First Year Seminars Associated With Wonnacott Commons - 2018

 FYSE 1021: Love and Death in Western Europe, 1300-1900
History is not just names and dates; it also encompasses how ordinary people lived and felt. Emotions have a history because they have changed over time. This seminar deals with aspects of the history of desire and fear in Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the industrial era. Topics will include sex, marriage, child-rearing, disease, suicide, and the belief in immortality. In addition to works of historical analysis, we will read literary and theoretical sources, including Dante, Goethe, and Freud. Our aim is to understand how common emotions have been altered by social and cultural circumstances.  Prof. Paul Monod

 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 Venice, Othello, and contextual readings. Prof. James Berg

 FYSE 1175: The Game of Go
Go is an ancient board game which originated in East Asia and is now played and studied by over 40 million people worldwide. The game is both intellectually demanding and rigorous as well as artistic and highly creative. We will study the fundamentals of play, record and critique our games, and learn the history of Go and some of its outstanding practitioners. Additionally, we will gain a deeper appreciation of Asian arts and cultures through our readings, learning journals, writing projects, and presentations. There will be plenty of game practice, analysis, some film and anime discussion, and a class tournament.  Prof. Peter Schumer

 FYSE 1238: The Trojan War
The myth of the Trojan War exerted a defining influence on Greek and Roman culture, and has played a central role in the Western tradition ever since. In this seminar we will examine the historicity of the Trojan War and how ancient writers used it to explore themes such as the nature of heroism, the workings of the gods, and the relationship between the individual and society. We will also consider how our modern ideals about heroic action compare with those of ancient times. Readings will include selections from Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Vergil, and Ovid. Prof. Randall Ganiban

 FYSE 1292: Cultural Formations of the 1980’s
In this course we will investigate cultural formations of the United States during the 1980s through a critical examination of fiction, music, television, art, advertising, and film. We will connect texts produced during and about the period with social, political, and economic transformations that began with the so-called “Reagan Revolution.” Social issues concerning race, class, gender, and sexuality will be analyzed through topics including the Culture Wars, globalization and outsourcing, the ascendance of Wall Street, the rise of AIDS, attacks on the welfare state, the emergence of hiphop, and the War on Drugs. Prof. Rachel Joo


FYSE 1526: Sex and Society:  An Introduction
This seminar is an introduction to sociological literature on the pleasures, power, and problems of sex. It is impossible to understand sexuality as separate from other dimensions of the human condition—economics, politics, work, family, race, and gender. Therefore, we will place sexuality in dynamic interaction with larger social issues. In particular, we will examine questions related to morality, sex work, desire and fantasy, the science of sex, and sexual politics. Class materials include sociological, scientific, and philosophical texts and films. Students should leave the course with an appreciation for sexuality as a social, not just personal, phenomenon. Prof. Jamie McCallum

 FYSE 1529:  Wonderful Worlds of Islamic Art
In Fall 2018, the Middlebury College Art Museum will host “Wondrous Worlds,” an exhibition of Islamic arts featuring an unusually broad range of arts and crafts from all parts of the Islamic world, from the distant past to the contemporary present. Our seminar will work closely with the exhibition to learn about the basics of Islamic faith and practice. We will also engage the exhibition themes of Internationalisms, Quran, Calligraphy and Book Arts, Hospitality, Architecture, and the Body Beautiful. Further, we will learn about contemporary arts, graphic novels, music, and film, and practice calligraphy and geometric design. Prof. Cynthia Packert

 FYSE 1531:  Art Music and Creative Brain
In this course we will use advances in neuroscience, as well as recent discussions between artists and neuroscientists, to explore the involvement of the brain in in artistic creativity. Focusing primarily upon the visual arts and music, we will learn how human beings sense and perceive images and sounds, how artists exploit the brain mechanisms responsible for such experiences, and how creativity might be understood in neurological terms. We will read from authors investigating the intersection between the arts and neuroscience, and students will present on a visual or musical work of their choice, or their own composition. Prof. Tom Root


Resource Guide

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Mailing Address:
Wonnacott Commons Middlebury College
14 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury, VT  05753

Physical location:
Battell South Room 123
MariAnn Osborne, Commons Coordinator
Tel: (802) 443-3350
Fax: (802) 443-3359