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 2016

FYSE 1145 Voices Along the Way (CRN# 91720)

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 1314 The Mathematical Gardner (CRN# 92454)

In this course we will have an “orgy of right-brain tomfoolery” as inspired by the writings of Martin Gardner. For several decades Gardner's contributions to Scientific American, in the form of his column “Mathematical Games,”bridged the divide between professional mathematicians and the general public. He shared with us like no other,introducing or popularizing topics such as paper-folding, Hex, polyominoes, four-dimensional ticktacktoe,Conway’s Game of Life, the Soma cube --- the list goes on seemingly forever. We will examine these mathematical curiosities for pure pleasure.  (J. Schmitt)

FYSE 1371 Virginia Woolf in Context (CRN# 92457)

In this seminar we will focus on the novels, essays, and short stories of Virginia Woolf, considering them in the light of her social, political, and artistic contexts and commitments. We will explore in particular the tension in her work between Victorian values and aesthetics and the progressive goals of the modernist movement. Our readings will take us from the early novels (Voyage Out, Night and Day) to the later experimental works (To the Lighthouse, Orlando, The Waves). Some of the topics central to the seminar will be Woolf’s engagement with modernism and its key figures (such as James Joyce); her treatment of gender and sexuality in her essays and elsewhere; and her struggles with mental illness. We will intersperse our reading of Woolf’s prose with consideration of some film versions of her work, and we will conclude the seminar with a reading of Michael Cunningham’s 1998 creative homage to Mrs. Dalloway: The Hours. (M. Wells)

FYSE 1384 Reading the Book of Job (CRN# 92579)

Why do the innocent suffer? Why do we want to believe that the world is “fair” and “ordered”? The Book of Job asked these questions millennia ago. Framed by a prose tale about the “patience of Job,” with a happy ending, the core of the book is a debate in poetry, between an impatient Job and his “friends,” with no satisfactory ending at all. We will study the book itself and its retellings and interpretations through novels, poetry, drama, philosophy, and art, including works by Kafka, Camus, William Blake, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Kant, and Robert Frost. (R. Schine)

FYSE 1398 Speechmakers' Studio (CRN# 92461)

Our teachers will be great speeches wherever we find them: from Antiquity and the Elizabethan stage, to Hollywood, the Civil Rights Movement, and TEDTalks gone viral. We will explore various theories of oratory, and, like students of classical rhetoric, we will emulate masterworks in order to sharpen our own persuasive skills. As speakers, we will practice vocal and physical techniques used by actors, as well as their methods for scene preparation. Throughout the semester, students will write and deliver speeches of their own, completing an immersion into speechmaking designed to help them communicate with precision, empathy, and personal conviction.  (D. Yeaton)

FYSE 1405 Language and Social Justice (CRN# 92462)

In this seminar we will explore questions such as: What is the relationship between language and power in the U.S and abroad? How does linguistic prejudice contribute to social inequality? Is language a human right, and if so, what are the implications? We will engage with scholarly, journalistic, and artistic works, including writings by Julia Alvarez, James Baldwin, Deborah Cameron, William Labov, Rosina Lippi-Green, Thomas Ricento, Richard Rodriguez, Amy Tan, and many others. Students will develop a range of reading, writing, and oral presentation skills, and will receive frequent feedback on their work throughout the semester.  (S. Shapiro)

FYSE 1478 American Identity, Jewish Literature, and Vice Versa (CRN# 92467)

In this seminar we will look at imaginative representations of and by Jews in (mostly) American and (some) European literatures, with the goal of understanding, as broadly and intensely as possible, both the necessities and difficulties involved in writing about hyphenated identity -- any hyphenated identity. Readings will include works by Kafka, Isaac Babel, Bruno Schultz, Henry Roth, IB Singer, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Grace Paley, Art Spiegelman, and many others.  (R. Cohen)

FYSE 1479 Poetry and Poetics (CRN# 92468)

This seminar is an introduction to the formal and generic aspects of lyric poetry in English. We will work to develop sensitivity to the various strategies of meaning available to poets—meter, rhyme, sound, diction,  imagery— in order to read poems more closely, thoughtfully, and with pleasure. We will also attend to the historical, cultural, and biographical contexts of poems and poets, but our emphasis will be on lyric poems by a variety of poets from a range of periods and traditions. This is a literature, rather than a creative writing, course; but student poets are welcome to join.  (B. Millier)

FYSE 1486 Batman Narratives (CRN# 92475)

In this seminar we will study Batman comics, animation, live action films, and videogames from different time periods in order to understand how this American character has become one of the most influential icons of contemporary popular culture in almost every medium. Through theories of adaptation, pastiche, and parody, we will explore how Batman narratives reflect the development of nationalism in the U.S., and mainstream perceptions of race, gender, and class throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Texts will include The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the Arkham videogame series, and others.  (E. Garcia)