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 serves as students' first academic advisers at Middlebury. 

First-Year Seminars Affiliated with Wonnacott:

Fall 2017


FYSE 1170A: Dealing with Atrocities
Occurrences of atrocities affecting large numbers of people show no sign of ending. How do these atrocities start and why? How do societies rebuild afterwards, and how might this rebuilding conflict with the healing process of individuals? How can the often competing goals of justice and reconciliation be balanced? What do subsequent generations in society owe to victims of large-scale atrocities? To explore these and other issues, a few main cases will be examined in depth – such as events in European colonialism and the Holocaust – as well as students choosing additional examples for comparison and further research. Prof. Rebecca Bennett


FYSE 1246A: Race & Difference in Twentieth-Century America
In this seminar we will investigate "race" as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon in the United States across the 20th century. By examining a variety of primary source material, including novels, autobiographies, and essays (e.g., Nell Larson’s Passing, 1929; Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets, 1967; Ruth Frankenberg’s White WomenRace Matters, 1993; and Vicki Nam’s Yell-Oh Girls, 2001), and films (e.g., Birth of a Nation, 1915; Imitation of Life, 1959; and Crash, 2004), we will analyze how the concept of race changed over time and how individuals and institutions defined and experienced race. Themes and topics to be covered include race and popular culture, race and identity, and race and social relations. Prof. William Hart


FYSE 1292A: Cultural Formations of 1980s
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 1464A: 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. Prof. Yumna Siddiqi


FYSE 1492A: Ecopoetry: Nature to Environment
In this course we will read and discuss poems about nature and the environment from a variety of historical periods, cultural traditions, and languages, with an emphasis on modern poetry written in English. As we explore the techniques used by poets to describe the biophysical environment we will also develop critical thinking, reading, writing, and speaking skills, bringing multiple interpretive approaches to bear. We will read and write about poems by Christopher Marlowe, Amelia Lanyer, Andrew Marvell, George Crabbe, William Wordsworth, John Clare, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Hardy, Langston Hughes, Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda, Stanley Kunitz, Mary Oliver, Camille Dungy, and others. Prof. Daniel Brayton


FYSE 1494A: Protest Music in Politics Around the World
In this course we will examine how marginalized populations around the world use music to interpret, explain, and respond to political, racial, socioeconomic, and gendered inequities. Because music is produced for a wide audience, it is important to the construction of group identity, and a useful means of protest. We will discuss the domestic politics of countries such as Nigeria, Jamaica, the US, and Brazil, primarily through comparative politics literature, but also with scholarship in sociology and critical race and gender theory. We will compare how power in various forms is used to repress, and how music challenges existing hegemonies. Prof. Kemi Fuentes-George


FYSE1495A:  Beethoven's Ninth
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is one of the great artistic achievements of the Western world. With that masterpiece as our focal point, in this course we will explore the composer’s life and music, the broader musical culture of early 19th-century Europe, and the social and political context of the symphony’s 1824 premiere. Moreover, we will trace the changing meanings of the symphony’s climactic “Ode to Joy” in various historical contexts from Beethoven’s time to ours, including German nationalism, the Japanese tradition of New Year’s performances, and the adaptation of the “Ode to Joy” theme as the anthem of the European Union. Prof. Larry Hamberlin


FYSE 1500A: Apocalyptic Representations in the Culture of the Americas
The apocalyptic book of Revelation is one of the most influential books in Western culture. In this course we will study how the Biblical text has impregnated culture, from Canada to Patagonia. By focusing on theories about the apocalyptic imagination (e.g. Padilla, Baudrillard, Žižek), we will concentrate on different cultural discourses: e.g. political, economic, environmental, literary, and ludic (gaming). Some examples include literature (e.g.  John Barth, Homero Aridjis, Pedro Palou), cinema (e.g. Brazil, The Matrix, The Book of Life), art (e.g. Apocalyptic Virgins, vanitas painting, Chicanx art), TV series (e.g. The 100, The Walking Dead), and video games (e.g. The Last of Us, Rock of Ages, Inka Madness). Students will also be encouraged to explore the apocalyptic narrative in other genres (e.g. music, cuisine, cartography, and virtual reality). This course will be taught in Spanish. AP in Spanish, placement exam at the 300 level, or by permission from the instructor. This seminar is appropriate for native speakers of Spanish, bilingual students, and students who have scored 720 or above on the Spanish SAT II, or 5 on the Spanish AP exam. Prof. Patricia Saldarriaga


FYSE 1511A: Once Upon a Time – Folk Fairy Tales of the World
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 authers as Jack Zipes, Ruth Bottigheimer, Maria Tatar, and Kay Stone, and conclude by examining modern variants in prose, poetry, and film. Prof. Roger Russi

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