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 Ross
Fall 2017

FYSE 1145 Voices Along the Way (CRN# 91616)

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. (Hector Vila)


FYSE 1255 Collapse of Complex Societies  (CRN# 92502 )

In this seminar we will examine how and why historically complex societies have failed. We will explore the roles of population pressure, environmental degradation, warfare, and other factors in the collapse of such ancient urban societies as the Classic Maya, Chaco, and the Roman Empire. Likewise, we will explore how societies seemingly well-adapted to their geographic environments, such as the Vikings in Greenland, ultimately succumbed to extinction. Reviewing academic and popular explanations for societal collapse worldwide, we will ultimately engage the modern era and investigate the fragility of contemporary societies. (James Fitzsimmons)

FYSE 1301 Rome on Stage and Screen (CRN# 92542)

In this seminar we will investigate the long history of Roman drama, from the ancient world to Shakespeare’s plays and contemporary films. As we explore the representation and reception of ancient Rome, we will address the following questions: What is the relationship between drama and history? To what political purposes can drama and film be used? How does the representation of characters change over time? How are women portrayed? Why does Rome continue to influence the modern world? Texts will include Octavia and the Satyricon; Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra; films will include Quo Vadis? and I, Claudius. (Christopher Star)

FYSE 1497 Bibliotherapy (CRN# 92517)

An inscription over the door of a library in Ancient Egypt purportedly read, “Medicine for the Soul,” and the modern practice known as “Bibliotherapy” similarly claims that reading and writing can have powerful psychological benefits. How can reading books improve your mental health? Can writing about trauma help to heal psychic wounds? In this course we will explore contemporary theories of the therapeutic value of literature; readings will include novels, poems, short stories, memoirs, and psychological articles. Students will write analytical essays, research-based essays, and scholarly review articles as well as creative works, which will be shared with classmates in a writing workshop setting. (Antonia Losano)

FYSE 1501 Adirondack Mind (CRN# 92520)

The Adirondack Park, six million acres of protected public and private wildland in northern New York State, has a distinct and influential intellectual history. In Adirondack Mind, we will trace that history from the precolonial to present day, focusing primarily on the stream of thought moving from Emerson through William James and Felix Adler to Bob Marshall and the Wilderness Society, including the philosophy of Pragmatism and the Abolitionist movement. Together we will visit Follensby Pond, site of the 1858 Philosopher's Camp, and make at least one other individual trip to hike or visit an important site. The readings will emphasize how the writers had their insights through the direct experience of Adirondack geography. By researching and writing our own stories, we will come to see how our sense of self arises from the elements and demands of the immediate environment, and perhaps begin to view all our places in the world as vehicles for conscious awakening. Readings include works by W. J. Stillman, Emerson, William James, Theodore Roosevelt, Amy Godine, Russell Banks, Chase Twichell, Jeanne Robert Foster, David Abram, George Prochnik, Bill McKibben, Maurice Kenny, and Christopher Shaw. (Christopher Shaw)

FYSE 1504 Theater and Mathematics (CRN# 92523)

During the previous century, a handful of avant-garde playwrights took inspiration from the various revolutions in geometry, logic, and theories of the infinite to challenge the artistic norms of their respective eras. This unexpected synthesis of mathematics and theater eventually found its way to the mainstage with critical successes such as Arcadia (1993), Proof (2000), and A Disappearing Number (2007). Adopting a bold interdisciplinary spirit, we will fearlessly engage the mathematical ideas with the goal of understanding how they contribute to the mission of the artists. Likewise, we will engage the theater in an authentic way, regularly performing scenes in class and, at the semester’s conclusion, mounting a small production. (Steve Abbott)

FYSE 1506 College and the Common Good (CRN#92554)

Why attend a liberal arts college? The traditional purpose of a liberal arts education is the cultivation of virtuous citizens. In this seminar we will identify virtues necessary for democratic citizenship and ask how the arts and sciences can help develop them. We will explore ways in which residence on a liberal arts campus provides opportunity to practice civic virtue, shaping how we think about aspects of college life like distribution requirements, the Honor Code, internships, and financial aid. Finally, we will consider how these virtues prepare us for lifelong investment in the common good by examining the relevance of liberal learning to a range of contemporary social issues. (James Davis)

FYSE 1508 Playing Dead:  TV Crime Drama (CRN# 92575)

In this course we will explore the cultural beliefs and biases implicit in TV crime dramas.  Our television screens are populated with these shows, some focusing on the independent investigator, others on the police, and still others on the technicians who help secure evidence. Using a feminist lens, we will explore the grammar of this genre in terms of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Who gets defined as the criminal, who the victim, and why? What makes crime dramas pleasurable, and why do we watch them even when they are formulaic? How have they changed over time? (Sujata Moorti)

FYSE 1509 Computer Music Programming (CRN# 92576)

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. (Peter Hamlin)