The material on this page is from the 1995-96 catalog and may be out of date. Please check the current year's catalog for current information.

[First-Year Seminars and Interdisciplinary Majors]

First-Year Seminars
Each First-Year Seminar offers a nondepartmental alternative to disciplinary surveys or other introductory courses. Enrollment is limited to fifteen students, to ensure the active participation of all class members and to permit students and instructor to concentrate on developing the skills necessary for successful college writing. Seminars typically focus on a current problem or a topic of particular interest to the instructor. First-Year Seminars are not open to upperclassmen. They carry full course credit.

General Education. One seminar may be used in fulfilling the General Education requirement in humanities and history. In addition, designated seminars may be used to fulfill the complementary quantitative requirement. (See 7c under "Degree Requirements," p. 20.)

F-YS 014. African American Enslavement. This seminar studies slavery in the United States from various perspectives. Attention is given to the emergence of slavery in the seventeenth century; the economic, political, cultural, and social characteristics of slavery; black and white perceptions of slavery; and the effects of slavery on blacks and white. Fall semester. Mr. Carignan.

F-YS 084. Anatomy of a Few Small Machines. One can treat the products of technology as "black boxes"--plain in purpose but mysterious in function. A more flexible and exciting life is available to those who look on all such devices as mere extensions of their hands and minds--who believe they could design, build, modify, and repair anything they put their hands on. This seminar helps the student do this, primarily through practice. Only common sense is required, but participants must be willing to attack any aspect of science and technology. Field trips are required. Fall semester. Mr. Clough.

F-YS 135. Women in Art. The role of women in the fine arts has produced exciting new studies for art history. Ranging from ancient Egypt to the modern world, this seminar discusses women as the makers of art, the subjects or art, and the patrons of art. Fall semester. Ms. Corrie.

F-YS 150. Hamlet. This seminar undertakes an intensive study of Shakespeare's play, with particular emphasis on the various ways it has been interpreted through performance. Students read the play closely, view several filmed versions, and investigate historical productions in order to arrive at a sense of Hamlet's changing identity and enduring importance. Fall semester. Mr. Andrucki.

F-YS 166 Studies in Becoming a Self. What does it mean to be an "individual"? Can one be oneself in a social context? What is the relation between "becoming oneself" and being a moral or a religious person? These questions, central to modern culture, bring different responses. The seminar studies a few of the responses from within the Western philosophical and religious traditions, including those of Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Martin Buber. The studies aim toward an appreciation of the complexity of "just being oneself." Fall semester. (No final exam.) Mr. Straub.

F-YS 172. Power and Perception: Cinematic Portraits of Africa. Most Americans have "seen" Africa only through non-African eyes, coming to "know" about African society through such characters as Tarzan and such genres as the "jungle melodrama" or the "nature show." In this seminar, films from the North Atlantic are juxtaposed with ethnographic and art films made by Africans in order to examine how to "read" these cinematic texts. Related novels and ethnographic texts help to answer central questions about the politics of representation: what are the differences in how African societies are depicted and why are different issues and points of view privileged? Fall semester. Ms. Eames.

F-YS 185. Contemporary Issues in Biology. Many of the issues facing today's society involve some aspect of biology: genetic engineering, drugs, AIDS, or endangered species, to name but a few. By examining some of these issues, students will be introduced to the major concepts in biology, as well as to more general ideas regarding how scientists gather and test evidence and how societies make ethical decisions. No science background is required. Winter semester. Ms. Baker.

F-YS 186. Energy--Today and Tomorrow. This seminar examines the primary energy sources used by humanity. An examination of past trends serves as foundation for consideration of current sources and potential future sources. Fossil, water, wind, geothermal, nuclear, solar, and hydrogen are among the sources examined. The promises and failings of each are explored, as are the limitations imposed by physical laws on the use of energy. Winter Semester. Mr. Boyles.

F-YS 187. Hard Times: The Economy and Society in the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a watershed in the American experience, bringing a transformation in many dimensions of life, such as unemployment, poverty, agriculture, unions, financial markets, and leisure. This seminar examines the Depression years, focusing on economic and social issues, and the debate about the role of government in citizens' lives. In addition to considering scholarly studies, seminar participants analyze individual experiences by interviewing people who lived through the crash of 1929 and the ensuing decade. Winter semester. Ms. Williams.

F-YS 188. Dreams, Imaginings, and Other Realities. Several sorts of beliefs and experiences--dreams, imaginings, stories--are generally considered "unreal." On close inspection, however, even myths and fantasies reflect something true about human experience, and they often have real effects. This seminar explores four types of "unreal" beliefs and experiences: dreams, play, trances, and myths. It explores two questions: Are these beliefs and experiences irrational--for instance, is it irrational to believe in witches? Are some beliefs and experiences more irrational than others--for example, is a belief in atoms more rational than a belief in witches? Winter semester. Mr. Wortham.

F-YS 190. The Changing Climate of Planet Earth. The climate of planet earth is constantly changing over vast spatial and temporal scales, from short term and local to long term and global. The geological records for the mid-latitudes of North America, for instance, illustrate periods alternately dominated by tropical reefs, lush coal forests, glaciers, and expansive arid deserts. This seminar investigates the evidence, possible causes, and impacts of climate change through studies of climate records ranging from glacial stratigraphy, tree rings, written historical accounts, and recent instrumental data. A special focus is directed toward understanding the possible effects of a human-induced global warming and its potential environmental, societal, and political impacts. Fall semester. Mr. Retelle.

F-YS 191. Friendship and Love in Ancient Greece and Rome. The ancient meanings of friendship and the ways in which friendship was distinguished from love are the subject of this class. Students read and analyze ancient theorists on friendship and love, such as Plato and Cicero, and also texts illustrating the ways in which Greek and Roman men and women formed and tested relationships within and across gender lines. The topics under discussion include: friendship as a political institution; notions of personal loyalty, obligation, and treachery; the perceived antithesis between friendship and erotic love; the policing and definition of sexual behavior; friendship as an element of ancient philosophies; the role of friendship, enmity, and sexual relationships in the definition of the self. All discussions use the twentieth-century Western world as a reference point for comparison and contrast. (No final exam.) Fall semester. Ms. O'Higgins.

F-YS 192. War and Peace. Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace is arguably the greatest Russian novel--and surely among the greatest novels of all time--presenting in complex, panoramic fashion the evolving fate of Russian society in the early nineteenth century. It is a novel which includes, in addition to a host of plots, subplots, and scores or characters (both fictional and historical), substantial commentary on the meanings of history and the nature and limits of human freedom. This course takes the novel as its focus, in order to consider the complex moral and philosophical issues which it presents. Fall semester. Ms. Costlow.

F-YS 193. WISE Women: Women In Science and Engineering. Imagine a future where women make up 50 percent of the scientific community. Would the practice or content of science be different in such a world? This course examines the status of women in science through an exploration of the lives, times, and works of women scientists, past and present. Winter semester. Ms. Shulman.

F-YS 194. Music for the Dance. This seminar explores the temporal and formal aspects of music composed for the dance. The first part of the course examines the courtly dance forms of the early Baroque and their relationship to the emergence of the orchestral and keyboard dance suite in the late Baroque. Students analyze meter, tempo, and rhythmic pattern in relation to the actual dances. The second part of the course examines staged dances (ballet) by such composers as Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland. No technical knowledge of music is required. (No final exam.) Winter semester. Mr. Anderson.

F-YS 195. Energy. A central issue in human society is the production and use of energy. This seminar encompasses a wide-ranging examination of energy issues, including energy sources and transformations, the history of energy technology, environmental issues, and alternative sources of energy. Quantitative reasoning is required to analyze energy issues, although no specific background beyond high-school mathematics is expected. Field trips are required. (No final exam.) Fall semester. Mr. Smedley.

F-YS 196. Little Worlds. Faced with a crying baby or a fearful two-year-old, people build up complex stories about why the baby cries or the toddler balks and what to do about these behaviors. These complex stories, their changes over time, and their differences across place are the topic of this seminar. Are children "seers blest," or are they merely unfinished adults? Do children need toys, or are toys an expression of adult needs? Through an examination of evidence from many disciplines, including psychology, history, and literature, we chart some of the ways the idea of childhood has differed over time and place. Fall semester. Ms. Nigro.

Short-Term Symposia
From time to time members of the Faculty drawn from several academic departments offer Short Term symposia. The symposia are designed to provide students with opportunities for studying topics which otherwise would be unavailable. Often the symposia focus on themes which require interdisciplinary study and the unique time allocations available in the Short Term. Specific symposia offerings are announced at the time of Short Term preregistration.

Interdisciplinary Major
The interdisciplinary major is defined in the section on the Academic Program (see p. 16). Students may choose to major in an established interdisciplinary program supported by faculty committees or to design an independent interdisciplinary major. Established programs include: African American Studies, American Cultural Studies, Biological Chemistry, Classical and Medieval Studies, and Women's Studies. Students should consult the directors of these programs for information about requirements and theses.

Students undertaking independent interdisciplinary majors should consult the section on the Academic Program (see p. 16). Independent interdisciplinary majors are supported by the Committee on Curriculum and Calendar and students should consult the Committee Chair for information about requirements and theses. All major course work must be taken in the relevant departments of study. Thesis work may be designated departmentally or, where more appropriate, by the following interdisciplinary course:

457, 458. Interdisciplinary Senior Thesis. Independent study and writing of a major research paper in the area of the student's interdisciplinary major, supervised by a member of one of the departments which form the major. A prospectus for an interdisciplinary thesis must be approved by the Committee on Curriculum and Calendar, and must be submitted to the Registrar no later than one week into the semester in which the thesis begins. Staff.

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Last modified: August 14, 1995