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 2018

FYSE 1062 Listening to the 1930’s (Fall)
The 1930s in the U.S. saw both economic crisis and the golden age of Hollywood; both left-wing political movements and deportation of immigrants; both politically-engaged artistic and literary movements and a historic reconception of government’s role. We’ll “listen” to the 1930s through existing oral history sources (Studs Terkel’s Hard Times, PBS’s The Great Depression, Vermont Folklife Center’s Mad River Valley), and the class will create its own oral history podcast using interviews with local residents who remember that decade. Other assignments include short research papers, response essays, an oral presentation, and an in-class performance of a 1930s play. 3 hrs. sem. AMR, CW, HIS (C. Craven)

FYSE 1435 Awe, Happiness and Positive Psychology (Fall)
When have you felt awe? What makes people happy? Are there clear, predictable explanations for why some people are more resilient in life than others? How might experiencing awe or holding a positive worldview relate to performance at work or in school? Over this seminar, we will explore not only what makes us happy, but what makes us thrive. In doing so we will consider why this matters to us as individuals and, more broadly, to society. Emphasis will be placed on Self Determination Theory and understanding the link between intrinsic motivation and engagement with work and life. Additionally, we will contemplate the potential for using psychological theories in institutions such as schools, businesses, and non-profits to facilitate stakeholders’ commitment, performance, and health. We will read empirical research articles, popular books, and blogs to learn how researchers measure awe, happiness, and wellbeing. 3 hrs. sem. CW, SOC (M. McCauley)

FYSE 1464 Intro Postcolonial Literatures- The Empire Writes Back: Politics and Literature from Postcolonial Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia (Fall)
A hundred years ago, Britain ruled about a quarter of the world’s population, and the British Empire covered approximately a quarter of the earth’s land surface. Though most of the colonies have won formal independence, the effects of global imperialism continue to be felt, and arguably Empire has taken on other forms. In this seminar we will discuss fiction, poetry, and drama by postcolonial writers such as J. M. Coetzee, Derek Walcott, Daljit Nagra, Wole Soyinka, Mahashweta Devi, Jean Rhys, Arundhati Roy, Edward Said, and Frantz Fanon, addressing questions about the nature and effects of colonization, anti-colonial resistance, representation, agency, and power. 3 hrs. sem. CMP, CW, LIT (Y. Siddiqui)

FYSE 1509 Introduction to Computer Programming Through Music Applications (Fall)
This course is designed to introduce students to computer programming, starting at the very beginning with basic concepts, and leading to the creation of web-based music applications, and virtual reality soundscapes. Computer programming can seem intimidating, but there are ways to get started that are fun and exciting, and not too scary! The class will also have a chance to research, and write about the use of computers in music past, present and future. 3 hrs. sem. ART, CW (P. Hamlin)

FYSE 1511 Once Upon a Time – Folk Fairy Tales of the World (Fall)
Tell me a story! We will examine the complex, inter-connected folk fairy tale traditions found in every society. Comparing fairy tale variants from around the world, we will explore their convoluted and fertile relationships as observed in the rise of fairytale collections in 15th Century Europe, reaching a culmination in the Brothers Grimm collection, often synonymous with the fairy tale itself. To attain a more dispassionate critical stance we will explore theoretical approaches to the fairy tales by such authors as Jack Zipes, Ruth Bottigheimer, Maria Tatar, and Kay Stone, and conclude by examining modern variants in prose, poetry, and film. 3 hrs. sem. CMP, CW, LIT ( R. Russi)

FYSE 1514 Refugee Stories (Fall)
“Stories are just things we fabricate,” says a character in Viet Nguyen’s The Refugees. “We search for them in a world besides our own, then leave them here to be found, garments shed by ghosts.” In this course students will find stories by and about a paradigmatic modern figure: the displaced refugee seeking asylum in unfamiliar lands. Highlighting literary and visual representations, we will also draw from history, sociology, anthropology, environmental studies, and feminist critique. Beginning with the Syrian refugee crisis, we will circle back to the Vietnam War and the lingering questions it poses to today’s social justice movement. 3 hrs. sem. CW, LIT (B. Graves)

FYSE 1521 Venomous Cures (Fall)
In this course we will explore surprising discoveries about how highly toxic animal venoms can be used in biomedical research and treat disease. The exploration of venomous animals will serve as an entry to learning basic principles of human and animal physiology. Students will explore this topic while learning how to communicate scientific findings effectively. We will read works from science journalists and learn to read primary research articles written by scientists. Students will learn how to incorporate scientific findings into an evidence-based argument targeted for the general public. 3 hrs. sem. CW, SCI (G. Ernstrom)

FYSE 1524 Dirt Across Disciplines-Finding our Place (Fall)
What can birds tell us about borders? Deer about politics? Earthworms about epistemology? In this class, we will use elements from the non-human world to explore a set of human conversations across academic traditions. We will take natural history seriously as science and metaphor, learning tree identification while discussing trees as tools in climate science and poetry, for example. We will also practice web-building, exploring conventions for communicating from a variety of disciplinary perspectives—from natural science to humanities, from scholarly questions to personal quests for meaning. Be ready to venture outside. May include 2-3 fieldtrips Friday afternoons or weekends. 3 hrs. sem. CW, PHL, SCI (J. L’Roe)

FYSE 1525 Writer’s Decathlon (Fall)
One of the best skills a writer can hope to cultivate is flexibility—the ability to write for different audiences, different situations, different media, and with different goals in mind. In this course we will develop our skills as flexible writers by tackling ten different writing exercises, including the op-ed, several sub-genres of the traditional academic paper, personal essays, creative fiction, the persuasive essay, business communications, modern tech-based genres, and more—we may even try our hand at writing an old-fashioned love letter with a quill pen. We will workshop our writings in class regularly, and examples of these various genres will be our course readings. 3 hrs. sem. CW (A. Losano)

FYSE 1528 Invention of Nature: Global and Local (Fall)
In this class we take a deep dive into the nineteenth century archive where students will discover how Middlebury’s first professor, Frederick T. Hall, institutionalized the scientific study of nature here at a time when most colleges emphasized seminary studies. We will compare the careers of two of his students: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and Edwin James, both of whom became explorers of the western territories and experts in Native American languages. We will look at their expeditionary writings and examine how these were taken up and used by a diverse audience that included scientists, industrialists, legislators, poets, clergy, and adventure-seekers. We will explore how these writings and their subsequent use help to invent a natural history for the new nation. We will also examine the ambivalent implication of James and Schoolcraft’s writings for the status of the Native Americans with whom they worked. 3 hrs. sem. AMR, CW, HIS, SOC (M. Nevins)

FYSE 1534 Who Owns Culture? History, Culture and Decolonization (Fall)
Modern European imperial states devoted considerable time and effort to creating the norms and forms of European life in their colonies. This involved establishing European schools, languages, literature, music, dress, and art as superior to the indigenous cultures of the colonies. During the era of decolonization many thinkers from the colonies began to argue that political emancipation would also require a cultural emancipation. To decolonize the state one had to decolonize one’s state of mind. How could this be achieved? Who “owns” culture? These and other questions will be pursued through the writings of Gandhi, Césaire, Fanon, Memmi, Thiong’o, and others. 3 hrs. sem. CMP, CW, HIS (A. Prakash)