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
Out-of-control scientific discovery, time travel, aliens, androids, corporate and political domination, reimaginings of race, gender, and sexuality--these and other themes have dominated science fiction over the last 250 years. We will try to understand the ways in which selected writers have seen the world we inhabit and have imagined alternatives to it. Texts and movies include: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; H. G. Wells, The Time Machine; Isaac Asimov, I, Robot; Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness; and Ridley Scott, Bladerunner.
Piano, Piano: The Cultural History of the Piano
Why do so many people have a piano in their living room? In this seminar we will try to answer this question by exploring the cultural history of the piano. As we study the piano’s special place in our (musical) culture, we will learn about the technical as well as social aspects of this instrument’s developments over the past 300 years. We will hear virtuosos like Franz Liszt and Keith Jarrett, study milestones of the pianistic repertoire, and discuss representations of this instrument and its artists in literature, the arts, and film. 3 hrs. sem.
Voices Along the Way
In this seminar designed for international students, we will examine American culture through the lens of “migrations,” the 2012-13 theme of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity. We will study how migrations form the essence of American culture, philosophy, and history. We will read texts by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, Toni Morrison, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros. Throughout the seminar, we will work on discussion, oral presentations, research, and writing, which will include both short and long papers. 3 hrs. sem.
Passages from India
In this seminar, we will focus on the literature, politics, and culture of 20th century India. We will discuss writing by Raja Rao, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Ismat Chughtai, Mahashweta Devi, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, and others. Drawing on both popular and documentary films, we will explore this literature in the contexts of colonialism, nationalism, class and caste politics, gender, the state, regionalism, religion, notions of development, and globalization. 3 hrs. sem.
Playing the Part: Text Analysis and the Revelation of Character
In this seminar we will apply the actor’s techniques of text analysis and character development to the study of dramatic literature in the hopes that these tools can illuminate the texts in ways conventional approaches might not. This is not a performance class nor is acting experience a prerequisite. We will read six plays, and, using the technical tenets of Stanislavsky-based method acting, chart the characters’ progress through the script. We will watch plays on film, and travel to see a professional production. 3 hrs. sem.
Fictions of Growing Up
One kind of novel that has retained great appeal is the so-called ‘novel of education’ (German bildungsroman ) which traces the individual’s growth from adolescence into adulthood. We will read some of the best known “novels of education” written in English (by Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, James Joyce, Edith Wharton, J.D. Salinger, and Jeffrey Eugenides). We will consider whether the novels confirm the findings of important psychologists (Freud, Erikson, Maslow) about adolescence and maturity. Through extensive reading, writing, and discussion we will learn to express ourselves with greater clarity, accuracy, and power. 3 hrs. sem.
Sophocles and Athens
What can we learn from Sophocles, the tragic playwright whose life spans the Athenian 5th century BCE? Why do his tragedies—composed against the background of Athens’ incredible achievements, its radical democracy, but also its ever more aggressive foreign policy—reflect so poignantly on the human condition? In this seminar we will trace Sophocles’ effort to probe the mysteries of the soul, both of the individual and of the community, and to confront the riddle of human existence. In addition to studying his seven surviving plays in their historical context, we will also consider their profound impact on later thought and art, including opera and film. 3 hrs. sem.
The Champlain Basin
From the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks Mountains to the west, the Champlain Basin is a natural laboratory in which to study many of the forces that shape the earth. In this seminar we will use the fundamentals of physical geology and limnology to develop an appreciation and understanding of the geologic landscape of Vermont and New York. We will investigate how these mountains were built, how rivers and glaciers erode them, and how the Champlain Basin came into its present shape. Excursions will include local field areas as well as work on Lake Champlain using Middlebury’s new research vessel the R/V Folger 3 hrs sem/3 hrs field each week
Art and the Environment
“The land is not the setting for the work but a part of the work.” So did the artist Walter de Maria describe The Lightning Field (1980), a site-specific, environmental work of art built in an isolated part of western New Mexico. In this seminar we will discuss the different ways that recent artists have used, commented upon, and at times altered their surrounding environment. We will take an expansive view of the term "environmental" in our seminar as we explore natural, urban, media-based, and conceptual artistic environments. 3 hrs. sem.
Visualizing Iberian Identities through Childhood
This seminar will be taught in Spanish. What can we learn about culture, history, and national identity from a child’s perspective? How do competing national and cultural ideologies shape narratives of childhood? In this seminar we will explore the ways in which narrative, film, and painting represent childhood as an experience intimately tied to social, political, and cultural histories in Spain, and to questions of self and national identity. We will read works by authors such as Pérez Galdós, Pío Baroja, Federico García Lorca, Fernando Fernán Gómez, Ana María Matute, Manuel Rivas, and Emily Teixidor. We will view films including El espíritu de la colmena, Cría Cuervos, El viaje de Carol, Barrio, and Pa Negre. We will view paintings by Murillo, Goya, Sorolla, and Picasso.
This is an appropriate seminar for native speakers of Spanish, students who are bilingual, and students who have scored 720 or above on the Spanish SAT II, or 5 on the Spanish AP. 3 hrs. sem.