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 Atwater:
Fall 2013
FYSE 1144 Jane Austen & Film
Why did a writer born over 200 years ago become a hot property in Hollywood? The explosion of film adaptations of Austen's novels has sent readers scurrying to Austen's six major works: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion. We will study these novels and their film and video adaptations, while examining the differences between the language of film and the language of fiction, and while considering Austen's appeal to 21st century men and women.
(M. Bertolini)
FYSE 1214 Space, Time, and Measurement
The ability to precisely measure time and distance is essential to modern science and technology. As measurement technologies developed, they led to scientific discoveries that redefined our fundamental understanding of space, time and measurement themselves. We will follow this process from Galileo’s pendulum through Einstein’s theory of relativity and modern applications in quantum mechanics and cosmology. We will use historical and scientific texts, analytic writing, and a few hands-on activities to understand these ideas and their impact on science and society.
(N. Graham)
FYSE 1263 We Got to MOVE:African American Migrations
In this course we will consider the phenomenon of migration in 20th century African American life. We will draw on texts from fields such as literature (works by Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Lorraine Hansberry, and Dinaw Mengestu), art (paintings by Jacob Lawrence and Kerry James Marshall, FSA photos), music (blues, soul, and hip hop), sociology (Cayton and Drake, Black Metropolis), American Studies (Griffin, Who Set You Flowin’), and history (Berlin, The Making of African America). Our objectives will be to understand both the actual impact of the migrant experience on the African American community and African American artists’ creative responses to it.
(W. Nash)
FYSE 1300 Ecological History New England
The New England landscape has been profoundly shaped by people; the traces of human activity can be seen in even its wildest corners. In this course we will trace the evolving relationship between people and forests, as recorded in literature, historical documents, and the trees themselves. We will use a variety of sources to reconstruct how New England forests have changed over the last 300-400 years, while tracing the simultaneous changes in how people perceived the forests around them. We will end by asking what the past teaches us about the future of New England forests in a time of rapid ecological change.
(A. Lloyd)
FYSE 1306 Mountains of the Northeast
The mountains of the northeastern U.S. are an integral part of the cultural and natural history of this region. In this seminar we will consider topics germane to northeastern mountains including the geologic origin of the northern Appalachians, characteristics of mountain environments, changing perceptions of northeastern mountains over time, mountains as resources for modern society, and challenges facing these environments today and in the future. Readings and discussion will be combined with field excursions to enhance our understanding of mountains from a variety of perspectives.
(J. Munroe)

FYSE 1316 The Work of Art: Labor in Contemporary Literature and Visual Culture
In this seminar we will examine imaginative accounts of work and workers in recent literature, art, and film. Garment workers, miners, computer programmers, taxi drivers, teachers, and sex workers will take center stage as we consider the shifting meanings of paid and unpaid labor in contemporary culture. Class materials will consist of an international mix of novels, poems, photographs, performance pieces, theoretical texts, documentaries, and feature films. Topics to be considered include women’s work, labor migrations, the rise of service work and other forms of “affective” labor, and the representation of the body at work.
(B. Graves)

FYSE 1400 The Vermont Landscape
The Vermont landscape has changed dramatically over the last 10,000 years. In this course we will systemically examine how geological, biological, and human forces have affected Vermont. In particular, we will explore the role of Native cultures on the landscape; ecological revolutions set off by the arrival of Europeans and the industrial revolution; the growing population of Vermont; and the effects of farming, logging, international trade, transportation systems, and energy development on the landscape. We will conclude by focusing on current themes, such as the rise of the local food movement and climate change.
(C. Klyza)
FYSE 1402 The Social Life of Wilderness
In this seminar we will examine evolving American ideas of “wilderness” from a social science perspective. We will explore how ideas of what wilderness is—or should be—play out in complex cases including the removal of Native Americans from some U.S. National Parks and the establishment of wilderness parks in poor countries that cater to tourists. Through a focus on the nearby Adirondack Park, which contains both land designated in the New York state constitution as “forever wild” and the homes of 130,000 people, we will explore historian William Cronon’s question: “How do you manage a wilderness full of human stories?”
(S. Closser)