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 2016

FYSE 1296 America's Constitutional Democracy
America’s constitutional democracy rests on a foundation of political theory, constitutional law, and historical experience. By examining the writings of John Locke, James Madison, Alexis de Tocqueville, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, and many others, and by reading a series of key Supreme Court rulings, we will explore how Americans have grappled with key questions involving liberty, equality, representation, and commerce. 3 hrs. sem. (B. Johnson)

FYSE 1316 The Work of Art: Labor in Contemporary Literature and Visual Culture
In this seminar we will examine imaginative accounts of work and workers in recent literature, art, and film. Garment workers, miners, computer programmers, taxi drivers, teachers, and sex workers will take center stage as we consider the shifting meanings of paid and unpaid labor in contemporary culture. Class materials will consist of an international mix of novels, poems, photographs, performance pieces, theoretical texts, documentaries, and feature films. Topics to be considered include women’s work, labor migrations, the rise of service work and other forms of “affective” labor, and the representation of the body at work. 3 hrs. sem. (B. Graves)

FYSE 1376 Postwar Japanese History in Film and Literature
In this seminar we will study the history of postwar Japan (1945 to the present), focusing on how literature and film have engaged the defining historical and political questions of this period. The seminar is organized around specific themes, including: trauma and war memory, the Allied occupation, the cold war in East Asia, high economic growth in the 1960s, political protest, post-coloniality, and a resurgent nationalism. Students will learn postwar Japanese history while also considering the possibilities of pursuing historical analysis through translated literature and narrative film.  3 hrs. sem. (M. Ward)

FYSE 1407 Gender and the Making of Space
In this seminar we will investigate the complex relationship between gender and architecture, examining how the design of the built environment (buildings, urban spaces, etc.) can reinforce or undermine ideas about the respective roles of women and men in society, from the creation of masculine and feminine spaces to the gendered nature of the architectural profession. By looking at both visual evidence and textual sources, we will also uncover how the social construction of gender roles and gendered spaces are—and continue to be—inflected by race, class, and sexuality. 3 hrs. sem. (E. Sassin)

FYSE 1453 Karma
Why do things happen to us as they do? For many throughout Asia, the answer is or has been karma, the ancient Indian notion that over multiple lifetimes individuals reap the effects of past actions. We will examine this powerful idea of moral causality in depth, considering strikingly varied versions in classical Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, and the wealth of practices believed to improve future lives (and ultimately lead to liberation). We will also investigate the diverse and surprising consequences of karma in some Asian societies—including the justification of social hierarchy, the mistreatment of some groups, and the emergence of vegetarianism—as well as the role of karma in literature and film, especially in East Asia. 3 hrs. sem. (E. Morrison)

FYSE 1475 Make Space: Black Playwrights Creating, Claiming, Resisting, and Existing
This seminar makes space for Black playwrights.  We will begin our focus with August Wilson, who despite his critically acclaimed ten-play cycle chronicling the experience of African-Americans remains unknown to many students. We will explore the influence of the blues, artist Romare Bearden, and playwright/poet Amiri Baraka on August Wilson’s work. We will also study playwrights Dominique Morisseau, Susan Lori-Parks, and Katori Hall. We will utilize Critical Race Theory as an analytical tool for understanding the significance of these plays in the larger tapestry of race relations and in understanding conceptions of resistance and representation. 3 hrs. sem. (T. Affolter)

FYSE 1477 Anti-Heroes
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. 3 hrs. sem. (C. Baldridge)

FYSE 1480 The Geologic Origins of Energy
In this seminar we will seek to improve our understanding of where energy comes from and how it is converted into forms useful to humankind. Specifically, we will explore the origins of nuclear, geothermal, fossil fuel, wind, and solar energy and understand how they relate to Earth’s geologic systems and its climate. To explore the social implications of problems involving energy, we will learn basic scientific concepts and compare our findings with information disseminated in the popular media. We will also take several short field trips to observe and experience some of the geologic phenomena we discuss. 3 hrs. sem. (W. Amidon)

FYSE 1485 Vaccines: History, Science, Society
In this seminar we will examine vaccines and vaccination programs from the perspective of anthropology. First, we will delve into the history of vaccination, from practices in Asia and Africa dating back to the 10th century, to Cotton Mather’s experiments with smallpox inoculation in Colonial Boston, to the development of modern vaccines. Next, we’ll look at global attempts to control diseases using vaccines, from the successful Smallpox Eradication Program to current projects targeting polio and measles. We will use this material to examine the science, politics, and culture of vaccination programs, and to investigate why some people refuse vaccination. 3 hrs. sem. (S. Closser)

FYSE 1488 Pavilions, Serpents, and High Cs: European and Asian Opera
Opera is often regarded as one of the highest forms of dramatic art, a product of the creative collaboration between composer and librettist, cultural idiom, and dramatic narrative. When Mozart, Monteverdi, Puccini, and Asian composers came together with their librettist counterparts, provocative operas came into being. In this seminar we will study operatic ventures from the early baroque and Mozart, to traditional music theater pieces from China and Southeast Asia. We will delve into issues of prosody and word painting through analysis. We will also engage in discussions, research, and creative projects in the form of song writing, to explore how opera comes about and its place in our culture. (Ability to read music and perform an instrument or voice recommended). 3 hrs. sem. (S. Tan)