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 and are taught by regular, full-time faculty members who also serve as students' academic advisers during their first three semesters at Middlebury.  Cook affiliated First Year Seminars for fall 2015 are listed below.

FYSE 1167  Shakespeare's Characters
Shakespeare’s reputation owes much to his characters. Yet memorable as these are, they abound in inconsistencies. What did they mean in Shakespeare’s time, and how do they still succeed? What explains the charisma of Bottom, the idiot who cannot act, or the appeal of Shylock, the vicious stereotype of Jewishness? Othello’s jealousy renders him a murderer, yet he elicits empathy; Desdemona is first assertive, then submissive. What do these contradictions mean? What do they tell us about attitudes towards race, gender, psychology, and theater in Shakespeare’s time and today? Addressing such questions, we will develop critical thinking and writing skills. Texts will include A Midsummer Night’s Dream,The Merchant of VeniceOthello, and contextual readings. 3 hrs. sem. CW EUR LIT   Jim Berg

FYSE 1183  Psychology and the Meaning of Life
The goal of this seminar will be to explore what psychology can teach us about the meaning of life. We will start with earlier, more philosophical models (Freud, Frankl, Maslow) and conclude with modern empirical approaches to the study of “happiness” and “meaningfulness” (Seligman, Czikszentmihalyi, Kasser). This seminar will include a substantial service-learning component in which students will volunteer in community organizations and use those experiences as material for class discussion and assignments. 3 hrs. sem. CW SOC        Matt Kimble

FYSE 1302  C.S. Lewis: Ecology, Philosophy, and Imagination
In this course we will explore the writings of C.S.Lewis, with an eye to how important philosophical and theological ideas evident in his non-fiction essays and books find expression in his major works of fantastic fiction: The Chronicles of Narnia and the Ransom Trilogy. Particular emphasis will be given to the implications of his views of nature and ecology (including ecological practices). We will focus on Lewis’s own writing, especially his fantasy novels, but will also read a small selection of writing about Lewis, such as Alan Jacobs’ The Narnian. 3 hrs. sem. CW LIT PHL  Matthew Dickerson

FYSE 1436  Mystics, Saints, and Shamans
What is the nature of a mystical experience? Are “mysticism” or “sainthood” phenomena with a universal core found equally across cultures? What is the role of cultural and social contexts in the formation of such experiences and phenomena? How exactly do we define who is a saint or a shaman? This course will be a comparative study of extraordinary experiences and manipulations of reality claimed by charismatic religious figures across time and space. We will discuss a wide variety of examples from traditionally renowned saints of the medieval Islamic world to contemporary New Age leaders in America. 3 hrs. sem. CMP CW PHL       Ata Anzali

FYSE 1438  Vermeer: Forgeries, Fictions & Films
Since his rediscovery in the 19th century, Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer has received sustained and enthusiastic praise for his refined paintings of everyday life in 17th-century Holland. In this course we will examine how Vermeer’s art and life have been evaluated from the 17th to the 21st century. We will not only contextualize Vermeer in his own time and place, but we will also consider how his work has elicited a range of responses in modern times, including forgeries, novels, and films. 3 hrs. sem. ART CW EUR          Carrie Anderson

FYSE 1447  Mastodons, Mermaids, and Dioramas: Capturing Nature in the Americas
Why did 18th-century museums stuff and mount exotic and domestic animals? Why does the American Museum of Natural History still house dioramas of so-called "native peoples" hunting? How has the study and staging of nature transferred into various kinds of artistic expression? In this seminar we will examine the intertwining of art, science, and ecology in the United States from the 1700s to the present day. Objects of study will include museum dioramas, scientific models, artifacts, and artworks collected during scientific expeditions, as well as the work of Walton Ford and Christy Rupp, contemporary artists whose works engage ecological issues. 3 hrs. sem. ART CW NOR         Ellery Foutch

FYSE 1449  Electronic Music for Poets and Dreamers
In this seminar students will experience a hands-on introduction to electronic music, designed for those with little or no experience in the medium. No musical or technical background is required. Rather than presenting electronic music as a technological matter, this course will allow students to use creative projects to explore and express their own passions about their lives and the world around them. Written and spoken projects will explore the history of the medium and artists who have created significant work. 3 hrs. sem.ART CW      Peter Hamlin

FYSE 1464  The Empire Writes Back: Politics and Literature from Postcolonial Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia
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            Yumna  Siddiqi


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