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' academic advisers for their first three semesters at Middlebury.

First-Year Seminars Affiliated with Atwater:
Fall 2018
FYSE 1121 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; /The Great Beauty/). Research projects will focus on the cities’ distinctive cuisines, and will include culinary practice. (P. Zupan)

FYSE 1309 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. (D. Wyatt)

FYSE 1427 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. (K. Callanan)

FYSE 1477 Anti-Heros
How do works of literature persuade us to undertake the difficult work of opening our closed minds, softening our hard hearts, and questioning our deepest unexamined assumptions? Sometimes by presenting us with protagonists whose flaws seem to far outnumber their virtues, and who resemble people we have been taught to avoid and disdain in our actual lives. Keeping our eyes open as we begin to empathize with various monsters, failures, and lunatics, we will engage fundamental questions concerning literature’s persuasive techniques, psychological effects, and social responsibilities. Our syllabus will include novels, poems, and plays from the Elizabethan era to the present day. (A. Baldridge)

FYSE 1513 Reading & Writing Contemporary Art
How do we understand art produced in the present day? How does this art help us understand the world? In this course we will consider multiple objects designated by the term “contemporary art:” a global industry, an art-historical discourse, a set of cultural practices evolving in dialogue with technology, a symbolic arena for the consideration of political values. We will familiarize ourselves with notable works in contemporary art’s unfinished canon, and pursue the challenge of writing about the visual. Goals include: writing and revising college-level essays, learning effective research techniques, and analyzing the culture of the contemporary art world. (R. White)

FYSE 1522 Music and the Black Church
The sound of music, often associated with the voices of deities, was a medium for personal and communal religious expression in traditional African societies. During this time, the drum, also known as an “acoustical seducer of the spirits,” assembled the community and summoned the spirits. Today, Black religious music is still known for assembling a community, both inside and outside the church, with songs such as “We Shall Overcome,” a staple of the Civil Rights Movement. In this course we will immerse ourselves in the music of the Black church, from melodies predating the transatlantic slave trade and Negro spirituals to contemporary gospel sounds and their use in social activism. (J. Grant)

FYSE 1523 The Middle East:Nature/Society
In this course we will study the environmental history and current environmental issues of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, asking such questions as: How do states gain power through environmental governance? How is conservation practice political? How is water governed and how is it a political tool? What is the intersection between policy, politics, and the environment? The objectives of this course include providing students with an understanding of human-environment relations theory by addressing the regional specifics of modern environmental and social histories of these countries. We will study animals, water, and forests in the literature of Non-Governmental Organizations, UN Environment reports, media, policy papers, and academic literature. (R. Greeley)

FYSE 1527 The Woman Question
Pondering Women's Place in a Changing Society* When the 19th Amendment became part of the US Constitution in 1920, it stipulated that American citizens’ right to vote could not be denied “on account of sex.” For more than seventy years leading up to that moment, Americans debated who should shape public life and what it meant to be a woman. Both before and after ratification of the amendment, “the woman question” grew in importance, even while some women’s ability to exercise the right of suffrage remained contested. Anticipating the suffrage centenary, we will dig into historical documents to explore how race, class, and gender dynamics shaped this struggle. (A. Morsman)


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