Freshman Seminars 2014



A sound liberal arts education should enable students to participate as quickly as possible in thought-provoking academic discussion.  Freshman Seminars are intended to facilitate this process by providing students a setting for intellectual and creative engagement.  These seminars introduce and support our institutional value of academic achievement through close student-faculty relationships.  Seminars are designed to foster a lively and respectful interaction, both among students and between students and faculty, around a topic of the faculty member′s choosing.

               Open to freshmen only.  Enrollment limited to 16 students per seminar.  These seminars are designated Writing courses.

FALL 2014

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  104B  ″GREEN″ IS A COLOR, NOT A MOVEMENT:  SUSTAINABILITY IN THE 21ST CENTURY  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.  C. Jones

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  104D  THE ART OF CHINESE POLITICS AND THE POLITICS OF CHINESE ART   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.   D. James

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  104E  ILLUMINATING DISEASE  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.  Seminar is open to Freshman NSF Science Leaders only.  M. Zimmer

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  104F  TOXINS AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM:  ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ISSUES  While advances in chemistry have improved our quality of life, marginalized populations are disproportionately affected by neurotoxin pollutants such as lead, mercury, PCBs, and pesticides.  Issues of environmental justice will be debated within the context of globally responsible use of chemicals.  J. Schroeder

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  104G  WRITING STORIES:  FICTION AND NONFICTION  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.  B. Boyd

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  114A  HEALTHY CHOICE?  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.

This course satisfies General Education Area 1.  S. Warren

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  124A  ROBOTICS AND PROBLEM SOLVING  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 andprogram LEGO Mindstorms robots to solve a series of problems that areof increasing complexity.  No previous knowledge ofcomputer programming is necessary.  This course is not intended for computer science majors.  Seminar is open to freshmen NSF Science Leaders only.

This course satisfies General Education Area 2.  G. Parker

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  134A  HOMESICK:  TRAVELING IN SEARCH OF HOME  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.

This course satisfies General Education Area 3.  S. Sharma

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  134B  YOUR BRAIN AND YOU:  A PARTNERSHIP OF ONE  The human brain dictates mental development and undergoes massive and surprising changes from birth to adulthood.  Through a series of case studies and influential works, this course will explore the organization, development, and experiences of the adolescent brain.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 3.  N. Garrett

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  134C  CULTURAL MEANINGS, IDENTITY, AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT  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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 3.  S. Bhatia

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  134D:  SOCIAL JUSTICE NARRATIVES:  CONTRADICTIONS AND TRANSFORMATIVE POSSIBILITIES  An exploration of case studies of social justice projects through narratives, research studies, theoretical frameworks, and film.  What is learned through participation in social justice projects?  Which perspectives and experiences are most visible and which remain hidden?  What are the contradictions, limitations, and possibilities embedded in conceptions of social justice?  Topics include social justice education projects, art as a vehicle for analysis and social change, popular education, and participatory action research projects. 

               This course satisfies General Education Area 3.  D. Wright

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144A  DON QUIXOTE AND HIS WORLD:  ADVENTURE, IMAGINATION AND MADNESS  (In Spanish)An examination of Cervantes' novel, with emphasis on the status of women, Muslim and Jewish converts in early modern Spain.  The course also includes readings of poetry, and narrative that influenced Cervantes, as well as contemporary representations of Don Quixote in film and on Broadway.

       This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  L. Gonzalez

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144B  WHY MUSIC MATTERS:  FINDING MEANING IN MUSIC  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. 

               This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  M. Thomas

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144C  EMBODIED RESISTANCE  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. 

               This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  R. Roberts

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144D  CRIME AND DETECTION IN POPULAR FICTION  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.

       This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  P. Ray

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144E  UNRELIABLE NARRATORS  How do we understand a story when we don't trust the person who tells it?  Beginning with Poe and ending with Lolita, we explore how and why fictions use narrators whose awareness, mental states, motives, and desires indelibly color the stories they tell.  Texts may include Wuthering Heights, Atonement, Remains of the Day, and Rashomon.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  J. Gezari

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144F   FRANCE/AFRICA:  THE STORY OF AN ENCOUNTER  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.

       This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  N. Etoke

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144G  FAMILY STORIES, CULTURAL HISTORIES  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.

       This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  J. Rivkin

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144H  THE AIDS EPIDEMIC IN THEATER AND FILM  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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  V. Anderson

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144J  THE USES OF HISTORY IN LITERATURE  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.

       This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  J. Strabone

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144K  THE ARTIST AND THE SCIENTIST:  FROM MICHELANGELO TO GALILEO  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.

        This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  R. Proctor

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144L  STORIES FROM THE ROAD:  DISCOVERY AND TRANSFORMATION  An examination of the transformative effects of mobility on the individual through a broad survey of German texts that emphasize exploration, discovery, cultural transfer, and encounters with the foreign from a German perspective.  Authors include Goethe, Humboldt, Ransmayr, Dörrie.  Emphasis on travel and its relationship to revolution and disruption of normative thought.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  S. Knott

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144M  WHO ARE YOU?  QUESTIONS OF IDENTITY IN CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE AND CULTURE  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 create and put into question identity.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  M. Reder

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  144N  THE ABSURD  Art and literature offer an abundance of absurdity, from Kafka's "Metamorphsis" 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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 4.  T. Lin

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  154A  IMPROVISATION  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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 5.  H. Henderson

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  164A  TRAGEDY, COMEDY, AND PHILOSOPHY  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.

       This course satisfies General Education Area 6.  L. Vogel

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  164B  MEMORY, IDENTITY, AND RELIGION  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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 6.  D. K. Kim

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  164C  SOCRATES  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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 6.  T. Myers

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  174A  GANDHI AND HIS CRITICS  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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 7.  S. Chhabria

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  174B  PUBLIC HOUSING IN AMERICA  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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 7.  E. Morash

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  174C  HOLLYWOOD'S HISTORY:  HOW FILM PORTRAYS THE AMERICAN PAST  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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 7.  C. Stock

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  174D  BUTTERFLIES AND BARBARIANS:  REPRESENTING EAST AND WEST IN POPULAR CULTURE  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.

       This course satisfies General Education Area 7.  A.M. Davis

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  174E  REAL SPORTS:  RACE, RACISM, AND SEXISM IN AMERICAN SPORT HISTORY  This first year seminar examines the history and contributions of black athletes to American professional and collegiate sports.  The course investigates the anthropological discussion on race and athletics, the ″superior black athlete″ myth and its impact on American society.  Students will explore the relationship between race, ethnicity, class, and athletic opportunity.

       This course satisfies General Education Area 7.  D. Canton

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  174F  SEX, CLASS, AND THE BODY IN WESTERN ART  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).

               This course satisfies General Education Area 7.  R. Baldwin

FRESHMAN SEMINAR  174G  FROM THE HOLY LAND TO DISNEYLAND:  PILGRIMAGE IN THE MODERN WORLD  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.

               This course satisfies General Education Area 7.  E. Kane