The material on this page is from the 1997-98 catalog and may be out of date. Please check the current year's catalog for current information.


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. 19.)

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. J. Carignan.

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.

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. E. Honold.

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 of art, and the patrons of art. Winter semester.
R. Corrie.

153. Race in American Political and Social Thought. Race as an idea has changed during the course of American history in response to shifting political and economic circumstances, and social and scientific debates. This seminar explores constructions of race shaped by society, rather than by nature, through examination of the political documents, scientific research, oral history, and film. Readings include accounts of people challenging dominant images in daily life as well as in heroic moments. Fall semester. L. Hill.

154. History of Life. The history of life is described by periods of frenzied biologic innovation, massive extinctions, and progressive adaptation to a dynamic earth. The course focuses on certain critical events in the history of life, for example, the Cambrian explosion, the demise of the dinosaurs, and the assembly of Pangea, that find currency in popular literature. Such critical events highlight the methodology of science, the nature of scientific debate, and the folly and triumph of human perception of the natural world. Students read, discuss, and debate a range of scientific and popular literature and write about these events in a variety of ways. Fall semester. J. Creasy.

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. C. Straub.

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. E. Eames.

175. Re-Imaging Russia. The demise of the Soviet Union, the redrawing of international borders, and the decline of Russia's status as a superpower have forced Russian citizens to rethink what it means to be Russian. This course examines short stories, films, political speeches, and other materials to discern how notions of "Russian-ness" may differ across lines of gender, class, and region, as well as to trace the sometimes intricate, sometimes crude, frequently disturbing ways political and intellectual elites manipulate these notions to mobilize political support. The course pays particular attention to how Russian national identity is defined with respect to relations with the West, relations with the "new states" on the territory of the former Soviet Union, and relations between ethnic Russians and minority groups within the Russian Federation. Winter semester. J. Richter.

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. B. Shulman.

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 Copeland. No technical knowledge of music is required. Winter semester. M. Anderson.

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.

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 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. J. Pribram.

211. Growing Up in Ancient Rome. The Roman family was supposedly dominated by the father who trained his sons to take up prestigious careers and his daughters to advance the family by marrying well. This conservative ideal was reflected in the exemplary tales from Roman history on which young Romans were raised, but the reality was somewhat different. In this course we study Roman comedies, love poetry, private letters, biographical anecdotes, and artistic representations. We also read general works on the family and use them to explore tensions within the Roman household: between male and female, between old and young, between archaic myth and lived experience. By learning about these unusual families that shaped our world, we come to a better understanding of our own patterns of life. Winter semester. H. Walker.

213. Risk, Uncertainty, and Markets. Games of chance are fascinating for both practitioners and the more academically inclined. This seminar explores the history of how people have used ideas about risk to describe games of chance and whether those ideas are appropriate for describing the risks and uncertainty inherent in market (economic) activity. The seminar looks at how markets operate, how markets respond to new information, the meaning of market efficiency, and what this means for measuring risk and determining value. The basics of probability theory, statistics, finance, and economics are brought together to answer the cynic's favorite question, "If economists are so smart, why aren't they rich?" Fall semester. C. Schwinn.

214. Psychobiography. What do Gandhi, Hitler, Freud, Darwin, Oscar Wilde, Martin Luther, Isaac Asimov, Margaret Mead, and L. Frank Baum have in common? All have been subjected to the psychologist's microscope; their adult lives have been poked and their childhoods mined for clues as to the origins of their unique contributions to the world of religion, science, politics, and the arts. In this seminar, we consider the lives of renowned figures from the perspective of the psychobiographer. And we will consider the question: How much does psychobiography contribute to our understanding of these figures, their creations, and the events they influenced? Fall semester. R. Wagner.

215. Neuroscience: Past, Present, and Future. Although much of our knowledge of how the brain and nervous system work has been obtained in the past fifty years, philosophers and scientists have studied the brain for centuries. This seminar examines the history of discovery in neuroscience from the seventeenth century (or earlier) to the present. Emphasis is placed on the mechanisms of discovery used by those who studied the brain, and on the social implications of the knowledge gained. Students also consider how these ideas contribute to our current body of knowledge about brain function and disease, and where the study of neuroscience is going in the future. Fall semester. N. Kleckner.

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