The material on this page is from the 1996-97 catalog and may be out of date.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 an opportunity for entering students to develop skills in writing, reasoning, and research that will be of critical importance throughout their academic careers. 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 upperclass students. 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 American slavery from various perspectives. Attention is given to the emergence of slavery in the seventeenth century and its roots; the economic, political, and social characteristics of slavery; and the effects of slavery on blacks and whites. Fall semester. (Alternate exam.) J. 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 to 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. G. Clough.

F-YS 132.  Human Rights: A Latin American Perspective.  This course explores the meaning of human rights within the political and cultural context of contemporary Latin America. Several aspects of human-rights violations are covered: political repression, torture, the experience of exile, militarism, and U.S. foreign policy. The readings attempt to balance the personal dimension of human-rights violations and politics that surround them. Fall semester. (No final exam.) E. Honold.

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 cultural importance. Fall semester. M. Andrucki.

F-YS 165.  Environmental Issues of the Northeast: Perspectives from Science.  Contaminated water, hazardous waste disposal, and the impact of power generation are environmental problems of the Northeast. How successful are scientists in shaping environmental public policy and opinion on such problems? This seminar explores scientific solutions as they appear in such contexts as professional scientific meetings and town meetings. Students examine current environmental problems through case studies and field trips to several sites. Fall semester. (No final exam.) J. D. Eusden.

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.) C. 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. (No final exam.) E. Eames.

F-YS 177.  Doing It, Getting It, Seeing It, Reading It.  This course studies a broad representation of sex and sexualities, both "straight" and "queer," within a variety of cultural products ranging from painting and poetry to music and 'zines. Issues to be discussed include the relationship between sexual representation and sexual practice; the validity of distinctions between pornography and erotica; the politics of censorship; the interrelations between constructions of sexuality and those of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, and class; and the representations of power, pleasure, and danger in sex from both the margin and the mainstream. Winter semester. (No final exam.) E. Rand.

F-YS 193.  WISE Women: Women In Science and Engineering.  Imagine a future where women make up fifty 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. Fall semester. (No final exam.) B. Shulman.

F-YS 198.  Childhood and Literature.  Many writers, especially in the last two centuries, have turned to childhood for inspiration and subject matter. Whether the childhood they write about is their own, or another imagined or observed, these writers find in the early years of life a mysterious and fertile wilderness, and/or a place to think evocatively and clearly about the most essential human questions. Such questions shade from the psychological to the social to the metaphysical and aesthetic, but they provide multiple windows upon cultural habits, and some excellent opportunities to think across disciplines. This course asks you to read, discuss, and frequently write about many different sorts of literature and childhood--memoirs, poetry, essays, short fiction, and novels. Fall semester. (No final exam.) R. Farnsworth.

F-YS 200.  Berlin and Vienna, 1900-1914.  From the beginning of the twentieth century to the outbreak of World War I, Berlin and Vienna were home to major political and cultural developments that profoundly affected the rest of the twentieth century. Gritty Naturalism, visionary Expressionism, and decadent Impressionism emerged to mark the birth of urban modernism and the death of "the old." Through examining the art, architecture, and literature of fin-de-siècle Berlin and Vienna, this seminar looks back to the dawn of this century on the eve of its end. Fall semester. (Alternate exam.) C. Decker.

F-YS 201.  Using the Land.  Land use is one of the most crucial environmental issues we face today. This seminar examines differing cultural perspectives on the relationship between humans and land, and the historical development of land use practices. Through fieldwork, research, and classroom discussion, the course addresses issues such as the ability of current land management practices to ensure the survival of human and other species, and the relative rights of human and other species to the land. Readings include Thoreau's Walden, Nash's Wilderness and the American Mind, Steinberg's Slide Mountain: The Folly of Owning Nature, and Abbey's Desert Solitaire. Fall semester. (No final exam.) T. Wenzel.

F-YS 202.  Representations of Mental Illness.  What constitutes mental illness? This course explores "mental illnesses" and their representation in literature and other media. Three types of diagnoses are included: affective disorders (unipolar and bipolar depression), schizophrenia, and dissociative states (multiple personality disorder). Readings include research material on specific disorders and fictional and biographical accounts of illness, such as The Three Faces of Eve, Ordinary People, Crime and Punishment, Woman on the Edge of Time, and The Yellow Wallpaper. The course invites students to reconsider definitions of mental illness and to evaluate the contributions of media, culture, class, and gender to our understanding of psychopathology. Winter semester. (No final exam.) K. Low.

F-YS 203.  Family Value: Tales of Childhood and Kinship Across Cultures.  This course examines through close readings of literary works and film the variety in the human experience of childhood and family. Multiple meanings of "family" (parentage, kinship, community) and "value" (worth, meaning, ideal, usefulness) are revealed as the course explores both specific cultural contexts and the confusion of identities that emerge in various accounts of childhood. Important works of fiction and autobiography will be read in the light of issues of race, class, gender, religion and sexuality. Readings for the course may include works by Dorothy Allison, Fatima Mernissi, Toni Morrison, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Anne Frank, and David Leavitt. Winter semester. (No final exam.) K. Read.

F-YS 204.  Gender, Work, and Family.  Both the family and work are social institutions in which gender inequality is constructed and maintained. This seminar explores men's and women's experiences in family and work, with particular emphasis on the contemporary United States. Issues considered include an introduction to the historical development and current state of gender differentiation in the family and in employment; the intersection of race, class, and gender in shaping family and work; and the complex interplay of work and family in the social construction of gender inequality. Winter semester. E. Kane.

F-YS 205.  The Ghost in the Atom.  Albert Einstein: "I can't believe God plays dice." Niels Bohr: "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it." Richard Feyman: "I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics." This seminar studies the twentieth-century origins of the enormously successful quantum theory, examining Bohr's interpretation and why it is was so unbelievable to Einstein and others. Topics include: photons and electrons, the structure of atoms, probability interpretation, the wave-particle duality, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Schrödinger's cat, and Bell's theorem. The emphasis is on conceptualization, but elementary algebra is used. No previous physics needed. Winter semester. (No final exam.) J. Pribram.

F-YS 206.  Whence Sex? Why Gender?  Many species can reproduce without employing sex. Others have "female" and "male" entities far different from our own. The natural world reveals diverse reproductive modes, roles of sex, and expressions of gender. This seminar explores these patterns from biological and feminist perspectives. How does the extraordinary sexual diversity of other species expand our understanding of ourselves, a species for which reproduction, sex, and gender are so inextricably entwined? Winter semester. (No final exam.) S. Kinsman.

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, environmental 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. Students register for Interdisciplinary Senior Thesis 457 when completing thesis in the fall semester, and for Interdisciplinary Senior Thesis 458 when completing thesis in the winter semester. Interdisciplinary majors writing an honors thesis register for both 457 and 458. Staff.

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Last modified: 08/05/96 by PD