First Year Seminars provide a foundation for our students’ intellectual lives both inside and outside the classroom by helping them to develop critical thinking and communication skills and practices; to enculturate themselves within the Colleges’ intellectual and ethical values and practices; and to establish a strong network of relationships with peers and mentors on campus. The seminar topics vary each year, as do the professors who teach them, so the classroom discussions are always fresh and interesting.
Each Seminar is constructed around a different interest, like magic, social responsibility or country music, and Seminar classes are small – usually about 15 students – which helps students feel more comfortable in a new environment and allows the students and faculty members to develop close working relationships.
Below, you'll find a list of the First-Year Seminars being offered during the fall semester. This year's Seminars cover a wide-range of topics and disciplines, and we're sure you'll find several that interest you. After you've looked over the list and identified the courses that you find appealing, log in to the Orientation website and complete the Academic Direction Task no later than June 6.
Fall 2016 First-Year Seminars
Please note: We provide the listing below as a resource for students and families, not as a complete listing. As courses fill up with students, they will be removed from the Academic Direction form, but they may still appear on this page. The Academic Direction task is the most up-to-date source of currently available courses.
FSEM 001 - Banned and Burned: Censorship and the Arts (Professor Woodworth)
What makes art beautiful to one person and obscene to another? In the 1971 Supreme Court case Cohen v. California, Justice John Marshall Harlan II famously wrote, “one man’s vulgarity is another’s lyric.” This course will explore iconic instances of censorship in theatre, performance art, literature, and visual arts throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. From the burning of books to the revocation of federal arts funding to recent cancellations of high school plays, we will study the ways in which the arts have become lightning rods of controversy. We will examine historical documents, legal proceedings, and activist responses in order to situate high-profile instances of arts censorship within their cultural context. How far is too far when it comes to aesthetic expression? Is there such a thing as “too far” in art and performance? What are the legal, ethical, and aesthetic ramifications of censorship in the arts??
FSEM 003 - First Person Singular (Professor Forbes)
What's up? What's happening? What's new? How you been? How you doing? We say these things every time we meet a friend --and we really want to know. Readers of memoirs ask these or similar questions, and memoirists give us the answers -- beautifully. We're lucky that curious people have so many memoirs to choose from. And for the last several years we’ve had memoirs from all over the world, not just the United States. This First Year Seminar studies the contemporary memoir in a multicultural setting. Through the books we read, we travel to such places as Somalia, the Sudan, Egypt, and Cuba. Students write critical essays about the memoir in general and the books we read in particular. They also write their own short memoirs -- vignettes from their life. And students do research on the day they were born and complete an oral presentation on the findings. The course ends with students writing a final essay on what they think constitutes a good memoir.
FSEM 005 - Trust and Betrayal (Professor Frost-Arnold)
Trust between people makes life worth living, and yet trusting others makes us vulnerable to betrayal. This seminar explores the nature of trust and betrayal, as well as related questions of power, morality, and knowledge: How do I know whom to trust? What makes someone trustworthy? How does prejudice influence whom we trust and distrust? By examining situations in which trust was betrayed by doctors who experimented on humans, corporations who manipulated science to make a profit, and business professionals whose conflicts-of-interest undermined the national economy, students will study the role of social institutions and personal morality. We will also study a variety of vexing questions that we find in our daily lives and in television and film... What is a trusting romantic relationship? Does it make sense to trust a vampire or a gangster? Am I trustworthy?
FSEM 007 - Magic and the Occult in the Renaissance (Professor Leopardi)
In this course, students will explore the surprisingly central role that magic and the occult played in the early modern period (Middle Ages and the Renaissance). Students will become familiar with definitions of popular magic, as well as magie savante (alchemy, geomancy and necromancy) as well as with artistic manifestations, such as relics, art objects, gems and talismans. Astrology, the art of divination and talismans will be considered in the context of the dreams of the Renaissance magus so that students may also consider how mysticism, magic and science were intertwined in the Medieval and Renaissance period.
FSEM 009 - Comparative Methodology (Professor Erussard)
This course is designed under the premise that understanding myth is an important step towards understanding ourselves and our diverse cultures. It is an invitation to recognize the mythic in our daily lives. For most students, “mythology” means Greek, Roman or Norse mythology. However, this course will go beyond these sources and will compare them to myths from Africa, the Americas, Oceania and Asia. Students will discover the fascinating parallels that exist among the myths of widely separated cultures; they will see how parallel myths narrow the gaps between cultures and reveal what is constant and universal in human experience. After an introduction about the meaning of “myth” in time, history and religions, the course will be structured around the comparative study of the main types of myths: creation myths, flood myths, love myths, morality myths, myths of the hero, journeys to the underworld, visions of Apocalypse and the tricksters’ myths. A final section will explore interpretations of myths, the difference between myth and religion or science and the idea of the “monomyth.”
FSEM 011 - Stealing Art, Saving Art (Professor Tinkler)
What motivates people to collect art? What motivates people to steal art? What motivates rare individuals to fake art? In this FSEM, students look at the seamy underside and the high-minded public face of cultural property, and the art world, from Nazi looters to museum directors. Among the topics considered: the transition from the Indiana Jones era of archaeology to scientific excavation; Goering's art looting and contemporary art restitution processes’ the role of art museums in the restoration, conservation, and exhibition of art; and the complicated business of art fraud and forgery.
FSEM 018 - Genocide in the Modern Age (Professor Dobkowski)
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.
FSEM 029 - Why Are Some Countries Rich? (Professor Tessendorf)
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.’
FSEM 042 - Interrogating Race in the United States and South Africa (Professor McCorkle)
Do we live in a post-racial world or a new Jim Crow society? What are the legacies of slavery, segregation, and apartheid? What is meant by white privilege? How do we value human life and what are the ways of developing emancipatory movements? This course examines the parallel structures of segregation in the United States and apartheid in South Africa. The basic premise is that through the lens of another culture we can come to examine our own. The causes and effects of segregation and apartheid on contemporary race relations are the central focus. How race affects gender, class, and social spaces is explored throughout the readings.
FSEM 056 - Bird Obsessions: Beauty of Beast (Professor Deutschlander)
We are a world obsessed with birds; bird watching is one of the most popular hobbies in the nation and bird enthusiasts spend thousands of dollars on equipment, bird feeders, and on vacations to catch a glimpse of unseen species. Conservationists advocate spending millions of dollars on saving and protecting birds, such as the ivory-billed woodpecker and the California condor, from extinction. Why are we so obsessed with birds? Is it their amazing ability to fly, their almost implausible migrations, their vibrant colors, their curious personalities? What do birds represent to us and other cultures? In some religions, birds have been invoked as symbols of peace, power, trickery, gluttony, and intelligence. Do the lives of birds really embody these anthropomorphic characteristics? Do birds represent hope for spring, for the environment, or for the future? In this course, we¿ll examine the lives of birds, the people who are obsessed with them, and their interactions from a variety of perspectives. We'll explore birds as models for conservation and science, as religious symbols, and as subjects of art and literature. You'll also have an opportunity to connect with the environment of the Finger Lake region by learning about and observing our local birds.
FSEM 058 - Tales of the Village Idiot (Professor Galloway)
In this course, students survey the wealth of Russian folk tales, epic songs, legends, riddles and other elements of the oral tradition as well as the later literature these genres inspired. Students examine characters such as the Firebird, Baba-Yaga the witch, Koshchei the Deathless and llya Muromets, and read many types of folktales, including magical, animal and "idiot" tales. Materials include art and music arising from the Russian folk tradition. Students also consider the role of folklore in contemporary American life, and the ways in which some genres continue to produce new examples of folklore.
FSEM 066 - Thinking Critically about God (Professor Barnes)
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.
FSEM 078 - Sustainable Living and Learning (Professors Drennen, Kinne, Lewis, and Rowse)
We are all consumers. We buy things. We use things up. We throw things away. Often we do all of this without considering the life cycle of these "things." Think about all the t-shirts you own. Do you know what materials make up your t-shirts? Moreover, do you know what was required to get these t-shirts to you in the first place? While these questions may seem to have simple answers, the reality is that each of the "things' we consume has a complex secret life of its own, one worthy of further consideration. This course will explore the complex relationship between sustainability and consumption, paying specific attention to the myriad ways in which individual consumption practices shape global outcomes.
FSEM 082 - Vengeance Transformed: Aeschylus’ Oresteia and the Mythology of Democracy (Professor Himmelhoch)
When Aeschylus’ Oresteia was produced in 458 BCE, a whole new mythology was born, one that retrojected recent Athenian institutions into a mythic past to celebrate Athens’ unique democracy as a culmination of Olympian cosmology. The Oresteia was so well received by Athens that it became the moral equivalent of a “national anthem”: laws and rituals were revised to accommodate repeat performances. And the play’s impact endures to this day, inspiring modern masterpieces that explore humanity’s relationship with justice and freedom. This class will discuss Aeschylus’ Oresteia, not only in its original context (as a work of theater reflecting a particular culture and era) but as an inspirational text handed down over the generations to facilitate discussions about individual responsibility and justice, as well as their importance to maintaining a functioning democracy. We will not only read the Oresteia itself, but also its many response texts: Sophocles’ and Euripides’ Electra’s, Seneca’s Agamemnon, Sartre’s Flies, and Morrison’s Song of Solomon. In so doing, we will illuminate both the connection between story-telling and democracy, and the importance of art and literature for envisioning and perpetuating a more just society.
FSEM 085 - Knowing Bodies (Professor Ikle)
How do you live in your body? What choices do you make every day? `Knowing Bodies' is an introduction to claiming oneself through the education of the mind and body simultaneously. Students begin to explore the relationships between body and mind and how they project themselves to the world. Students learn to acknowledge their individuality while improving movement potential and self-expression--oral, written, and movement-based. Students become keen observers while learning about the structure and movement potential of the human body through movement explorations and hands-on techniques. They develop skills for improving movement facility and begin to acknowledge and understand conscious and unconscious behaviors. Students demonstrate self-identity and artistic expression through the creation of art collages and movement studies while becoming more effective communicators through journal writing, discussion, oral presentations and movement expression.
FSEM 094 - The History of Everything (Professor Holly)
Did you know that it was not until 300,000 years after the "big bang" that light occurred, or that in the year 2000, the tenth largest economic entity in the world was Microsoft (Australia was thirteenth, to put things in prospective)? David Christian's Maps of Time is an example of a recent form of historiography called "big history," because it attempts to locate human beings from the perspective of much larger contexts than the traditional historical periods. Christian's book begins nanoseconds after the 'big bang," describes the development of the universe, the formation of our planet, the origins and evolution of life, including human life, and continues to trace human history through the origins of agriculture, the development of cities, states, and civilizations, the development of world religions, etc., up to globalization and the modern world, and then it peeks into future. What this course will do is to give us the opportunity to orient and seek to understand ourselves in relation to a variety of contexts from the cosmic to the global to the national and the local, contexts which, as Christian's book shows us, no matter how vast, or distant, or alien they may seem, create the patterns that play an intimate role in shaping our lives.
FSEM 105 - Golf Course Architecture: Literature, History and Theory (Professor Capraro)
Golf Course Architecture in America: History and Theory What is actually at play when someone plays golf? Game design theory suggests that golf is the occasion for a certain experience shaped by rules, actions and skills of the golfer, and the golf course itself. Unlike a basketball court, each golf course is unique, due to a deeply intentional design by a golf course architect. As Alister Mackenzie insists "The essence of golf is variety." We approach multiple questions: What are the basic elements of golf course architecture? How do golf course architects imagine the game of golf when they design and build a golf course? What kind of experience do they intend for the golfer? What impact have diverse people, male and female, black and white, rich and poor, who have played golf had on the history of golf course design? What are the actual lived experiences of golfers, and how have they changed over time? We will pay special attention to the work of important architects who were active locally, and we will visit some of their amazing creations. (Note: Playing golf is not a requirement, and learning how to golf and learning how to design a golf course are not included in the syllabus.)
FSEM 107 - The Culture of Respect (Professor Liebana)
Every community of human beings, every society around the world, is faced with the challenge of creating a culture where all individuals are respected independently of their differences. This course studies both the differences and the common bonds that connect human beings to one another. Issues of gender, race, class, religion, and sexuality, among others, are studied historically and from multicultural perspectives. By studying the dynamics of oppression that result from the unequal access of power, financial resources, information and education, and by listening to experiences and stories of hope, students develop tools to create a society in which all voices are heard and all individuals thrive. A theoretical framework for a deeper understanding of the dynamics of human oppression is provided. Yet, this course goes beyond theory as it takes into account the power of story-telling and the wealth of knowledge provided by personal experience.
FSEM 109 - Enchantress, Empress, Rebel Queen (Professor Yadav)
The Indian sub-continent under the Mughal Empire (1526-1858 CE) witnessed the rise of a remarkable set of powerful women around whom fables of nation, faith, sensuality, and power continue to swirl in contemporary South Asia. This seminar examines the legends of three queens: Hira Kunwari (Jodhaa), Nur Jahan, and Lakshmibai (The Rani of Jhansi) to better understand contemporary politics and culture in South Asia. This course uses primary texts, scholarly works, literature, poetry, and Bollywood films to examine the ways in which gender, marriage alliances, religion, the imperial institutions of court & harem have been used to create historical/mythical archetypes that fuse femininity, faith, power, and nation. In essence, students must engage the concepts of gender, nation, spirituality, and power from a broad range of disciplines.
FSEM 111 - Paris Je T’Aime (Professor Gallouet)
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.
FSEM 112 - Music and Ethics (Professor Walker)
This course examines enduring ethical questions, claims, and arguments through the lens of music. Ethics is a branch of philosophy whose goal is to systemize and defend concepts of right and wrong outside of the institutions of culture, religion, law, and family. Why is morality important? What is the value of human life? Why is there suffering? Is happiness an imperative? Over the course of the semester, students will critically engage some of the most canonical answers to these questions, and learn to apply them to musical works ranging from Buddhist chant to Chief Keef.
FSEM 118 - Creating: Myths & Minds (Professor Collins)
This course critically examines various perspectives on the nature of creative activity in the arts, sciences, and everyday life. Students read a wide range of both descriptive and theoretical literature (psychological, philosophical, historical, and sociological) while trying to articulate their own ideas on concepts such as creativity, creating, genius, intelligence, invention, and problem-solving. The emphasis throughout is upon analyzing concepts of the creative in terms of actual creative experience. This course places a premium on student writing and student participation.
FSEM 121 - Ghosts and Hauntings in the Americas (Professor Martin-Baron)
Why is the figure of the ghost prevalent in stories across the Americas? What are these ghosts trying to tell us, and what would happen if we took seriously their demands? This course investigates the ghostly, the haunted, and the possessed within North, Central, and South American theater, literature, and film. Following Avery Gordon, this course begins with the suggestion that “Haunting describes how that which appears to not be there is actually a seething presence, the ghost or apparition is one form by which something lost, or barely visible, or seemingly not there to our supposedly well-trained eyes makes itself known or apparent to us.” Our primary goal is thus to learn to read with an eye and ear for the ghostly: what is presumed missing, repressed, and/or underneath the surface. We will explore folktales of ghosts, examine the uncanny, and investigate narrative and performative forms talking to, with, and about ghosts. Throughout, we will consider the relationship of history and memory, both individual and collective. Students will focus on the craft of writing as a medium through which to develop their ideas and strengthen their skills in persuasive, analytical writing.
FSEM 125 – Hunger (Professor Maiale)
In 1826 Brillat-Savarin wrote, "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are." But what can we tell from studies of not eating? This course will explore the hungering of fasting ascetics, anorexic girls, medieval saints, crash dieters, occasional cannibals, professional athletes, TV contestants, strategic political fasters, and famine and environmental disaster victims among others. Our subject will be cravings, desires, uneasy sensations, and weakened conditions as occasioned by the lack of food or some other unmet need. We will examine the myriad ways that hunger is constructed cross-culturally to critically analyze what it means in relation to other features of daily life. Using multidisciplinary accounts such as fiction, history, ethnography, biography, and film, we will examine how in particular contexts what we gloss as hunger can inform larger issues, such as the relationship between the individual and society, society and culture, and the local and the global.
FSEM 128 - Hidden Country (Professor Gerrard)
Country music is often regarded as a sort of backwater of American popular culture: musically old-fashioned, lyrically unsophisticated, and deeply conservative socially and politically. Such stereotypes have grains of truth to them, but they also obscure deeper meanings of the music which are far more nuanced, culturally interesting and socially important than most critics recognize. This course will explore those deeper meanings, the ‘hidden’ side of country music. It takes country music seriously as both art and social commentary, and uses it as a starting point to explore such fundamental issues in American society as race, class, gender, urbanization and cultural change. Country is not seen as the expression of a single group, but as a complex lens through which various groups (urban and rural, rich and poor, white and black, liberal and conservative, North and South, etc.) see each other. The course is appropriate for both those who love and hate the music, and will emphasize historical and lesser-known forms of country, not just recent hits. As part of the course, students will be expected to attend special movie nights (outside of regular class time) approximately every other week throughout the semester.
FSEM 130 - I Know What You Ate Last Summer (Professor Miller)
Chemistry is a fundamental component of home and restaurant food preparation, as cooking is ultimately a series of complex chemical reactions. Chemistry is also essential to the production of food, from the most basic ingredients to the most elaborate industrial grocery store offerings. An understanding of how society produces food, and how these practices are both regulated and manipulated, can be informed by an appreciation of the chemistry that underlies these techniques. Students in this course begin by garnering a background in food-related chemistry; they then apply this knowledge to the understanding of food production and policy. Students will design and perform experiments using food, research and write about issues of food production and policy, and learn to communicate their finding.
FSEM 132 - Consuming News in a Culture of Entertainment (Professor Mansfield-Richardson)
Reporting and critically analyzing the news has never been more important to a free and open society, but there are serious threats to that fundamental cornerstone of our democracy. Which corporations own the majority of news outlets in the United States? What is the First Amendment and why does it impact every student at HWS? Why is investigative journalism one of the most exciting careers you can enter upon graduation? This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of journalism, and provide an historical perspective on how news has evolved into today’s best and worst practices. Students will have opportunities to critically analyze their favorite news sources, including entertainment and sports news. Leading global news operations will also be introduced. There will be weekly news quizzes and students will be able to research and analyze a topic in media ethics in an essay assignment. Weekly news quizzes and student-produced mock news reports will also be a part of the course. Finally, be prepared to share interesting news with your classmates whether it is from a cell phone news application, twitter, or other source.
FSEM 141 - The Lens of Stand-Up Comedy (Professor MaKinster)
It is one person in front of an audience with the goal of making others laugh. Yet stand-up comedy is so much more. Comedians force and challenge us to look at our lives, our communities, and society in ways that we may not yet have considered. Issues that relate to the dimensions of social class, racism, sexual orientation, gender identity, cultural reproduction, and the very nature of human existence are explored both implicitly and explicitly. This course will examine the role of stand-up comedy in the human experience, the ways in which different comedians present and leverage their own lives, and what we might learn through the attempts of others to make people laugh. Text and videos will serve as context for active exploration of a wide variety of issues and topics.
FSEM 157 - Am I Crazy? Madness in History, Culture, and Science (Professor Cope)
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.
FSEM 162 - Narratives of Disability from Here to There (Professor Baker)
This course uses personal accounts and other narratives to introduce students to the lives of individuals with disabilities. The course has a geographic orientation beginning with narratives grounded in our local HWS and Finger Lakes communities before moving to other parts of the United States and abroad. Issues to be examined include educational opportunity and inclusion, social participation and challenges, and family perspectives and issues.
FSEM 164 - Encountering Difference (Professor Kafrawi)
Encounters happen every day. We encounter people of different civilizations, nations, race, religious, class, sex, and gender at schools, workspace, supermarkets, public square, and other venues. What do we expect when we meet other people? How do we respond when we encounter difference? What constitutes difference? Why do we fear difference? Why do people stereotype? Could the fear of the other necessitate one to control the narrative, the people, or their resources? Or, could encounter with the other become a life-changing experience? What needs to be done for us to have a meaningful encounter with the other? After discussing the philosophical foundation for encountering different realms of reality through reading a passage on the allegory of the cave in Plato's republic, this course will explore on three fields in which we encounter difference. The three cases encountering difference will include: Christian Spaniards' encounters with Native Americans, racial-ethnic encounters among Americans, and interfaith encounters in the post-911 world.
FSEM 190 - Borders and Boundaries (Professor Rodriguez)
Our lives are shaped by borders and boundaries, the material and conceptual obstacles that keep some of us in and others out. Passports, immigration checkpoints and neighborhood boundaries shape our everyday experiences. What happens when we cross these boundaries? How do borders and boundaries inform the way we see ourselves and others? This course examines the borders that shape our experiences here in Geneva, NY as well as in the world more broadly. Drawing on social theory, ethnography, and fiction, we will examine both geopolitical borders and conceptual borders, including boundaries of race, class, gender, and sexuality that impact our daily experiences in profound ways.
FSEM 191 - Moby-Dick (Professors Carson and Crow)
Moby-Dick is not just an epic; it’s also epically weird. The story about Ahab and the whale takes up just a small fraction of the text, while the rest of the book goes off in all directions, reflecting upon American history and culture, asking profound philosophical questions, examining the economics of the whaling industry, cataloguing the biology of whales themselves, waxing poetic about the symbolism of “whiteness” and “blackness,” and dozens of other things besides. In other words, the book contains multitudes, and because of this, it makes an excellent starting point for a liberal arts education. We will spend the semester reading Moby-Dick together, considering the novel from a variety of perspectives: everything from anthropology to zoology, with stops in history, literary criticism, political theory, film studies, environmental studies, and gender and sexuality studies along the way. Reading a book like Moby-Dick is in itself a significant accomplishment: coming to terms with The Whale will give you bragging rights for life.
FSEM 192 - Fracking (Professor McKinney)
Hydraulic fracturing, “fracking” for short, is a controversial technique for extracting natural gas from carbon rich shales. Fracking uses injections of high pressure water mixed with sand and small quantities of various chemicals to enlarge or create fracture systems in otherwise “tight” shales. These fracture systems serve as pathways for the extraction of natural gas that is otherwise trapped within the shale. Fracking and shale gas development raise many contentious issues that are being debated locally and nationally. The Colleges sit along the northern margin of one of the most important areas for potential shale gas development—the “Marcellus Shale play” as it is known in the petroleum industry. Among the arguments advanced by proponents of Marcellus shale gas development are that it can provide domestic energy security, that it is more climate friendly than oil or coal, and that its development will aid economic development. Opponents counter that it may threaten both the quantity and quality of surface and subsurface waters, that shale gas development will delay adoption of renewable energy and that the industrialization of the landscape associated with shale gas development will threaten more sustainable economic activities like tourism and agriculture. Who is right? In this seminar we will try to reach some carefully researched and considered conclusions of our own.
FSEM 194 - Japan: Ghosts, Demons and Monsters (Professor Holland)
Godzilla. Pokémon. Films like "Spirited Away" or "The Ring." The ninja magic of Naruto. The shape-shifting demons of Inu Yasha. These are all examples of the Japanese supernatural, re-packaged for world consumption. But what does the American consumer miss out on when enjoying these Japanese tales? Why is occult lore such an important part of the expressive culture of Japan? What is the historical or religious basis of the “soft Power" of "Cool Japan"? What do we learn about japan-and about ourselves-when we shiver to a well-told Japanese ghost story?
FSEM 198 - Leadership in the Ancient World (Professor Capreedy)
Is leadership something innate? Can it be learned? How do we measure leadership and how do we learn to become good leaders? Leadership theory can be found in many forms from online management services to university leadership centers, bookstands to military journals and yes, even ancient texts. But what can the ancient texts reveal about the nature of leadership, and can they offer us long lost exempla to challenge prevalent theories? Can we learn about leadership and leadership training through an investigation of the past? In this course we will examine, among other writings, the political debates found in the ancient epics and histories as well as the moralizing wisdom from speeches and biographies, and discern for ourselves how the ancient world measured leadership. By interrogating the examples of the past, we can discuss their ideologies and consider the ways in which these ancient texts communicated and presented leadership. Finally, this course will ask that students study various modern leadership theories and examples and compare the world of antiquity to the present.
FSEM 199 - Build your own Westeros: Creating and Exploring Culture (Professor Klaus)
What if you could create your own Westeros, Hogwarts, Middle Earth, Narnia?—these realms inspire and captivate. However, these worlds are more than adventure, intrigue, and chainmail; they have histories, mythologies, social norms and rituals, in short, they are cultures. Fictional cultures, but cultures nonetheless. So what is culture? Is it what people wear? Or how they worship, celebrate, and mourn? Or how they govern themselves or what they eat? Or even how they create and understand art? All of these? We will take on these questions by building fictional cultures of our own. To prepare us for this, we will learn to think of culture as more than objects. It is a system, a network of filters through which we make sense of the world and create our place in it. After building a theoretical basis and analyzing one of the most famous and important fictional worlds in the Western tradition, Dante’s “Inferno,” you will build your own fictional world and visit the fictional worlds of your classmates to explore cultural differences and how those differences are overcome.
You'll notice that some of our Seminars are also part of a Learning Community, a distinctive living and learning environment that enhances the connections between courses and extracurricular events.
Learn more about Learning Communities.