First-Year Seminars are designed to stimulate intellectual curiosity, introduce academic expectations and engage you independent of future major or minor choices. The seminar topics vary each year, as do the professors who teach them, so the classroom discussions are always fresh and interesting.
Each Seminar is constructed around a different interest, like flight, consumerism or rock and roll music, and Seminar classes are small – usually about 15 students – which helps students feel more comfortable in a new environment and allows the students and faculty members to develop close working relationships.
Below, you'll find a list of the First-Year Seminars being offered during the fall 2012 semester. This year's Seminars cover a wide-range of topics and disciplines, and we're sure you'll find several that interest you. After you've looked over the list and identified the courses that you find appealing, log in to the Orientation website and complete the Academic Direction Task no later than May 28. (Please note: the task will not be available until the second week in May.)
Please note: We provide the listing below as a resource for students and families, not as a complete listing. As courses fill up with students, they will be removed from the Academic Direction form, but they may still appear on this page. The Academic Direction task is the most up-to-date source of currently available courses.
Introduction to the New Testament
Professor Michael Armstrong
This is not the Bible as you learned it in Sunday School! Were the gospels written by "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John"—or are they forgeries? Was Jesus an "end-of-the-world-any-minute-now" street preacher, or was he more like the leader of a hippie commune? Was Mary Magdalene Jesus's wife, or a prostitute—or both? Was Paul a proto-feminist, or did he try to silence women Christians? How did the New Testament get put together? What about the books that "didn't make it into" the New Testament? We will consider these writings NOT as divinely inspired foundations of faith, but as historical documents written by fallible men in the Greek–speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire in the first century CE. We will use these historical sources in an attempt to understand the career and teachings of Jesus and the extremely varied movements that sprang from them. The response of the Empire to the new religion and the changing role of women in the early Church will be important topics. We will also look into writings from the "margins" of the early Church—the varieties of Christianity that didn't survive.
Thinking Critically About God
Professor Eric Barnes
The concept of God has shaped how billions of people have lived their lives. Different religions have different ideas about God, but there are some common themes, and many of them raise serious questions: If God is all-powerful, can he create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it? If God is all good, then why is there evil in the world? If God is all-knowing (including the future), then how can I have free will? Can we make any sense of an afterlife? We will examine these and many other tough questions by reading classic and contemporary writings. Students will engage in structured classroom discussions and will also write (and re-write) frequently about many challenging topics. This course is a rational inquiry into these issues that is open to everyone, regardless of their belief system. Please note: There will be some required films in the evening outside of regularly scheduled class times.
Victorian Fiction and Science
Professor Sarah Berry
What do Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, and mad scientists like Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Moreau tell us about roles of science and imagination in Victorian society? When science meets literature, what controversial questions are raised about debates over women's roles, animal rights, foreign relations, and evolution? Through reading, discussing and writing about nineteenth-century science fiction alongside some key scientific texts, we will consider the ways in which various monsters reveal the fears and desires of the society in which they are invented. We will also investigate the ways in which literature presents science to the public, and how science became an authoritative means of addressing social problems. This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in EUST 101 Foundations of European Studies I: Antiquity to Renaissance. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Golf Course Architecture in America: History and Theory
Professor Chip Capraro
What is actually at play when someone plays golf? Game design theory suggests that golf is the occasion for a certain experience shaped by rules, actions and skills of the golfer, and the golf course itself. Unlike a basketball court, each golf course is unique, due to a deeply intentional design by a golf course architect. As Alister Mackenzie insists "The essence of golf is variety." We approach multiple questions: What are the basic elements of golf course architecture? How do golf course architects imagine the game of golf when they design and build a golf course? What kind of experience do they intend for the golfer? What impact have diverse people—male and female, black and white, rich and poor—who have played golf had on the history of golf course design? What are the actual lived experiences of golfers, and how have they changed over time? We will pay special attention to the work of important architects who were active locally, and we will visit some of their amazing creations. (Note: Playing golf is not a requirement, and learning how to golf and learning how to design a golf course are not included in the syllabus.) This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in SOC 100 Introduction to Sociology, which is also a Service Learning course. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Modern Isms in Art and Literature
Professor Rob Carson
Art and literature in the twentieth century were propelled by a series of movements and manifestoes, as one "-ism" succeeded another (naturalism, aestheticism, impressionism, expressionism, futurism, cubism, dada, surrealism, postmodernism, and so on). This was true not only in the fine arts, but in the liberal arts as well: in fact, there was a rich give-and-take of ideas between critical theorists (who reflected on the arts) and artists themselves (who tested critical theories in practice). In this class we will focus on two art forms in particular, modernist drama and modernist painting, placing plays into dialogue with canvasses to get a sense of the revolutions that were underway in twentieth-century philosophy. This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in ENG 260 Creative Writing. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Life By Design: Vitality, Sustainability and Place
Professor Sean Conrey
More than ever our environment is strictly and efficiently organized, although very often it is not in the least organic. Driving through the average American suburb we see where our values have led: the scale of a Wal-Mart parking lot; the sterile booths of a fast food restaurant; privatized “play areas” where children gather for a fee; farms laid out in arbitrary rows. Buildings and services are often built into our landscape as if they are being placed into aisles at the supermarket. Plants, animals and people live in such places, but the quality of their lives (and the vital qualities of life and liveliness) are often given very little consideration. Drawing on architectural, philosophical and ecological thinkers like Christopher Alexander, Jane Jacobs, David Abram, James Lovelock, Andy Goldsworthy and others, this class proposes that the “life of a place” comes not in the things found there (like the cash register, canned goods and plastic bags), but in how those things relate to each other and to those who live with them (like the relationships between the grocer, his goods, the land where they were grown and made, and his neighbors). This class interrogates how a deep concern for relationships can help integrate livability and sustainability into the places we live, the things we make and use, and the people we share our lives with.
Am I Crazy: Madness in Culture and History
Professor Stephen Cope
Geniuses, artists, political and religious fanatics, horror films, ghost stories, the confessions of loners, losers, and outcasts--all have to do with the distinction between the familiar and the strange, those who are similar to us and those who are different, those who are normal and those who are not in short, those who are “crazy” and those who are “sane”. We will seek to come to terms with “madness” and what it means to decide that someone is mad. Among other things, we will look at 1) how the definitions of madness and sanity have changed over the course of recorded history; 2) how these definitions often overlap with broader social and cultural definitions of normalcy, morality, health, fitness, and criminality, 3) how the discourse of madness often intersects with social and cultural attitudes towards gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality. From the perspective of numerous disciplines, we explore how different cultures and societies at different historical moments have defined madness and celebrated, pathologized, or sought to “cure” the insane. This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in PSY 100 Introduction to Psychology. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Art on the Edge
Professor Kathryn Cowles
Before the 20th century, most paintings looked like paintings and most poems looked like poems. Genre and medium were relatively stable, even as styles changed. Once the 20th century hit, rules became suddenly and thoroughly breakable. You might be standing on a street corner when Mina Loy would pull up in her car, open the trunk, and throw dozens of poster-sized, hand-printed manifestoes into the air before zooming away again. Was it a poem? A performance? Visual art? All of the above? In this class, we’ll track genre-bending and rule-breaking through a number of different forms and media, including appropriations, false documents, fake translations, conceptual art, graffiti, dance, erasures, performance art, collaborations, comics, new media art, prose poems, lyric essays, and other kinds of art and writing that are difficult to define or classify. And we’ll try our own hands at rule-breaking, making creative works and participating in guerilla art projects in addition to reading, writing, and researching academically about creative works. This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in ENG 225 Shakespearean Comedies. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Alcohol in College: What is Truth? What is Myth?
Professor David Craig
Alcohol abuse continues to be a serious problem on college and university campuses across the nation. Students examine this problem from both natural scientific and social scientific perspectives. Readings include public health and social science research literature on the scope of alcohol use in college and the theories proposed to explain that use. The natural science literature is used to explore the pharmacologic effects of alcohol on the brain, related health risks, and the relationship of blood alcohol concentration to risk and harm. Students participate in ongoing research on the scope and consequences of alcohol use on this campus. Finally, educational models for abuse prevention and harm reduction are explored and evaluated for effectiveness.
Thomas Jefferson and His World
Professor Matthew Crow
This seminar will focus on the writings of Thomas Jefferson and the intellectual, political, social, and economic worlds in which Jefferson lived. Our goal will be to use Jefferson's own writings and his astounding array of interests and concerns as opportunities to discuss the nature of law, partisan politics, democracy, rights, equality, the role of science in society, the philosophy of language, national identity, race and racism, empire, war and the political lives of women. While trying to understand Jefferson and his world, we will also be debating the relevance of these texts for our lives as citizens, and so critically reflecting on the role of the past in the present.
Thinking and Creating
Professor Donna Davenport
This is a seminar about intelligence, creativity, and all the students in the class--how you think and create. While we study the theory of multiple intelligences, intelligence testing, theories of creativity, and compositional thinking, each student has the opportunity to explore her or his own thinking patterns, under-appreciated talents, problem-solving styles, and innate capacity for creativity. This seminar was first taught in 1993 and has evolved over time, influenced by each class of first-year students. This year the seminar's design will culminate in compositions in the art form of your choice, including music, creative writing, dance, drama, studio art, or film. You will be writing to sharpen your critical thinking skills, to learn the material, and to develop college-level writing habits. Classroom experiences will be directed toward the development of individual, non-conformist thinking, embracing difference and ingenuity. Selected readings include Gould's Mismeasure of Man; Gardner's Intelligence Reframed; Doidge's The Brain That Changes Itself; Csikszentmihalyi's Creativity; and Stephen King's On Writing.
Professor Hannah Dickinson
What does it mean to “be yourself”? How many selves do you have? And, what happens to these selves during the writing process? In this seminar we consider the relationship between the self and representations of selves in essays, graphic novels, autobiographies, and online. We examine how authors construct their written selves; how a writer’s self-presentation affects how we interpret his or her experiences; how acts of self-representation create or contest collective identities; and the ways that writing can reshape a sense of self. We’ll attempt to ask and answer questions like: How might different audiences change the stories we tell about ourselves? Can life writing ever be “truthful” or “authentic”? How might experiences with oppression, power, marginality, or privilege shape the ways we tell our stories? In this seminar, we read a variety of life writing genres (essays, autobiographies, and graphic novels); investigate how selves are represented online (in Facebook profiles, blogs, and tweets); examine how life writing can be mobilized for political and social change; and experiment with narrating our own lives.
Biophysics of Human Movement
Professor Ileana Dumitriu
What do simple physics and biology reveal about human body motion that might be interesting or even useful? Velocity, force, energy, momentum, center of gravity, and balance are all aspects of human motions such as walking down stairs, performing a yoga pose, playing the violin, kicking a soccer ball, dancing, shoveling snow, etc. How do those concepts apply to the muscles, tendons, and bones to enable human movement? The analysis of human motion facilitates a large number of applications including smart-human computer interfaces, special effects in movies, orthopedic surgery, physical therapy, performing arts, and athletic performance. A variety of human movements will be observed and discussed. Class meetings will be a blend of discussions, labs, and lectures to help students understand and apply basic biophysical concepts to a variety of human motions. There's no substitute for feeling in one's own body the way physical principles apply! Various models for human motion will be studied, and some will require high school algebra and trigonometry.
You Are Here: Geneva 101
Professor Kevin Dunn
YOU ARE HERE: Welcome to Geneva, NY, your place of residence for the next four years – the first four years of your adult life. This course sets up your Geneva home as a laboratory in which to seek to understand the complex interaction of forces that produce a “place.” We will consider the richness of place from four different angles: demographics, natural environment, built environment, and human activity. Each approach will reveal something different, yet each will overlap with and influence the others. We will read a wide range of texts, walk streets and land, consider work and play, and talk to people who live in and look at Geneva. In the end, we will examine how we come to know and understand any location, while coming to know this place, Geneva, in a personal and profound way.
The Algorithmic Life
Professor David Eck
Algorithms are the ideas behind computer programs. Whether you know it or not, your on-line life is monitored, managed, and manipulated by the sophisticated and clever algorithms that have been developed by computer technologists. You live an algorithmic life. This course will take the mystery out of some of the fundamental algorithms that affect you every day on the Internet. You will learn how they work, and you will learn enough computer programming to design some simple algorithms of your own. But we will also look more deeply at the ways in which modern computing technology affects our lives. What social and ethical issues are raised by the ability of computers to gather and process huge amounts of information about people? What does it mean that digital information can be copied and distributed instantaneously and at almost no cost? What rights should people have to access and use all that information? Who should make decisions about the future of computers and the Internet? And what sort of future might that be?
How We Talk and Learn About Climate
Professor David Finkelstein
This seminar explores the communication of science in the contexts of climate and climate change. What questions lead to data collection? How do we collect data and understand it? Do politics impact the questions asked? Are terse academic papers the only effective means of communication? Who reads those and why? What about films, music, photos, art or interviews? Is it possible your interest in any one of these different media (and possibly your understanding) changes as you age? Does human mortality impact climate? How does climate influence human existence? Are the major communicators of climate change good at explaining things? We will explore the concept of scale in communicating science by looking at local (Finger Lakes), regional (New England) and global (Continental) scales, including at times when modern scientific instruments did not yet exist. We will focus on the interactions of humans and their environment, and how humans took control of the climate using different media to explore what is effective communication of complex and sometimes contentious idea. This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in GEO 141 Science of Climate Change. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Africa: Myths and Reality
Professor Alan Frishman
Africa is the most poorly understood continent by Americans. As a result, there are many myths and misconceptions about the people and the countries in this huge continent. This course examines the reality of Africa from many viewpoints: its geography and history; its social, economic, and political structure; its urban and rural lifestyles, its health and physical environment and its art, music and literature. There are readings, films, guest lecturers, and a variety of other experiences.
Monkeys, Morality & the Mind: Science Meets Philosophy
Professor Gregory Frost-Arnold
What am I? What can I know? Are my choices free? Is there any reason to be an ethical person? These are traditionally considered questions for philosophy, yet many recent scientific findings may influence how we answer them. In this seminar, we will consider the impact of contemporary science on philosophy and ask: What, if anything, does evolution have to do with morality? What do psychological findings about humans' biases show about what (and how) we can know? Is the notion that humans have free will consistent with our current neuroscientific accounts of the brain? If human actions are highly dependent on situational/ contextual factors, as several recent psychological findings have shown, what does this reveal about my identity or personality—who I am?
America in the 60s
Professor Stephen Frug
Large but (for most of us) vaguely-remembered events from that era still haunt our lives: Obama mentions how he couldn't have been elected without the earlier work of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, while critics of the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan compare them to Vietnam. In their current incarnations, the Feminist Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, and the Conservative Movement date from that decade. And most of us would recognize images and sounds of protests, hippies and classic rock music. But what really happened in that decade that so bitterly divided this country, and whose memory divides us still? What caused the multiple cultural upheavals that so changed the nation? And where is Vietnam, anyway? In this course we will study the history of America in the 1960's, carefully examining its central events and looking at the lives of some of the major historical figures from that tumultuous decade. We will examine the cultural changes that occurred and the music, art and writing that grew out of them. And we will look at the ways the decade is both remembered and misremembered today, and what the multiple meanings of "the sixties" are in our contemporary culture.
Paris, Je T'Aime
Professor Catherine Gallouet
This course will examine contemporary French life in the light of American points of view about France today. We will study Paris as the perceived historical and cultural "center" of the French world. French life will be studied through its multiple productions (the life of the city, cinema, literature and cuisine). We will pay particular attention to how Americans have related to the city and its culture, and by extension to French culture, by examining the experience of American expatriated in France and how their representations may construct stereotypes of the "city of lights" and of France. This course is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in a French language class at the intermediate level FRE 120 or higher (students must have successfully completed at least two years of high school French). Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Tales of the Village Idiot
Professor David Galloway
In this course, students survey the wealth of Russian folk tales, epic songs, legends, riddles and other elements of the oral tradition as well as the later literature these genres inspired. Students examine characters such as the Firebird, Baba-Yaga the witch, Koshchei the Deathless, and llya Muromets, and read many types of folktales, including magical, animal and "idiot" tales. Materials include art and music arising from the Russian folk tradition. Students also consider the role of folklore in contemporary American life, and the ways in which some genres continue to produce new examples of folklore.
Professor Ronald Gerrard
For most Americans who live in cities and suburbs, rural America is hidden country, out of sight and out of mind. Often dismissed as "the middle of nowhere," this phrase belies the surprisingly complex social realities of rural life. This seminar explores rural America by historical consideration of one of its most distinctive cultural products, country music. In particular, we examine the way that various forms of country music express, create and distort images of rural America in popular imagination. The images can be positive (country music as an expression of wholesome values) or negative (country music as an expression of rural backwardness and small-town narrow-mindedness). The seminar explores the truths and half-truths expressed in country music, as seen by both rural and urban people, as a means of understanding and coping with a rapidly changing rural landscape. More generally, we will consider music (as both art form and social commentary) within a broader context of history, cultural geography, and personal and social psychology.
The History of Everything
Professor Grant Holly
Did you know that it was not until 300,000 years after the "big bang" that light occurred, or that in the year 2000, the tenth largest economic entity in the world was Microsoft? (Australia was thirteenth, to put things in perspective)? David Christian's Maps of Time is an example of a recent form of historiography called "big history," because it attempts to locate human beings from the perspective of much larger contexts than the traditional historical periods. Christian's book begins nanoseconds after the 'big bang," describes the development of the universe, the formation of our planet, the origins and evolution of life, including human life, and continues to trace human history through the origins of agriculture, the development of cities, states, and civilizations, the development of world religions, etc., up to globalization and the modern world, and then it peeks into future. What this course will do is to give us the opportunity to orient and seek to understand ourselves in relation to a variety of contexts from the cosmic to the global to the national and the local, contexts which, as Christian's book shows us, no matter how vast, or distant, or alien they may seem, create the patterns that play an intimate role in shaping our lives.
Professor Alla Ivanchikova
Some literary historians argue that the number of stories we tell is limited. For instance, Umberto Eco, a contemporary philosopher, argued that all storytellers retell stories that have been already told simply reinventing them for a new time and audience. Many 20th- and 21st-century writers engage in the practice of retelling a story originally told by another writer. Retelling can take different forms; for instance, one can choose to write a sequel, a prequel, or tell the same story from another point of view. Retelling often prompts our interest in earlier tales; occasionally, it seeks to correct the original story by either modifying the plot or imbuing the characters with traits not found in earlier versions of the narrative. In this course, we will encounter various examples of retelling and address the nature, purpose, and outcomes of such retellings.
Haunting Memories: Revealing the Uncanny
Professor Eric Klaus
What do a diabolical alchemist, a mass-murdering spider, and a videotape that predicts your death have in common? They are all central elements of uncanny stories we will encounter in this seminar. The uncanny, as made famous by Sigmund Freud's article the Uncanny from 1919, is a feeling of fear and dread experienced by the reader or viewer of tales, in which past events return to disrupt seemingly stable and comfortable situations, Our tour of the uncanny will begin at the start of the 19th century and continue through present day and will lead us through several countries, such as Germany, Russia, and the United States. Throughout the semester we will explore how uncanny tales are constructed and how various cultural and historical contexts inform these tales of angst and horror.
Education, Justice, and Happiness
Professor Steven Lee
Worried about injustice and misery in a society that had executed his great teacher, Socrates, for "corrupting the youth," Plato devoted one of the greatest books ever written to the question of how people can live in a way that leads to social justice and personal happiness. His concerns inspired him to investigate many topics that remain important today: education, the equality of the sexes, democracy and tyranny, psychological health, class divisions, censorship and the nature of art, and the nature of knowledge and reality. Plato's Republic remains one of the most interesting works about education, justice, and happiness. In this seminar, we read the Republic, cover to cover, along with modern works, and discuss the parallels between these important topics as they arose in ancient Athens and as they arise in the 21st century and in our own experience.
The Secret Life of Food
Professor Robin Lewis
Food is ubiquitous; everybody must eat to stay alive. Yet the ways we grow, consume, and experience food differ across space and time. Food is much more than physiological sustenance; food shapes who are and our relationships with other people and places. Every time you eat, you are making choices with real world consequences. For instance, can you recall what you ate for breakfast yesterday? Do you know where those foods came from? Do you know what was actually in your meal? Do you what was required to get that meal to you? These and other questions are fundamentally geographic. This course will explore the complex geographies of food production and consumption, paying specific attention to the impact of globalization on local food systems. Throughout the semester we will mobilize our discussions and readings through a series of required fieldtrips to the New York State Agricultural Research Station, the Geneva Farmers’ Market, and other local food production and provision enterprises.
Feeling the Beat: Music and Metaphor
Professor Charity Lofthouse
We will explore some of the ways we make meaning from musical experience by considering how musical sounds interact with our understanding and enjoyment of music. Starting from basic physical experience and conceptual metaphor, interdisciplinary readings will link music to perception, philosophy, music theory and history, human development, ethics, culture, and gender. These elements allow us to explore how our ideas about music connect to personal and cultural associations, and to learn something about how the body and the mind work together in understanding musical experience.
Wilderness and the Wild
Professor Scott MacPhail
There are more than 677 federally designated wilderness areas in the United States. A continuing fascination with wild places is evident in the popularity and critical success of such films as “127 Hours”, “Into the Wild”, and “Grizzly Man”. Do you enjoy getting away from it all, or wonder at those who do? This seminar will explore peoples' fascination with wild places. We will attempt to answer such questions as what makes a place a wilderness, how the concept of wilderness has changed over time, and how the value and meaning of wilderness differs across cultures. Our approach to what one historian calls "the problem of wilderness" will be multifaceted. We will explore the history, ethics, philosophy, politics, aesthetics, and economics of wilderness. Ultimately, our attempt to understand wilderness will be a means to critically examine our own places in the natural world.
Professor Brenda Maiale
In 1826 Brillat-Savarin wrote, "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are." But what can we tell from studies of not eating? This course will explore the hungering of fasting ascetics, anorexic girls, medieval saints, crash dieters, occasional cannibals, professional athletes, TV contestants, strategic political fasters, and famine and environmental disaster victims among others. Our subject will be cravings, desires, uneasy sensations, and weakened conditions as occasioned by the lack of food or some other unmet need. We will examine the myriad ways that hunger is constructed cross-culturally to critically analyze what it means in relation to other features of daily life. Using multidisciplinary accounts such as fiction, history, ethnography, biography, and film, we will examine how in particular contexts what we gloss as hunger can inform larger issues, such as the relationship between the individual and society, society and culture, and the local and the global.
The Avian Persuasion
Professor Caroline Manring
If you've ever wished you could fly, join the club. If you've ever wondered why you wished you could fly, take this course. Humans have always been drawn to birds. We'll ask why as we try to understand human relationships with birds from the perspectives of writers, musicians, scientists, and back yard bird-watchers, among other types of thinkers by getting in their shoes. In doing so, can we discover and develop individual relationships with birds that will enhance our connection to the natural world? Can such a heightened awareness change our ways of being, and help change the fate of a planet? Activities include: outdoor birding, scientific and literary readings, film viewings, field trips, a falconry presentation with live birds, guest speakers, critical and creative writing, discussion, individual field observation time, and personalized, species-specific final projects. Viewings come from films such as Winged Migration and March of the Penguins; readings include excerpts from books such as Song of the Dodo, Wesley the Owl, Sibley's Birding Basics, The Goshawk and Providence of a Sparrow, as well as articles and literary works. Each student will need a field guide to the birds of North America (Sibley or Peterson recommended) a field notebook, and binoculars (8x recommended).
Face to Face: Interrogating Race
Professor James McCorkle
This course examines the parallel structures of segregation in the U.S. and apartheid in South Africa. The basic premise is that through the lens of another culture and history, we can come to examine our own. The causes and effects of segregation and apartheid on race relations are the central focus. How race affects gender, class, and social spaces is explored throughout the readings. This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in SOC 100 Introduction to Sociology. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Latin American Perspectives
Professor Scott McKinney
What was Latin America’s like before Columbus arrived? How has Latin America developed into the vibrant, diverse region it is today? This seminar will consider these questions from a variety of perspectives: insider and outsider, novelist and reporter, movies and books. Among the movies we will watch are “Motorcycle Diaries”–based on Che Guevara’s account of his trip around South America, and “Guantanamera”–a very funny romantic movie from Cuba. Readings will include a short novel by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the testimonio of Rigoberta Menchu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas.
Climate Change: Science and Politics
Professor Nick Metz
Recent scientific research shows clear evidence that the Earth is warming faster than at any point on record. Most scientists agree that much of the recent warming of the Earth is due, at least in part, to human-related activities. However, this near consensus disappears within the political world as the topic of climate change has become one of the most divisive in recent memory. This seminar will explore the ways in which climate change translates into the political realm, first by discussing the fundamental science. Armed with this knowledge, students will explore the policy implications of climate change and dissect a variety of political opinions on the subject in an attempt to separate political fact from fiction. Additionally, students will probe the underlying reasons behind the various political opinions on climate change, ranging from campaign contribution records to political district economics. An underlying goal of the seminar will be to identify a pathway for realistic political consensus on climate change that might approach the scientific consensus and allow for future policy progress on the climate change issue. This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in GEO 141 Science of Climate Change. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Professor Joseph Mink
How do you present yourself in everyday life? Your clothes, manners, haircut, and your room are all ‘texts’ through which you reveal (and sometimes hide) yourself. Are you a preppy, a punk, a goth, an urban hipster, or a chic hillbilly? In this seminar we will explore ‘the body’ as a site at which cultural, social, and political commitments are both constructed and challenged. Traditionally, The Body Politic is a metaphor that treats members of a political community as a single corporeal body. We, however, will be less concerned with the political-collective metaphor; instead we will employ ‘Bodies’ Politic to interrogate how society produces material bodies that are meaningful (often inspiring resistance). We will draw upon history, anthropology, literature, film, and political theory to explore the body as a means of learning and self-expression, as a mechanism for social control, and as an object of political regulation. We will examine what vampires, soccer hooligans, Civil War re-enactors, cyborgs, and Japanese anime reveal about the changing and contested categories of class, race, gender, and sex through which our bodies are made comprehensible to others.
Class, Culture, and Work
Professor David Ost
Does “class” matter anymore? Discussions of class were once a staple in popular culture, from TV to newspapers, and in politics as well. Today, class does not seem as significant. According to some, people are distinguished today more by culture and lifestyle than by class. But is this true? What is the purpose of such a claim? Much of the argument rests on changes in work. A couple of generations ago most people did manual labor for a living. They worked together, shared interests, and developed a “class culture”. Now, a great deal of work has become mental more than manual. People feel less connected by class and more by culture and lifestyle. How has all this changed people’s perceptions of themselves and of their work? What impact does it have on politics? Through books, articles, and films we will explore the rise and decline of class in politics and in cultural consciousness. Students will engage in research by conducting a long interview with someone who has worked for the last few decades. Understanding how to conduct and interpret such an interview will be part of the course.
Professor Erin Pelkey
In today's society, chemistry is often seen as a negative- "evil chemicals" and "toxic waste" are phrases that come to mind. In fact, chemistry has contributed many good things to society including drugs that alleviate pain, treat diseases, and save lives. Throughout history, drugs have shaped society and have had a profound impact on our daily lives. From the invention of aspirin-treatment for headaches and heart attacks, to penicillin -conqueror of bacterial infections, to AZT-treatment of HIV giving a fighting chance to those afflicted with AIDS. Drugs have been there and have greatly impacted the world. This course aims to teach students with an interest in science and/or medicine about the structure of drugs, the history of their discovery, and their impact on society. The course will include a short chemistry primer so students can understand the basics behind the structure of drugs and how they work. Discussions topics will include the pros and cons of the pharmaceutical industry, the ethics of drug development, the impact drugs have had on the economy and media, and their effect on the human population. I hope to instill a greater appreciation for science and how it benefits the world.
The Accidental Scientist
Professor Vinita Prabhakar
Some things need not be taught: our very own sense of wonder, our lush imaginations and simple, enduring curiosities. These are tools we are born with. Or are we? We begin with the willingness to ask questions, big and small, about the nature of Life and this thing we call Experience. Why Accidental Scientist? Because we do not set out to read a textbook on Sociology, Biology or Etymology; but still we want to know: the evolution of a kiss; the chemistry of memory, pain, loss, and of lies; where, in the brain, the memories live, the lies are kept; why some kinds of music lift us to ecstasy, but not others; whether our personalities reflect biological mechanisms; the puzzle of smell; the origins of our words, accents, sounds; the delicate connections across Art, Biology, Music, Psychology, Poetry and Philosophy. Crucially, we want to know of these, and more, in plain-speak, in accessible ways that will not erode that first, polished sense of wonder, but fuel it. As cartographers of our experiences, we ourselves are, perhaps, the most important texts, but we will also be aided by information from a wide variety of genres and disciplines. We shall look for, and find, mystery and meaning in the most personal and idiosyncratic places.
Genocide and the Modern Age
Professor Richard Salter
The 20th century can aptly be described as the “Age of Genocide”—a century in which mass murder and mass death marked the convergence of modern organization, modern technology and human propensities for violence and indifference to violence. These human tragedies have the potential to undermine the value of human life, the meaning of history and modernity, the relevance and truth of religion and culture, and the significance of social organization. Students in this course will examine the history of genocide and its impact on culture, politics and religion. Together we will confront the dilemma of how to orient life, thought and action around the memory of mass death and broken cultural traditions. This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in ENG 217 Chaucer, which is a service-learning course. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
Time Travel and Multiple Universes
Professor Donald Spector
This course will examine some of the most compelling and cutting-edge phenomena of science, with a goal of understanding how we have come to these ideas, what these ideas imply, and where we can draw the line between science and science fiction. We will look at the limits of knowledge imposed by quantum mechanics, and see what relativity has to say about the origins and fate of the universe. We will explore whether time travel makes sense scientifically and philosophically, and will examine why so many physicists now endorse the idea of multiple universes. The course will also examine how film and literature can invoke these exotic ideas for artistic purposes. We will use mathematical reasoning as appropriate (at the level of high school algebra) to understand the scientific ideas we encounter.
Why Aren't All Countries Rich?
Professor Jennifer Tessendorf
Why are some countries rich while others remain poor? The answer matters because “rich” versus “poor” translates into significant differences in the quality of life of the “average” person in these countries. The history of the post-WWII period is littered with the corpses of 'big ideas' that purported to answer this question and thus provide the key to growth. Colonial exploitation, low investment rates, inadequate spending on education, insufficient financial liberalization, among others, all failed to answer the question by themselves and certainly didn't provide the magic elixir for growth. We will examine the merits and the failings of these big ideas and consider some newer proposals as well. We'll particularly look at the roles of geography and of political, social and economic institutions and the incentives they create. There may be no single big idea that will work for every country, but we will identify some characteristics that clearly separate the “poor” from the “not so poor.” This seminar is part of a Learning Community requiring students to enroll in ECON 135 Latin American Economies. Visit the Learning Community webpage for more information.
SexyBack: Sex and Text in the US
Professor Maggie Werner
How do we talk about sex? Why do we talk about it? Why don't we talk about it? How can we account for the attraction and repulsion that sex talk holds for us? Popular culture in the US is frequently described as being saturated with sex. Critics accuse popular media of shamelessly promoting sex, which is assumed to be the cause for a host of social and moral problems. But if sex is a part of who we are and what we do as humans, what makes it so shameful? What are acceptable and unacceptable ways to talk about sex? And what makes them so? These questions drive our inquiry as we attempt to speak about the unspeakable. In this writing-intensive course, we learn to understand better and interpret the complex web of language practices that comprise popular discourse on sex and sexuality. We work from the assumption that sex and sexuality are simultaneously creations of biology, psychology, sociology and perhaps most importantly of language, and we will keep this assumption at the forefront of our inquiry as we uncover the links between bodies, behaviors, attitudes, mores, and language.
Fields of Play: Improv in Life and Art
Professor Cynthia Williams
Quick! Make a hat out of rubber bands, an old sock, and a map of the Northeast! Add on an unfinished sentence and take it in a new direction. Move across the room staying connected to someone else's earlobe...sing a nonsense song...draw your autobiography...Sound strange? We use improvisation everyday when we talk with friends, react without thinking to something new, or walk our own pathway to dinner. Artists use improvisation deliberately, to create new melodies, discover unique movements, or create spontaneity on stage. Scientists use improvisation to test new theories, or to go beyond known limits. Business managers use improvisation to encourage creative thinking, solve problems, or to design products. The ability to improvise is innately human, but many of us find it intimidating. We don't like to be "on the spot," we worry about looking foolish, we like to feel in control, and the unscripted possibilities of "anything goes" seem more terrifying than liberating. This seminar is for students who want to challenge themselves, and to free their minds and bodies from doing the same-old, same-old routines every day. Improvisation is a practice; a discipline that has many forms but one prerequisite: the courage to let go of preconceived plans and trust your words/actions/expressions are absolutely right for the moment. Each class involves improvisatory exercises that demand total participation as a thinking, breathing, moving, emoting self. Improvisation reveals who you really are. In addition to the doing of improvisation, students study its theoretical underpinnings and how improvisation; techniques and theories are applied to the arts, education, politics, and sciences. It's fun, stimulating, and rewarding.
You'll notice that some of our Seminars are also part of a Learning Community, a distinctive living and learning environment that enhances the connections between courses and extracurricular events.
Learn more about Learning Communities.