawing from theories and research in the social sciences. 3 hrs. sem. CW, SOC (T. Tran)