First-Year Seminars



First-year seminars are designed to help you develop the critical skills of liberal arts education that freshmen need for success in college and beyond. The seminars also nurture the close student-faculty relationships that are a hallmark of the Connecticut College experience. The following seminars will be offered in the Fall of 2014.

FYS 104B. "Green" is a Color, Not a Movement: Sustainability in the 21st Century
TR 9:00 - 10:15 | Chad Jones/Josh Stoffel
True sustainability reaches far beyond just environmental stewardship to encompass social equity and economic welfare in communities at local and global scales.  This course addresses critical challenges facing today's world – including poverty, pollution, healthcare, climate change, and others – with a focus on developing real solutions using this holistic sustainability framework. Part of the Social Justice: Embodiment and Sustainability cluster*

FYS 104D. The Art of Chinese Politics and the Politics of Chinese Art
TR 1:15-2:30 | Dorothy James
For over 2000 years, the State has been the central power in Chinese society, each person playing a precise hierarchical role. Art has been a major tool in conveying and reinforcing governing values. This course analyzes the interaction of ideas, institutions and individuals from the Qin Dynasty to the present, illustrated by Chinese art.

FYS 104E. Illuminating Disease
TR 9:00 - 10:15 | Marc Zimmer
The lights and colors of bioluminescent proteins are used to discuss diseases, modern medical research and the use of molecular methods to study gene expression.  Fluorescent proteins are commonly used in biomedical techniques –we will examine their application in cancer, heart disease, malaria, AIDS and dengue fever research. This first-year seminar is open to NSF Science Leaders only. 

FYS 104F. Toxins & The Nervous System, Global Environmental Justice Issues
TR 9:00 - 10:15 | Joe Schroeder
While advances in chemistry have improved our quality of life, marginalized populations are disproportionately affected by environmental pollutants such as lead, mercury, PCBs and pesticides that are potent nervous system toxins.  This seminar will use case studies of environmental contamination from around the world to discuss environmental and social justice issues of neurotoxin pollutants within the context of globally responsible use of chemicals.

FYS 104G. Writing Stories: Fiction and Nonfiction
TR 1:15-2:30 | Blanche Boyd
Students will write both fiction and nonfiction and explore the similarities and differences in these narrative strategies. They will also read many stories by contemporary American authors from the viewpoint of technique, trying to understand how the writers achieved their goals.

FYS 104H. Social Justice Narratives: Contradictions and Transformative Possibilities
MF 10:25-11:40 | Dana Wright
An examination of the theory and methods of social justice approaches in education.  Key questions engaged by the course include:  What are the tensions, barriers, and possibilities when students are decision-makers and change agents in the educational process?  What are the theoretical, curricular, and methodological approaches to student-led participatory action research projects?  Students will analyze case studies to develop a range of perspectives on social change projects in education. Part of the Social Justice: Embodiment and Sustainability cluster*

FYS 114A. Healthy Choice?
TR 1:15-2:30 | Susan Warren
Is what we are eating today really food? How can we make healthy and thoughtful food choices? This seminar will consider the role of processed and genetically modified food and grains and their impact on diet, and will examine the American diet through popular literature and scientific readings. Discussions and activities will include critical review and analysis of data as presented by the public press.

FYS 124A. Robotics and Problem Solving
MW 10:25-11:40 | Gary Parker
An introduction to robotics and problem solving through robot construction and the programming of controllers. Students will discuss readings, make presentations, and work in teams to design and program LEGO Mindstorms robots to solve a series of problems that are of increasing complexity. No previous knowledge of computer programming is necessary. This course is not intended for computer science majors.

FYS 134A. Homesick: Traveling in Search of Home
TR 1:15-2:30 | Shubhra Sharma
A look at lives and travels of "global souls" today and in the context of 19th century colonialism. A "global soul" leaves home to travel in search of a home. If you have ever wondered where you are or why you are where you are, this course will connect your questions to the provocative musings of "global souls" (like Pico Iyer today and Isabelle Eberhardt in 19th century French colonial Algeria) as they travelled to understand who they are as people. In their musings, such global souls help us understand our sometimes disoriented and often directionless contemporary condition.

FYS 134B. Your Brain and You: A Partnership of One
TR 9:00 - 10:15 | Noel Garrett
The fascinating and mysterious human brain - the most complex organ in the human body, an organ that undergoes massive and surprising changes from birth to adulthood, the organ that dictates our mental development. Delve into a discussion of the brain and YOUR brain in particular. Explore the organization of the developing brain, recognizing that the brain’s greatest growth spurts occur between early adolescence and through the 2nd decade (your age group). Understand how these spurts can engender some of your most exasperating experiences and how they may hold the key to your success over the next few years.
Part of the Engaging Identities cluster*

FYS 134C. Cultural Meanings, Identity, and Human Development
TR 1;15-2:30 | Sunil Bhatia
An examination of how individuals make meaning about their identity within the context of a wide array of cultural and social practices. Specific social issues related to media, globalization, racial politics, and migration will be analyzed to explore and understand how we make sense of ourselves and others.

FYS 144A. Don Quixote and His World: Adventure, Imagination and Madness
WF 9:00 - 10:15 | Luis Gonzalez
Although many have heard of Don Quijote and his idealistic vision of courage and knighthood, few know a great deal about the world Cervantes experienced and wrote about. This course offers an examination of Miguel de Cervantes' (1547-1616) novel, placing it within the social, political and cultural context of Renaissance and Baroque Spain, with emphasis on marginal groups such as women and Muslims and their portrait in the novel. The course also includes readings of poetry (Ballads) and narrative (Amadis of Gaul, Lazarillo de Tormes and Diana) that influenced Cervantes, as well as contemporary representations of Don Quijote in film and on Broadway. (In Spanish: AP Spanish 4 or 5, SAT 560 or above, and Heritage Speakers).

FYS 144B. Why Music Matters: Finding Meaning in Music
WF 9:00 - 10:15 | Midge Thomas
Music plays a powerful role in our lives, whether we encounter it intentionally, recreationally, or accidentally.  Scholars debate the extent to which – and how – music can reference the world outside itself, can have expressive meaning, can relate narrative structures, and can shape our experiences. This course confronts these issues across musical genres (including classical, popular, jazz, and film music) and from the perspectives of listener, performer, and composer. Prior musical training is helpful but not required.

FYS 144C. Embodied Resistance
MW 9:00 - 10:15 | Rosemarie Roberts
A critical investigation of dance as resistance and social protest.  Students will examine educational, dance, and social science theories and methods through Afro-diasporic dance.  Considerations of text, film, and performance will address the ways in which narratives of social protest are embodied and resistance to social injustice is enacted.  Students will dance at least once a week.  No previous dance background is required. Part of the Social Justice: Embodiment and Sustainability cluster*

FYS 144D. Crime and Detection in Popular Fiction
WF 9-10:15 | Philip Ray
An exploration of three related figures: the police detective, the private detective, and the criminal who evolves from villain to victim. Writers include Dickens, Collins, Norris, Wright, Poe, Stevenson, Doyle, Christie, Hammett, Higgins, Rendell, and P.D. James.

FYS 144E. Unreliable Narrators
MW 9-10:15 | Janet Gezari
We're nostalgic for narrators we can believe in, but most narrators aren't completely reliable. How do we understand a story when we don't trust the person who tells it?  How and why do fictions use narrators whose understanding of their own experience and of others, or whose mental states, motives, and desires indelibly color the stories they tell?  The effort to answer these questions will stretch our reading muscles and change the way we take in information even when we're not reading fiction. Texts may include short stories by Poe, Wuthering Heights, AtonementRemains of the Day, Lolita, and selected films.

FYS 144F. France/Africa: The Story of an Encounter
MW 9:00 - 10:15 | Nathalie Etoke
Historically, the relationship between France and Africa has been characterized by a permanent tension.  We will use literature and film to reflect on the historical events and, socio-political processes that have shaped the encounter between France and Africa.  How are African and French novelists/filmmakers responding to this relationship?  Topics include: the colonial encounter, World War II, decolonization and immigration.  Conducted in English.

FYS 144G. Family Stories, Cultural Histories
TR 9:00 - 10:15 | Julie Rivkin
How do stories of families record histories of cultures?  We will read contemporary transnational and transcultural fiction about the family, tracing paths of cultural migration and transformation.  Writers may include Marilynne Robinson, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kazuo Ishiguro, Alison Bechdel, and Lorrie Moore.

FYS 144H. The Aids Epidemic in Theater and Film
MW 9:00 - 10:15, F 9-11:45 | Ginny Anderson
Together we explore, examine, and create theater and film emerging from the AIDS epidemic in the United States.  Emphasis on performance and interdisciplinary analysis, drawing on politics, economics, and medical discourse to interrogate the performing arts as historical evidence chronicling the history and scope of AIDS in America. There is a required weekly film screening on Fridays from 9:00 - 11:45 am. Part of the Living in America: The Real and the Imagined cluster*

FYS 144J. The Uses of History in Literature
TR 1:15-2:30 | Jeff Strabone
A study of prose, poetry, and drama that investigates how we use the past to tell stories of race, gender, sexuality, class, nation, and life in general. How do historical concerns shape literary form, and how does literature shape our historical consciousness? Authors include Shakespeare, Brontë, Achebe, Coetzee, Spiegelman, Rushdie.

FYS 144K. The Artist and the Scientist: From Michelangelo to Galileo
MW 9-10:15 | Robert Proctor
A study of the interplay of art, religion, and science in Medicean Florence and Papal Rome. Special attention will be given to Michelangelo′s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and to Galileo′s discovery of the moons of Jupiter. Students may not receive credit for both this course and Italian 409. The course is taught in English.

FYS 144L. Stories from the Road: Discovery and Transformation
TR 9:00 - 10:15 | Suzuko Knott
This seminar explores the transformative experience of travel. By encountering new peoples and new lands, we become more deeply aware of ourselves and are challenged to reconsider our own “ways of life” in the face of different ways of living. Together we will engage with novels, films, art, and other cultural artifacts that foreground travel in order to question cultural and national identities, to investigate the transfer of ideas across borders, to examine the impact of cross-cultural engagement, and to delve into the ethical ramifications of encountering the “other” in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic difference. Part of the Engaging Identities cluster*

FYS 144M. Who are you? Questions of Identity in Contemporary Literature & Culture
TR 10:25-11:40 | Michael Reder
What gives you your unique identity?  Is your identity biologically-determined or socially-constructed, static or dynamic?  Does a person have one identity or many identities?  This interdisciplinary seminar will focus on the topic of personal and social identity and how literature and other cultural artifacts, such as art, film, and music, offer insight into the question of identity. We will read works of fiction, including Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. We will also read two memoirs, Elna Baker’s The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, as well as various meditations on identity and culture. Using these works, we will explore modes of constructing and questioning identity, including issues of self-expression, race, gender, sexuality, consumption, privilege, and power. This is a residential FYS that will be advised by the professor. Part of the Engaging Identities cluster*

FYS 144N. The Absurd
TR 1:15-2:30 | Tony Lin
Art and literature offer an abundance of absurdity, from Kafka's Metamorphosis and Gogol's The Nose to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Is it true, as Martin Esslin has argued, that absurdist art represents life as inherently meaningless? This course examines works of literature, theater, painting, sculpture, and opera to explore the aesthetics and philosophical foundations of the absurd.

FYS 154A. Improvisation
TR 1:15 - 2:30 | Heidi Henderson
The practice and study of creating in real time.  Serious play.  Tuning the mind and body to make art in the moment.  Investigations of consciousness and self in the creative process.  For artists and thinkers in all disciplines including: actors, dancers, musicians, visual artists, writers, neuroscientists, philosophers, day dreamers, etc.

FYS 164A. Tragedy, Comedy, and Philosophy
MW 9-10:15 | Lawrence Vogel
Life can be tragic, but also comic. We shall explore how philosophy arose in ancient Greece against the background of tragedy and comedy, and how Plato and Aristotle put the tragic and comic aspects of life into a holistic perspective. Our readings will focus on the classical Greek context: the tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, the comedian Aristophanes, and the philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

FYS 164B. Memory, Identity, and Religion
MW 9:00 - 10:15 | David Kim
From Obama’s memoir to Augustine’s Confessions to Where the Wild Things Are, we examine the work of memory through the genres of memoirs, novels, plays, and film.  Emphasis on religion, home, diaspora, exile, race/ethnicity, sexuality, gender, nationalism, trauma, and nostalgia as symbolic resources for political, psychological, cultural, and spiritual identity. Part of the Engaging Identities cluster*

FYS 164C. Socrates
TR 9:00 - 10:15 | Tobias Myers
In this courses we will investigate the life and ideas of the enigmatic philosopher Socrates.  What do I know?  How should I live?  By studying Socratic approaches to such questions, we will also develop critical skills useful in every facet of life. Part of the Engaging Identities cluster*

FYS 174A. Gandhi and His Critics
F 1:15-4 | Sheetal Chhabria
Can a single individual truly change the world? Gandhi transformed himself, his bodily practices, and his mental ethos as tactics against the inequities of imperialism, inspiring revolutionaries around the world to do the same. This course will pursue Gandhian non-violence, self-sufficiency, and disobedient radicalism in the early 20th century.  The course also scrutinizes Gandhi from the point of view of his critics, i.e., Marxists, capitalists, secularists, and feminists who spoke from across the political spectrum in the heyday of the British Raj.

FYS 174B. Public Housing in America
TR 1:15 - 2:30 | Emily Morash
Throughout the twentieth century, public housing has been a central concern for architects, urban planners, and government officials and has been lauded for its successes and reviled for its failures. This course will examine the architectural, social, cultural, and political aspects of public housing in America with a particular attention to local examples and concerns.  The course will begin with a close study of the history of public housing in the city of Chicago in the twentieth century, investigating issues of urban planning, architecture, race, economics, politics, and sustainability.  Students in the course will then conduct individualized research projects focused on local public housing projects (either in New London, Connecticut, or their own hometowns). The course will place an emphasis on original research, writing, oral presentation skills, and digital methods of presentation (including the use of SketchUp (3D-modeling software), Adobe In-Design, and Adobe Photoshop). Part of the Living in America: The Real and the Imagined cluster*

FYS 174C. Hollywood's History: How Film Portrays the American Past
TR 1:15 - 2:30 | Catherine Stock
An examination of the changing interpretations of the American past as represented through popular film.  Analyzes both the accuracy of each film's depiction of a historical event and the intersection between the event depicted and the politics and culture of the era in which the film was produced. Part of the Living in America: The Real and the Imagined cluster*

FYS 174D. Butterflies and Barbarians: Representing East and West in Popular Culture
TR 1:15-2:30, MW 7-8:15 | Ann Marie Davis
An examination of the history of discourses representing ″East″ and ″West″ within the context of transnational encounters between Japan, Europe, and the U.S. A repertoire of cultural icons, such as the geisha, the barbarian, and the samurai, will be scrutinized and deconstructed under the critical lenses of gender, race, and ethnicity.

FYS 174F. Sex, Class, and the Body in Western Art
TR 9-10:15 | Robert Baldwin
Course examines the sexual body in art from the Renaissance to Abstract Expressionism. Topics include the rise of a Renaissance bodily aesthetic, ideas on sexuality, deified and demonized female bodies (angels, goddesses, witches, hysterics, and femme fatales), the male nude, and class and the body (beauty, ugliness, grotesque).

FYS 174G. From the Holy Land to Disneyland: Pilgrimage in the Modern World
W 7-9:45 | Eileen Kane
Like other forms of human mobility, pilgrimage became a mass phenomenon starting in the nineteenth century, thanks to the development of modern transportation (trains, steamships, automobiles, and airplanes). In this course we will look at various pilgrimages, both religious and secular, in connection with modern world-historical processes such as imperialism, nationalism, mass consumerism, mass tourism, and globalization. We will focus as much on pilgrimage destinations (including Mecca, Disneyland, Jerusalem) as on the process of getting there.

* New in 2014, some seminars will be clustered around three themes: Social Justice: Embodiment and Sustainability, Engaging Identities, and Living in America: The Real and the Imagined.  These clusters will allow for even more opportunity to continue conversations after class with professors, student life staff and classmates during special events in the residences.