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Each fall every first-year student participates in a First-Year Seminar, offered by a faculty member in his or her field of expertise. The seminar topics offered each year vary, as do the faculty members teaching these courses. Examples of First-Year Seminar courses include the following:
002 Victorian Fiction and Science What do Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, and mad scientists like Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Moreau tell us about roles of science and imagination in Victorian society? When science meets literature, what controversial questions are raised about debates over women's roles, animal rights, foreign relations, and evolution? Through reading, discussing and writing about nineteenth-century science fiction alongside some key scientific texts, we will consider the ways in which various monsters reveal the fears and desires of the society in which they are invented. We will also investigate the ways in which literature presents science to the public, and how science became an authoritative means of addressing social problems. This course is part of a Learning Community. Visit page 19 for more information. Typical Readings: Shelley, Frankenstein; Stoker, Dracula; Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Wells, The Time Machine.
018 Genocide and the Modern Age We live in an age of genocide. Genocide is a crime against humanity because it negates human value itself. The 20th century began with the destruction of the Herrero people in what is now Namibia in Africa; there followed the genocide of the Armenians by the Turks, the mass murder of the Roma (Gypsies) and the Jews (Holocaust) by the Nazis, the cruelties of the Stalinist Gulag, the ravages of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and the mutual genocidal massacres of Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi. Recent genocidal events in the Balkans and in the Darfur region of the Sudan underscore the persistence of the problem. These human tragedies have the potential to undermine the value of human life, the meaning of history and modernity, the relevance and truth of religion and culture, and the significance of social organization. Students in this course will examine the history of genocide and its impact on culture, politics and religion. Together we will confront the dilemma of how to orient life, thought and action around the memory of mass death and broken cultural traditions. Typical readings may include: Samantha Powers, A Problem from Hell; Peter Balakian, Black Dog of Fate; Philip Gourevitch, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families; and Phillip Hallie, Let Innocent Blood Be Shed.
022 Crisis and Cultural Change Maybe the appeal of blockbuster disaster novels and movies has something to do with reassuring us that global catastrophe can be dismissed as mere fiction. Special effects and vividly portrayed post-apocalyptic dystopias on the page or screen might cathartically calm our anxieties about actually experiencing such world-changing events. But our nagging unease does not spring from only imaginary threats. We are also wondering about ourselves and our own future when we are fascinated by once-great civilizations whose remains now stand in overgrown jungles or are half-buried in deserts. Societies have collapsed or undergone drastic transformation because of changes in the environment and natural disasters, some local and others global in reach. Unsustainable social choices about food, water, and energy also play important roles in shaping commerce and political arrangements. We will explore past examples of crisis and cultural change and relate them to some of the challenges we face in the 21st century.
029 Why Aren't All Countries Rich? Why are some countries rich while others remain poor? The answer matters because `rich’ versus `poor’ translates into significant differences in the quality of life of the `average’ person in these countries. The history of the post-WWII period is littered with the corpses of `big ideas’ that purported to answer this question and thus provide the key to growth. Colonial exploitation, low investment rates, inadequate spending on education, insufficient financial liberalization, among others, all failed to answer the question by themselves and certainly didn’t provide the magic elixir for growth. We will examine the merits and the failings of these big ideas and consider some newer proposals as well. We’ll particularly look at the roles of geography and of political, social and economic institutions and the incentives they create. There may be no single big idea that will work for every country, but we will identify some characteristics that clearly separate the `poor’ from the `not so poor.’ Typical Readings: Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth; O’Rourke, Eat the Rich; Bhagwati, In Defense of Globalization; Rivoli, The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.
042 Face to Face Interrogating Race This course examines the parallel structures of segregation in the U.S. and apartheid in South Africa. The basic premise is that through the lens of another culture and history, we can come to examine our own. The causes and effects of segregation and apartheid on race relations are the central focus. How race affects gender, class, and social spaces is explored throughout the readings. Taught from the perspectives of professors from South Africa and the United States, the course provides unique insights into the histories of these two countries. Typical Readings: Archival films and recordings of the speeches of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.; films and texts such as Desmond Tutu and John Hope Franklin, Journey to Peace; writings such as Coetzee, Disgrace; Higginbotham, Shades of Freedom; Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God; R. Jacobs, The Slave Book; H. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Magona, Mother to Mother; Morrison, The Bluest Eye; Rubel; The Coming Free; Thompson, A History of South Africa; selections from Bell Hooks, Gwendolyn Brooks and James Baldwin.
065 Philos Through Lit, Drama & Film How do we gain knowledge? Is the truth relative tot he individual? What makes me me? Am I free to make my own choices? How should I live? Is the natural world the whole of reality? These and other perennial philosophical questions about knowledge, meaning, reality, persons, morality, and society are central themes in literature, drama, and film. Short philosophical readings will provide contexts for discussions of ways of knowing, the distinction between appearance and reality, problems of human freedom and responsibility, the nature of persons and machines, the problem of understanding evil, and the possibility of moral truth. Typical readings: Kafka, Metamorphosis; Philip K. Dick, Minority Report; Anouilh, Antigone; Brian Friel, Molly Sweeney; Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyitch; Sartre, No Exit; selections from Huxley, Brave New World. Short readings from philosophers will include Plato, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Mill, Kant, Sartre. Films will include: The Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix; Kurosawa, Rashomon; Nolan, Memento; Kubrick, 2001, A Space Odyssey; Allen, Crimes and Misdemeanors; Becket, Waiting for Godot; Linklater, Walking Life. (Oberbrunner)
066 Thinking Critically About God The concept of God has shaped how billions of people have lived their lives. Different religions have different ideas about God, but there are some common themes, and many of them raise serious questions: If God is all-powerful, can he create a rock so heavy he cannot lift it? If God is all good, then why is there evil in the world? If God is all-knowing (including the future), then how can I have free will? We will examine these and many other tough questions by reading classic and contemporary writings. Students will engage in at least two structured classroom debates and will also write frequently about many challenging topics. This course is a rational inquiry into these issues that is open to everyone, regardless of their belief system. Please note: There will be several required films outside of regularly scheduled class times. Typical readings: Various proofs of God's existence by Aristotle, St. Anselm, St. Thomas, etc.; Hume, Dialogues on Natural Religion; Plato, Euthyphro; Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence; Russell, Why I'm Not a Christian; Rachels, Does Morality Depend on Religion?; Pascal, The Wager; Leibniz, The Best of All Possible Worlds; Lewis The Screwtape Letters; Stoppard, Arcadia and Jumpers, selected films, including Groundhog Day, Crimes & Misdemeanors, and A Clockwork Orange.
072 Rock Music & American Masculinities Elvis, Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen. They were some of the central figures in the history of rock music in America and England from the 1950's to the 1980's. But what kind of men were they? This seminar offers an interdisciplinary look at the lives of these men of rock through the lens of men's studies: i.e., through the history and theory of men's identity and experience. In their study of the biographies of the men who made the soundtrack of mid-20th century Anglo-American popular culture, students will develop an appreciation for the role of gender, race, class, sexuality, and nation in shaping men's lives. (Caparo)
079 Haunting Memories: Revealing the Uncanny What do a diabolical alchemist, a mass-murdering spider, and a videotape that predicts your death have in common? They are all central elements of uncanny stories we will encounter in this seminar. The uncanny, as made famous by Sigmond Fraud's article the Uncanny from 1919, is feeling of fear and dread experienced by the reader or viewer of tales, in which past events return to disrupt seemingly stable and comfortable situations, Our tour of the uncanny will begin at the start of the 19th century and continue through present day and will lead us through several countries, such as Germany, Russia, and the United States. Throughout the semester we will explore how uncanny tales are constructed and how various cultural and historical contexts inform these tales of angst and horror (Eric Klaus) Typical readings: Sigmone Fraud: "he Uncanny "1919); Susan Berstein: "t Walks: The Ambulatory Uncanny" (2003); ETA Hoffman: The Sandman (1817); Edgar Allen Poe: The Fall of the House of Usher (1839); Henrick Ibsen: Ghosts (1881); Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock (1958); The Shining by Stanley Kubrick (1980) This seminar is part of a Learning Community: all students in this seminar will also be in the same section of Beginning German, along with some other students. List this seminar as a preference only if you also plan to take Beginning German. All the students in this seminar will live in the same residence hall, forming a community that will support its members in this First-Year Seminar, in Beginning German, and in college life in general. Our learning Community will have a Teaching Colleague (an upper-class student) who will help lead the seminar and who will help you make the academic and personal transition to college.
080 Representation & Reality in Contemporary Culture Images pervade our environment to a degree never experienced before. We are inundated by representations in the form of photography, film, television, the Internet, and advertising. Yet few of us recognize the effect of such representations on our environment, our culture, or ourselves. Through readings and discussions of various forms of visual representation, we will examine the role of visual media in the construction and maintenance of received contemporary notions of the real. Issues of gender, race, class, sexuality and nationality will be important to our study.
081 Seeing Whiteness Is "whiteness" an ethnic identity? How did certain U.S. immigrant populations "become" white? What is "white privilege"? What does the phrase "white trash" imply? As American Studies scholar George Lipsitz notes, whiteness, like all racial identities, is both a "scientific and cultural fiction" and "social fact [with] all-too-real consequences for the distribution of wealth, prestige, and opportunity" In this course, students discover how and why scholars have come to see "whiteness" as a subject. Students delve into the interdisciplinary scholarship that has emerged around the subject of whiteness on the last two decades - from history, literary studies, media and cultural studies, and gender/sexuality studies. Students also study the way whiteness has been represented in novels, plays, and memoirs as well as through film, television, and other visual or material culture texts. Typical readings: Oedigerm Black on White: Black Writers and What it means to Be White; Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color; Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment In Whiteness; Newitz & Wray, White trash: Race and Class in America; Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literacy Imagination; McIntosh, "What Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack."
095 Drawn to Nature The natural world is filled with incredible beauty and amazing stories of adaptation and survival. Many of these stories remain untold despite centuries of exploration, natural history, and scientific discovery. Since Aristotle, naturalists have observed nature in an attempt to describe its beauty and complexity. Among them were scientists like Charles Darwin, artists like John James Audubon and writers like Henry David Thoreau. It is often said that curiosity about the world around us is the basis for all human learning. In this course we'll use your natural curiosity to explore the natural history of the Finger Lakes region using both scientific and artistic expression. We'll examine award-winning natural history writing, chronicle the contributions great naturalists have made to our understanding of the natural world, and we'll create our own illustrated natural history journals. Along the way, you'll develop the observational skills that will allow you to better describe the natural world in prose and art. Typical readings: Naturalist's Guide to Observing Nature by Kurt Rinehart; The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2007 edited by Richard Preston; Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth. (Ryan)
099 Modern Isms Art in the twentieth century was propelled by a series of movements and manifestoes, as one "-ism" succeeded another (realism, naturalism, symbolism, surrealism, impressionism, expressionism, modernism, postmodernism, and so on). This was true not only in the fine arts, but in the liberal arts as well: in fact, there was a rich give-and-take of ideas between critical theorists (who reflected on the arts) and artists themselves (who tested these theories in practice). In this class we'll look closely at a wide range of twentieth-century artworks, from Picasso to T. S. Eliot to The Clash, stopping at all points in between. Our primary goal, however, will be to introduce you to the dozens of "-isms" that these artworks embody and that continue to provide the conceptual foundations for our work in the fine and liberal arts. This course is part of a Learning Community. Visit page 19 for more information. Typical Readings: Selected poetry, novels, plays, paintings, films and music, including Beckett, Waiting for Godot; Coetzee, Foe; Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; The Magnetic Fields; 69 Love Songs.
103 The Reality Effect (Not a Dark and Stormy Night) Stories infuse our lives. In this course, we will examine real stories - perhaps urban legends like "Kentucky Fried Rat," political or advertising storytelling, even identity narratives like college application essays - all kinds of stories that humans shape and that shape us in turn. Our core question is "How do we use narrative, and how does narrative use us?" We will aim to become more adept at analyzing real stories for craft, purpose and impact, but we will also aim to become more skilled at telling real stories by creating some of our own; expect much reading, writing, and revision. We may explore virtual reality narratives or the biological basis for narrative, or other choices based in part on student interest. Please note, this is not a fiction-writing course, although fiction writers may enjoy and benefit from it. Typical Readings: Le Guin, "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night"; Aristotle, Poetics; The 9/11 Commission Report; the Iraq War blogs of rebel coyote; New York Times "Lives" columns; Lunsford, The Everyday Writer; Hjortshoj, Transition to College Writing.
110 Education, Justice & Happiness Worried about injustice and misery in a society that had executed his great teacher, Socrates, for "corrupting the youth," Plato devoted one of the greatest books ever written to the question of how people can live in a way that leads to social justice and personal happiness. His concerns inspired him to investigate many topics that remain important today: education, the equality of the sexes, democracy and tyranny, psychological health, class divisions, censorship and the nature of art, and the nature of knowledge and reality. Plato's Republic remains one of the most interesting works about education, justice, and happiness. In this seminar, we read the Republic, cover to cover, along with modern works, and discuss the parallels between these important topics as they arose in ancient Athens and as they arise in the 21st century and in our own experience.
111 Paris, Je T'Aime This course will examine contemporary French life in the light of American points of view about France today. We will study Paris as the perceived historical and cultural "center" of the French world. French life will be studied through its multiple productions, (the life of the city, cinema, literature and cuisine). We will pay particular attention on how Americans have related to the city and its culture, and by extension to French culture, by examining the experience of American expatriated in France, and how their representations may construct stereotypes of the "city of lights" and of France. This course is taught as a learning community with French 130. Readings and other materials: BOOKS: Cultural experience: Jean-Benoit Nadeau, "Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't be Wrong: Why We Love France but Not the French," Sourcebooks, 2003. (ISBN-13: 978-1402200458) Chils, Julia with Alex Prud'homme. "My life in France." Alfred A Knopf, 2006 (ASIN: B002FNELSM). Gopnik, Adam. "Paris to the Moon." Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2001 (978-0375758232) Lebovitz, David. "The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City". Broadway, 2011 (ISBN-13: 978-0767928892) Literary texts: Gopnik, Adam. "Americans in Paris: A Literary Anthology." Library of America, 2004. (ISBN-13: 978-1931082563) Hemingway, Ernest. "A Moveable Feats." Scribner, 1996 (ISBN-13: 978-0684824994) various essays, some from: DeJean, Joan. "The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour." Free Press, 2005 (ISBN-13: 9780743264136) Sedaris, David. "Me Take Pretty One Day." Back Bay Books, 2001 (ISBN-13: 978-0316776967) Films: "Round Midnight" (Bertrand Travernier, 1986) "Paris je t'aime" (Multi. Dir., 2006) "2 days in Paris" (Julie Delpy, 2007) "Julie, Julia" (Nora Ephron, 2009) "Paris" (Cedric Klapish, 2009).
114 The Poetics of Hip-Hop We usually associate hip hop with issues of race, provocative sexuality, and urban life. But hip-hop also provides us with some of the freshest and most original poetic voices of our time. In fact, hip hop artists’ masterful use of language doesn’t fall from that of serious poets and deserves to be examined just as carefully. This seminar is going to discuss a wide variety of hip-hop tunes by using the tools of poetic analysis. We will study the manner in which poetic devices such as rhythm, rhyme, and imagery serve as effective means to convey and emphasize ideas in hip hop songs. We will also explore hip hop’s relationship with other poetic traditions. Ultimately, this seminar will expose you to the often unacknowledged complexity and imaginative richness found in hip hop music and lyrics.
116 The Science and Communication of Weather Few topics capture the attention and fascination of people like severe and hazardous weather. The awesome power of severe weather and the devastation and destruction it causes has made lasting impressions throughout history. The last sixty years has seen a marked increases in understanding, observation, and prediction of serve and hazardous weather systems. One of the largest improvements in an area of particular interested to the public has been the communication of weather information, forecasts, and warnings. During this seminar we will dissect observations of changing weather conditions - early methods of forecasting - and progress to present forms of communication used to rapidly disseminate weather forecasts and warnings. We will review several historical severe weather events (specifically tornado and hurricane events) and what factors led to loss of life or saving lives. Our discussions will also consider how weather forecasts have improved over many decades and what constitutes a good weather forecast (e.g. forecast skill, public awareness, and societal response). Lastly, students will have an opportunity to connect with the environment of the Finger Lakes region by learning about and observing our local weather. This course is part of a Learning Community. Readings and other materials: 1. "Weather on the Air: A history of broadcast meteorology" by R. Henson; 2. "Isaac's Storm" by E. Larson; 3. "The Forgotten Storm: The great tri-state tornado of 1925" by W. Akin; 4. "Hurricane Watch: Forecasting the Deadliest Storms on Earth" by J. Williams and R. Sheets; 5. "Eloquent Science" by D. Schultz.
117 Bodies Politic How do you present yourself in everyday life? Your clothes, manners, haircut, and how you decorate your room are all ‘texts’ through which you reveal (and sometimes hide) yourself from others. Are you a preppy, a punk, a goth, an urban hipster, or a chic hillbilly? In this seminar we will explore ‘the body’; as a site at which cultural, social, and political commitments are both constructed and challenged. In its traditional use, The Body Politic is a metaphor in which the members of a political community are thought to compose a single corporeal body. In this course, however, we will be less concerned about how individuals may be incorporated into a legitimate and politically authoritative collective; instead we will employ `Bodies' Politic to interrogate how society produces material bodies that are meaningful (and how those meanings often inspire resistance). Specifically, we will draw upon texts from history, anthropology, literature, film, and political theory in order to explore the body as a means of learning and self-expression, as a mechanism for social control, and as an object of political regulation. More specifically, we will examine what vampires, soccer hooligans, Civil War reenactors, cyborgs, and Japanese anime reveal about the changing and contested categories of class, race, gender, and sex through which our bodies are made comprehensible to others.
119 Under the Spell This seminar explores the aesthetic appreciation of the natural environment as the source of inspiration for some of the world’s greatest artistic and technological achievements. After listening to the "call of the wild" in primitive as well as modern societies like our own, we come to understand how intensely the human imagination has followed the course of the stars and the rush of leaves, rivers, and birds, in carving out its religions, its habitations, its medicines and its emotional dispositions. Your entry into this world begins with a dip into Seneca Lake, followed by several other sensory adventures, including a trip to the Farm Sanctuary and the Watkins Glen Gorge. Each event will be accompanied by a writing assignment. The course will prepare you to research and write a scientific paper, an historical paper, a letter of correspondence, a piece of fiction, and poetry. In addition, you will be engaged in drawing the natural world around you, in caring for a plant, and in theatrically enacting a scene of biomimicry. Typical Readings: Works by Michael Pollan, David Malouf, R. Neilhardt, Steven Buhner, David Abram, Henry David Thoreau, Ursula Goodenough.
126 The Accidental Scientist: Mysteries of Experience Mysteries of Experience Vinita Prabhakar Some things need not be taught: our very own sense of wonder, our lush imaginations and simple, enduring curiosities. These are tools we are born with. Or are we? We begin with the willingness to ask questions, big and small, about the nature of Life and this thing we call Experience. Why Accidental Scientist? Because we do not set out to read a textbook on Sociology, Biology or Etymology; but still we want to know: the evolution of a kiss; the chemistry of memory, pain, loss, and of lies; where, in the brain, the memories live, the lies are kept; why some kinds of music lift us to ecstasy, but not others; whether our personalities reflect biological mechanisms; the puzzle of smell; the origins of our words, accents, sounds; the delicate connections across Art, Biology, Music, Psychology, Poetry and Philosophy. Crucially, we want to know of these, and more, in plain-speak, in accessible ways that will not erode that first, polished sense of wonder, but fuel it. As cartographers of our experiences, we ourselves are, perhaps, the most important texts, but we will also be aided by information from a wide variety of genres and disciplines. We shall look for, and find, mystery and meaning in the most personal and idiosyncratic places.
127 Hip-Hop Culture One of the most influential cultural movements of the late 20th century has been the hip-hop phenomenon. It is a complex social movement whose audiences are as diverse as the music. The "Hip-Hop Nation" comprises a community of artists and adherents who espouse street performance aesthetics as expressed through various elements of hip-hop. While students are going to be introduced to the history and evolution of the movement, a great part of the seminar will be dedicated to examining the interdisciplinary nature of hip-hop, in which poetry, drama, music, art, and dance are inextricably linked. Ironically, the marketing of hip-hop culture to mainstream America has contributed to the erosion of the very fabric at the core of its movement. This seminar will address the catalog value of hip-hop and the "commodification" of the movement from its inception in the Bronx River District in 1979 to the present.
129 Dinosaurs and Their World The Mesozoic bestiary teems with a colorful assortment of creatures great and small, feathered, furred, and scaled, terrestrial and marine, toothy and timid. In this course, we'll use dinosaurs (and some relatives) to investigate a variety of questions about Earth history (e.g. How has climate varied throughout Earth history? or How does dinosaur distribution reflect the shifting arrangements of continents?), biology and ecology (e.g. Could you outrun Utahraptor? Or did the giraffe-sized flying reptile Quetzalcoatlus act like a giraffe?!), and how are dinosaurs presented in popular media over time and what that might tell us about ourselves.
134 Wilderness and the Wild There are more than 677 federally designated wilderness areas in the United States. A continuing fascination with wild places is evident in the popularity and critical success of such films as 127 Hours, Into the Wild, and Grizzly Man. Do you enjoy getting away from it all, or wonder at those who do? This seminar will explore peoples' fascination with wild places. We will attempt to answer such questions as what makes a place a wilderness, how the concept of wilderness has changed over time, and how the value and meaning of wilderness differs across cultures. Our approach to what one historian calls "the problem of wilderness" will be multifaceted. We will explore the history, ethics, philosophy, politics, aesthetics, and economics of wilderness. Ultimately, our attempt to understand wilderness will be a means to critically examine our own places in the natural world.
137 Life by Design: Vitality, Sustainability and Place More than ever our environment is strictly and efficiently organized, although very often it is not in the least organic. Driving through the average American suburb we see where our values have led: the scale of a Wal-Mart parking lot; the sterile booths of a fast food restaurant; privatized "play areas" where children gather for a fee; farms laid out in arbitrary rows. Buildings and services are often built into our landscape as if they are being placed into aisles at the supermarket. Plants, animals and people live in such places, but the quality of their lives (and the vital qualities of life and liveliness) are often given very little consideration. Drawing on architectural, philosophical and ecological thinkers like Christopher Alexander, Jane Jacobs, David Abram, Wendell Berry, Andy Goldsworthy and others, this class proposes that the "life of a place" comes not in the things found there (like the cash register, canned goods and plastic bags), but in how those things relate to each other and to those who live with them (like the relationships between the grocer, his goods, the land they were grown on and made, and his neighbors). This class interrogates how a deep concern for relationships can help integrate livability and sustainability into the places we live, the things we make and use, and the people we share our lives with.
139 Mars! For centuries, Mars has fascinated astronomers, writers, artists, philosophers and geologists. Today, a whole new generation awaits results from the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity, which is scheduled to touch down on the red planet in August 2012. More than any other planet, Mars seems familiar, but very different at the same time. We will use Earth as a model to explore these similarities and difference. In particular we will compare and contrast the planets' internal structures, tectonics, rock cycle, hydrological cycle, sedimentary processes, glacial processes, atmospheric evolution, history and potential for life-past and present. We will explore these topics through reading and writing in the primary scientific literatures, hands-on projects that will use data coming directly from Curiosity, individual research, and presentations. This is an exciting time for Mars exploration. It is possible that in the next few months we may have an answer to the question: Was there ever life on Mars? You can be part of that discovery.
142 The Algorithmic Life Algorithms are the ideas behind computer programs. Whether you know it or not, your on-line life is monitored, managed, and manipulated by the sophisticated and clever algorithms that have been developed by computer technologists. You live an algorithmic life. This course will take the mystery out of some of the fundamental algorithms that affect you every day on the Internet. You will learn how they work, and you will learn enough computer programming to design some simple algorithms of your own. But we will also look more deeply at the ways in which modern computing technology affects our lives. What social and ethical issues are raised by the ability of computers to gather and process huge amounts of information about people? What does in mean that digital information can be copied and distributed instantaneously and a t almost no cost? What rights should people have to access and use all that information? Who should make decisions about the future of computers and the Internet? And what sort of future might that be?
146 Thomas Jefferson and his World This seminar will focus on the writings of Thomas Jefferson and the intellectual, political, social, and economic worlds in which Jefferson lived. Our goal will be to use Jefferson's own writings and his astounding array of interests and concerns as opportunities to discuss the nature of law, partisan politics, democracy, rights, equality, the role of science in society, the philosophy of language, national identity, race and racism, empire, war and the political lives of women. While trying to understand Jefferson and his world, we will also be debating the relevance of these texts for our lives as citizens, and so critically reflecting on the role of the past in the present.
147 Africa: Myths and Realities Africa is in the continent Americans probably understand the least. As a result, there are many myths and misconceptions about the people and the countries of this vast continent. This course examines the reality of Africa from many viewpoints: its geography, environment, demographics, and history; its social, economic, and political structures; and its art, music, and literature. Students also examine contemporary issues in South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Rwanda and elsewhere. Central to the course is an examination of the role of development projects and foreign aid. Among the course's varied experiences are guest lectures, films, and readings. Typical Readings: Gordon and Gordon (eds.), Understanding Contemporary Africa; Moss, African Development; selected works by Coetzee, Emecheta, El Saadawi, Fanon, Farah, Mandela and Soyinka.
150 Art on the Edge Before the 20th century, most paintings looked like paintings and most poems looked like poems. Genre and medium were relatively stable, even as styles changed. Once the 20th century hit, rules became suddenly and thoroughly breakable. You might be standing on a street corner when Mina Loy would pull up in her car, open the trunk, and throw dozens of poster-sized, hand-printed manifestoes into the air before zooming away again. Was it a poem? A performance? Visual art? All of the above? In this class, we'll track genre-bending and rule-breaking through a number of different forms and media, including appropriations, false documentations, fake translations, conceptual art, graffiti, dance erasures, performance art, collaborations, comics, new media art, prose poems, lyric essays, and other kinds of art and writing that are difficult to define or classify. And we'll try our own hands at rule-breaking, making creative works and participating in guerilla art projects in addition to reading , writing, and researching academically about creative works.
152 School Wars Why are people willing to march, protest and risk their lives and livelihood for schools they can believe in? There is no public institution that inspires, enrages and connects to American ideals about "public good" more than schools. But what is “good”? In this seminar we ask, what's worth fighting for in school... and why? We will interrogate the conflicts that rage over what the purpose of schools should be and who should decide. Public protests, creative peoples' movements and even military intervention have been waged with the aim of directing the destiny of public education. Through discussions, formal debates, group projects, lectures, films and readings we will trace dynamic interests that vie to influence schools and direct education policy. We will pay particular attention to the voices and ideas of educators, policy makers, grassroots leaders and community activists over the past fifty years. This seminar will help students identify, contextualize and articulate the multiple dimensions of major policy debates in American education. Students will learn how to approach topics such as charter schools, standardized testing and school choice as critical consumers of information and consider various political, cultural and historical perspectives.
154 Pharaohs, Kings, & Generals: Political Power in Egypt The dramatic events in Tahrir Square in 2011 are still firmly in our minds, but Egypt's history is one of ongoing struggles over political authority and what it means to build a "just state." This course will explore the historical and contemporary expression of authority (political, religious, and social) in Egypt from the ancient to the modern, and the major resistance movements that each has elicited. The course will involve an interdisciplinary exploration of history, literature, art, and social science, but will center on an introduction to some of the core concepts of comparative politics. These will include but not be limited to an exploration of a variety of sources of authority, legitimacy, power, obedience, and resistance. We will also discuss the role of heterogeneity-of language, ethnicity, and class- in the making of Modern Egypt, and study any of the political and economic challenges facing the current Egyptian state and the Egyptian people as they come shape Egypt's post-revolutionary future.
155 Out of Character We often identify emotionally the heroines/heroes of the novels we read and the plays we watch. But what happens when the protagonist breaks "out of character" and begins to question her own behavior? How can we identify with a character if she has doubts about her own identity (or about the identity of the reader, spectator, and/or author)? How can characters in fiction challenge us to re-examine socially and historically-constructed "truths," including identity categories such as race, gender, sexuality, and nationality? This First Year Seminar explores how self-conscious fiction might lead readers to consider possible alternatives to the status quo in life and in literature. The protagonists in the main texts for this course engage in role-play, subtly slip in and out of character, and/or otherwise break the illusion of reality in fiction. Readings for this course include MIST (Spain, 1907) by Miguel de Unamuno, Sic Characters in search of an Author (Italy, 1921) by Luigi Pirandello, Pyrotechnic Farces (Argentina, 1932) by Alfonsina Storni, The Impostor by Rodolfo Usigli (Mexico 1938), along with other self-conscious plays and novels from Europe, the United States, and Latin America. We will closely examine how metafiction reflects and challenges cultural attitudes and political ideologies in diverse geographical and historical contexts in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
156 Latin American Perspectives We will study Latin America from a variety of perspectives: the perspective of Latin Americans and of those outside Latin America; the perspectives of fiction, scientific evidence, history and quantitative analysis; the perspectives provided by books and articles, by movies and music, by data and libraries. We will begin by studying what is known about Latin America before Columbus arrived, then read novels set in the colonial period and after independence; we will finish with one testimonio from Guatemala and works of two reporters, one Latin American and the other North American. Students will have to write short papers, present material and data, and write a short research paper.
157 Am I crazy? Madness in History, Culture & Science Mad geniuses, crazy athletes, weird artists, political and religious fanatics, horror films, ghost stories, the confessions of loners, losers, and outcasts-all have to do with the distinction between that which is strange and that which is familiar, those who are similar to us and those who are different, those who are normal and those who are abnormal-in short, those who are "crazy" and those who are "sane." In this seminar, our aim will be to come to terms with what this curious and mercurial thing called "madness" is, as well as what it means-ethically and politically--to decide that someone is mad and someone else is not. Among other things, we will look at 1) how the definitions of madness and sanity have changed radically over the course of recorded history; 2) how these definitions often overlap with broader social and cultural definitions of normalcy, morality, health, fitness, and criminality, 3) how the discourse of madness often intersects with social and cultural attitudes towards gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality. By reading texts from numerous disciplines (psychology, philosophy, medicine, science, history, fiction, drama, anthropology, sociology) as well as viewing a number of films and conducting our own preliminary research, we will explore varying definitions of "madness" from a broad cultural and historical perspective, paying particular attention not only to the ways in which madness has been defined, but how different cultures and societies at different historical moments have celebrated, pathologized, or sought to "cure" the insane.
159 Reading Cultural Landscapes What can we learn by looking closely at -and thinking critically about-the everyday human environments around us? In what ways are these landscapes "readable" as artifacts of social relations and cultural meaning? By examining the places that make up our everyday lives-homes, neighborhoods, towns, suburbs, cities, exurbs, regions, etc.-students will discover that landscapes are not the neutral backgrounds of human action, but rather the physical manifestations of ideas, beliefs and values. Understanding "cultural landscapes" requires an interdisciplinary engagement with writings in geography, history, sociology, anthropology, architecture and literature, to name only a few. The seminar will include readings and other multimedia texts from many of these disciplines. Students will develop their ability to research, analyze and describe everyday landscapes and how they are presented in a variety of media (film, photography, advertising, etc.) through writing and short project assignments.
161 Intro to the New Testament Were the gospels written by "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John"-or are they forgeries? Was Jesus and "end-of -the -world-any-minute-now" street preacher, or was he more like the leader of a hippie commune? Was Mary Magdalene Jesus' wife, or a prostitute-or both? Was Paul a proto-feminist, or did he try to silence women Christians? How did the New Testament get put together, anyway-did a bunch of bishops vote on the various books? What about all the books that "didn't make it into" the New Testament (e.g., the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of John)? This course will consider the various writings of the New Testament (and others) NOT as divinely inspired foundations of faith, but as historical documents written by fallible men in a particular time and place: the Greek-speaking eastern half of the Roman Empire in the first century CE. We will use these historical sources in an attempt to understand the career and teachings of Jesus and the extremely varied movements that sprang from them. The response of the Empire to the new religion, and the changing role of women in the early Church, will be important topics. We will also look into writings from the "margins" of the early Church-the varieties of Christianity that didn't survive.
162 Personal Narratives on Disability This course will introduce students to the lives of individuals with disabilities through personal narratives, written by individuals with disabilities as well as by family members. While the main readings for the course will be these personal accounts (mainly books), we will also consider the issues about disability in society raised in the books through supplemental readings. Issues to be examined include educational opportunity and inclusion, social participation and challenges, and family perspectives and issues.
163 RETELLINGS Some literary historians argue that the number of stories we tell is limited. For instance, Umberto Eco, a contemporary philosopher, argued that all storytellers retell stories that have been already told simply reinventing them for a new time and audience. Many twentieth-century writers engage in the practice of retelling a story originally told by another writer. Retelling can take different forms; for instance, one can choose to write a sequel, a prequel, or tell the same story from another point of view. Retelling often prompts our interest in earlier tales; occasionally, it seeks to correct the original story by either modifying the plot or imbuing the characters with traits not found in earlier versions of the narrative. In this course, we will encounter various examples of retelling and address the nature, purpose, and outcomes of such retellings.
165 Feeling the Beat: Music and Metaphor This course explores some of the ways we make meaning from musical experience by considering how musical sounds interact with our understanding and enjoyment of music. Starting from basic physical experience and conceptual metaphor, interdisciplinary readings will link music to perception, philosophy, music theory and history, human development, ethics, culture, and gender. These elements allow us to explore how our ideas about music connect to personal and cultural associations, and to learn something about how the body and mind work together in understanding musical experience.
166 Miracle Drugs In today's society, chemistry is often seen as a negative- "evil chemicals" and "toxic waste" are phrases that come to mind. In fact, chemistry has contributed many good things to society including drugs that alleviate pain, treat diseases, and save lives. Throughout history, drugs have shaped society and have had a profound impact on our daily lives. From the invention of aspirin-treatment for headaches and heart attacks, to penicillin -conqueror of bacterial infections, to AZT -treatment of HIV giving a fighting chance to those afflicted with AIDS. Drugs have been there and have greatly impacted the world. This course aims to teach students with an interest in science and/or medicine about the structure of drugs, the history of their discovery, and their impact on society. The course will include a short chemistry primer so students can understand the basics behind the structure of drugs and how they work. Discussions topics will include the pros and cons of the pharmaceutical industry, the ethics of drug development, the impact drugs have had on the economy and media, and their effect on the human population. I hope to instill a greater appreciation for science and how it benefits the world.
167 Class, Culture, and Work Does "class" matter anymore? Discussions of class were once a staple in popular culture, from TV to newspapers, and in politics as well. Today, class does not seem as significant. According to some, people are distinguished today more by culture and lifestyle than by class. But is this true? What is the purpose of such a claim? Much of the argument rests on changes in work. A couple of generations ago most people did manual labor for a living. They worked together, shared interests, and developed a "class culture." Now, a great deal of work has become mental more than manual. People feel less connected by class and more by culture and lifestyle. How has all this changed people's perceptions of themselves and or their work? What impact does it have on politics? Through books, articles, and films we will explore the rise and decline of class in politics and in cultural consciousness. Students will engage in research by conducting a long interview with someone who has worked for the last few decades. Understanding how to conduct and interpret such an interview will be part of the course.
168 The Science of US How do immortal cells, airplane crashes, baseball, IQ and race intersect in the realm of science? This course will address each of these topics, and the connections among them, as a means of understanding how scientific knowledge and reasoning shape our perceptions, behaviors, attitudes and lives. Should the cells and tissues of our body be treated with the respects and rights of personhood? Can race be defined by the actions of molecules, proteins or cells? Is the talent of a baseball player predictable? Is success genetically determined? These are among many questions that we will explore by reading and analyzing non-fiction books, scientific publications, and popular press articles that focus on the communication of scientific knowledge. We will compare and contrast ideas generated from scientific discovery, examining differences in qualitative and quantitative approaches. The diversity of material will appeal to students interested in science, mathematics, psychology, economics, sociology and anthropology, journalism, and sports. Writing assignments will include narratives that communicate scientific information to broad audiences, as well as reflective pieces that examine how personal histories interconnect with scientific knowledge.
169 Fact & Fiction of Diversity This course is devoted to investigating issues of multiculturalism and diversity on college campuses, and in American society. While diversity and multiculturalism encompass a broad range of subjects such as social divisions based on religion, age, geography, language, etc., the primary focus of this course will be on the categories of class, race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. The analytical framework for the course centers on the intersection of the above categories in order to develop a better understanding of the common and distinct educational experiences that typically affect historically underrepresented groups in American society and particularly on college campuses. The course will help students identify and analyze critically both common distinct experiences as well as the theories and practice that surround the implications of a college campus committed to multiculturalism, diversity and social justice. This course provides students with theoretical and practical resources to better understand their own multicultural experiences in an educational institution and also in the wider society. This is a highly participatory seminar, requiring active engagement from students with the course materials, and demonstrating it through class participation and wide-ranging written assignments.
170 Truth in the Middle Ages Medieval people thought about truth very differently than we do today, often telling little fictions in order to convey larger overarching truths. This seminar will ask how we know what is true about the Middle Ages. Separated from us by centuries as well as cultural and linguistic differences, the medieval period in Europe (500-1500) has traditionally been seen as a placeholder between antiquity and modernity. In the course, we will challenge this assumption and others, exploring how medieval authors wrote about their worlds and how modern scholars have utilized this material to understand both the past and our own present. We will read many different types of medieval texts including crusade narratives, travel writings, biography, and how-to manuals for courtly love. We will discuss the role of the author, historical bias, interconnectedness, and fiction in these narratives. Lastly we will explore how science, art history, philosophy, and archaeology help us understand the complexity of the medieval world.
171 The Origins of Theories What is a theory? Where do theories come from? Are all theories alike? What makes theories useful? Through careful study of a wide variety of theories, we will see that a great many idealizations, biases, and background ideas go into the work of constructing theories. Students will learn to recognize how these elements operate in their own thought and how to expose them in the theorizing of others. We will begin by looking at theorizing in the physical sciences, including Einstein's efforts on unified field theory, quantum uncertainty, and Hume's problem of induction. After seeing how even theorizing in the hard sciences is subject to idealizations and the like, we will move into anthropology, history and sociology and investigate how these disciplines come to craft theory and explanation using the same methods.
172 The Secret Life of Food Food is ubiquitous: everybody must eat to stay alive. Yet the ways we grow, consume, and experience food differ across space and time. Food is much more than physiological sustenance; food shapes who are and our relationships with other people and places. Every time you eat, you are making choices with real world consequences. For instance, can you recall what you ate for breakfast yesterday? Do you know where those foods came from? Do you know what was actually in your meal? Do you know what was required to get that meal to you? These and other questions are fundamentally geographic. This course will explore the complex geographies of food production and consumption, paying specific attention to the impact of globalization on local food systems. Throughout the semester we will mobilize our discussions and readings through a series of required field trips to the New York State Agricultural Research Station, the Geneva Farmers' Market, and other local food production and provision enterprises.
174 The Discovery of Time The discovery that the earth has a history measured in the billions of years is one of the most important things that human beings have ever learned. The immensity of geologic time, “Deep Time” as author John McPhee calls it, is critical to our understanding of the processes that shape our planet, including the evolution of life. While the ability to see billions of years into the past is clearly a remarkable intellectual achievement, it is also deeply humbling. It is humbling because we clearly see that all of humanity represents only the tiniest and most recent part of that history. In this course, we will explore the discovery of geologic time in two distinct modes. First, we will use the local landscape as an example and consider how it developed and the timing of the events in that development. We will take field trips into the region surrounding our campus to look at rocks, fossils and the effects of glaciations; we will think through how the ages of such things can be established. Second, we will read about the ways in which ideas about geologic time developed. We will try to understand the difficulties that early researchers encountered and the controversies that they initiated. Our goal will be to bring these two modes of exploration together into an understanding of how geologic time is measured, why it has been controversial, and how it is important to understanding our place in the world.
175 Climate Change: Science and Politics Recent scientific research shows clear evidence that the Earth is warming faster than at any point on record. Most scientists agree that much of the recent warming of the Earth is due , at least in part, to human-related activities. However, this near consensus disappears within the political world as the topic of climate change has become one of the most divisive in recent memory. This seminar will explore the ways in which climate change translates into the political realm, first by discussing the fundamental science. Armed with this knowledge, students will explore the policy implications of climate change and dissect a variety of political opinions on the subject in an attempt to separate political fact from fiction. Additionally, students will probe the underlying reasons behind the various political opinions on climate change, ranging form campaign contribution records to political district economics. An underlying goal of the seminar will be to identify a pathway for realistic political consensus on climate change that might approach the scientific consensus and allow for future policy progress on the climate change issue.
176 How We Talk and Learn About Climate Change This seminar explores the communication of science in the contexts of climate and climate change. What questions lead to data collection? How do we collect data and understand it? Do politics impact the questions asked? Are terse academic papers the only effective means of communication? Who reads those and why? What about films, music, photos, art or interviews? Is it possible your interest in any one of these different media (and possibly your understanding) changes as you age? Does human mortality impact climate? How does climate influence human existence? Are the major communications of climate change good at explaining things? We will explore the concept of scale in communicating science by looking at local (Finger Lakes), regional (New England) and global (Continental) scales, including at times when modern scientific instruments did not exist. We will focus on the interactions of humans and their environment, and how humans took control of the climate using different media to explore what is effective communication of complex and sometimes contentious idea.
177 Composing Oneself What does in mean to "be yourself"? How many selves do you have? And, what happens to these selves during the writing process? In this seminar we consider the relationship between the self and representations of selves in essays, graphic novels, autobiographies, and online. We examine how authors construct their written selves: how a writer's self-presentation affects how we interpret his of her experiences; how acts of self-representation create or contest collective identities; and the ways that writing can reshape a sense of self. We'll attempt to ask and answer questions like: How might different audiences change the stories we tell about ourselves? Can life writing ever be "truthful" or 'authentic"? How might experiences with oppression, power, marginality, or privilege shape the ways we tell our stories? In this seminar, we read a variety of life writing genres (essays, autobiographies, and graphic novels); investigate how selves are represented online (in Facebook profiles, blogs, and tweets); examine how life writing can be mobilized for political and social change; and experiment with narrating our own lives.
178 In the Eyes of the Law “Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law." Does the law protect and punish everyone in your town equally? This course is designed to help you explore the day-to-day functioning of the law through your own experiences and those of others. We will gain a better understanding of how things like race, illiteracy, minority status, domestic violence, alien status, and poverty prevent some members of society from asserting or defending their rights, and/or limit the basic rights the law protects. Through a combination of readings, guest speakers, observation of local court proceedings and visits to public agencies, students in this class will learn the basics of constitutional and criminal law, be introduced to how the legal system works on a practical level, and gain an appreciation of the many different perspectives that intersect in studying and thinking about the law.
179 Biophysics of Human Motion What do simple physics and biology reveal about human body motion that might be interesting or even useful? Velocity, force, energy, momentum, center of gravity, and balance are all aspects of human motions such as walking down stairs, performing a yoga pose, playing the violin, kicking a soccer ball, dancing, shoveling snow, etc. How do those concepts apply to the muscles, tendons, and bones to enable human movement? The analysis of human motion facilitates a large number of applications including smart-human computer interfaces, special effects in movies, orthopedic surgery, physical therapy, performing arts, and athletic performance. A variety of human movements will be observed and discussed. Various models for human motion will be studied, requiring high school algebra and trigonometry. Class meetings will use a blend of discussions, labs, and lectures to help students understand and apply basic biophysical concepts to a variety of human motions. There's no substitute for feeling in one's own body the way physical principles apply!
187 Time Travel & Multiple Universes This course will examine some of the most compelling and cutting-edge phenomena of science, with a goal of understanding how we have come to these ideas and what these ideas imply. We will look at the limits of knowledge imposed by quantum mechanics, and see what relativity has to say about the origins and fate of the universe. We will explore whether time travels makes sense scientifically and philosophically, and will examine why so many physicists now endorse the idea of multiple universes. We will also see what the lives of scientists are like as they make their discoveries, explore the philosophical implications of scientific results, and examine how film and literature can invoke these exotic ideas for artistic purposes. Typical readings and source materials include: Deustch, "The Fabric of Reality"; Einstein, "Ideas & Opinions" (excerpts); Greene, "The Fabric of the Cosmos" (excerpts); Lightman, "Einstein's Dreams"; Frayn, "Copenhagen"; McGrayne, "Nobel Prize Women in Science"; Watson, "The Double Helix"; Films: Errol Morris's "A Brief History of Time; "I.Q."
189 The Global City The world is getting smaller. As communication and transport technologies make it easier for individuals to move rapidly across time and space, everyone and everything seems connected. In this course, we will focus specifically on the one site where all of these complex processes of time-space compression are converging (and colliding!): the global city. At the moment, global city is a term that identifies a newly emerging urban form in Western and non-Western countries alike from Berlin to Bombay, São Paolo to Hong Kong, Lagos to Los Angeles. As global citizens living in Geneva, we will examine how various writers, filmmakers, urban planners, sociologists, and musicians have experimented with their particular medium to represent a global urban experience, one that is imperative for figuring out not only where we are but also WHO WE ARE. Typical Readings: Calvino, Invisible Cities; Simmel, The Metropolis and Mental Life; Poe, "Man in the Crowd;" Kafka, The Trial; Mike Davis, City of Quartz; selections from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; urban case studies.
240 The Avian Persuasion If you've ever wished you could fly, join the club. If you've ever wondered why you wished you could fly, take this course. Humans have always been drawn to birds. We'll ask why as we try to understand human relationships with birds from the perspectives of writers, musicians, scientists, and back yard bird-watchers, among other types of thinkers by getting in their shoes. In doing so, can we discover and develop individual relationships with birds that will enhance our connection to the natural world? Can such a heightened awareness change our ways of being, and help change the fate of a planet? Activities include: outdoor birding, scientific and literary readings, film viewings, field trips, a falconry presentation with live birds, guest speakers, critical and creative writing, discussion, individual field observation time, and personalized, species-specific final projects. Viewings come from films such as Winged Migration, March of the Penguins and The Life of Birds; book-based readings include excerpts from Song of the Dodo, Wesley the Owl, Sibley's Birding Basics, The Goshawk, Winter World, The Birde's Conservation Handbook, Mind of the Raven, and Providence of a Sparrow, as well as articles and literary works. The course will emphasize active synthesis of firsthand experience and outside/secondary sources. Each student will need a field guide to the birds of North America (Sibley or Peterson recommended) a field notebook, and binoculars (8x recommended).