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 2015
FYSE 1145 Voices Along the Way
In this seminar—designed for international as well as U.S. students—we will examine American culture, as perceived both in the U.S. and abroad, through the lenses of gender, sexuality, race, class, and migration. Using literature and popular media, we will develop an understanding of the complexities and challenges in American culture, articulating them in inquiry-based writing and oral presentations, and learning how scholarly work has been integral to understanding them.
(H. Vila)

FYSE 1345 The Art and Nature of Contemplation
What would it be like to attend to oneself, to others, and to the world with the concentration and insight of a Zen-inspired poet? How does a forest, a river, a neighborhood, or a city feel to an artist in open attentiveness to the immediate environment? This semnar invites students to experience contemplative knowing of self and surroundings through mindfulness meditation and through daily reflections in words, sketches or photographs. We will learn about the traditional origins of meditation and more recent uses of mindfulness for personal wellbeing. To give context to our own practice we will engage critically with essays, poems, art installations, and films that have arisen from contemplations of nature in ancient and modern times. Our study begins with Japanese poets Saigyo and Basho, the classic filmmaker Ozu, and the anime director Miyazaki. We then explore and compare meditative works by American and international writers and artists Annie Dillard, Andy Goldsworthy, and Maya Lin. We will conclude with the question of the relationship between mindfulness and social awareness in the works of Shigeru Ban.
(C. Cavanaugh)

FYSE 1440 Mahatma Gandhi: Myth and Reality
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), known as the Mahatma or Great Soul, was both revered and despised. Lauded as the ‘Father’ of independent India, he was nevertheless blamed for its partition. Seen as the champion of Untouchables, he was distrusted by those he called the children of god. Characterizing himself as a Hindu reformer and an Indian nationalist, he was ultimately assassinated by a Hindu nationalist. Who was Gandhi and why was he opposed? In this seminar we will read primary and secondary sources to examine Gandhi’s ideas and actions, paying particular attention to the contradictions in his life.
(I. Barrow)

FYSE 1442 Fifty Shades of Italy: an Exploration of Contemporary Italian History, Culture and Society
Italy is the land of a seductive culture that for centuries has inspired undeniable romanticism and continues to capture the imagination of many. But there is more to Italy than beautiful landscapes and world famous cuisine. From the darkness of fascism and terrorism, to the sophisticated colors of Italian fashion and design, to the dramatic tones of illegal immigration, we will explore, discover, or critically revisit the many shades that together compose the complexity of the Italian mosaic. Our interdisciplinary approach will include short stories, essays, newspaper articles, films, music, and images.
(S. Carletti)

FYSE 1446 Acoustic Ecology
Acoustic ecology is the study of sounds in relationship to life and society. An interdisciplinary field, it explores the social, cultural, scientific, and ecological aspects of the sonic environment. In this seminar we will gain auditory literacy by experiencing the world through sound (e.g., noise, speech, music). Topics will include the impact of noise on society; the urban experience through sound (especially Berlin and New York); aural architecture; production and reception of speech; representations of sound in literature and the visual arts; and even emotional responses to certain songs. Sources include texts by neuroscientists, literary scholars, linguists, anthropologists, musicologists, and others; music, and films.
(F. Feiereisen)

FYSE 1448 Music, Race, and Place
In this seminar we will consider how the rise of urban African America shaped and was shaped by the evolution of contemporary black music. We will examine blues, soul, and early hip hop music in their historical and spatial contexts, beginning with the Great Migration, progressing through the heyday of centers of black life like New York’s Harlem and Chicago’s Bronzeville, and ending with the development and decline of high-rise housing projects. Driven by the recurrent questions of “why here?” and “why now?” we will work to understand what the growth of these various musical forms meant to urban African America.
(W. Nash)

FYSE 1451 Power and Petroleum in Asia, 1890-Present
From Standard Oil’s marketing of kerosene in 1890s China to 21st century conflicts over undersea reserves in the western Pacific, oil has played a key role in Asia’s modern development. In this seminar we will examine the expansion of European, American, and Japanese petroleum companies in East and Southeast Asia, the role of oil in the Pacific War, and China’s present-day efforts to fuel its growing economy. By analyzing novels, films, advertisements, and historical scholarship, we will learn about modern changes to local patterns of resource extraction as well as the emergence of new understandings of nature, illumination, and production.
(M. Clinton)

FYSE 1461 Film Form, Film Meaning: Fellini and the Art of Cinema
In this seminar we will discover the hidden art of cinematic form. How do movies construct meaning? Why are they often so emotionally engaging? How is cinema related to the other arts (literature, painting, photography, music)? In the first half of the seminar we will analyze six films by Federico Fellini—one of Europe’s most famous auteur directors (La strada, La dolce vita, 8 1/2, among others). In the second half of the seminar, students will analyze films of their choosing (any film by any European director). Armed with the critical skills gained through analyzing Fellini, groups of students will then screen their films to the entire class, complete a major classroom presentation, and engage in original research.
(T. Van Order)



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