First-Year Seminars


Learning Latin American and women’s history from the source

What's even better than reading a compelling book about women's history? Learning directly from the book's author! First-year student Jesse Price writes about her experience in Diana Montaño’s course “Angels, Prostitutes, and Chicas Modernas: Women in Latin American History.”

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Offerings for 2021-2022

Black Lives Matter and Educational Justice for Black Youth
African and African-American Studies; L61 FYP 102C
In the wake of the global uprising against racial injustice, this introductory course examines how schools in the United States can create opportunities for Black youth to thrive. We will examine the schooling experiences of Black children and youth amid pervasive anti-blackness, analyze the relevance of educational models for racial justice, and imagine radical ways that P-16 schools might dismantle white supremacy.

Monumental Anti-Racism
African and African-American Studies; L61 FYP 144
This course examines the racial politics of commemorative objects and practices and commemorative intervention as a strategy of anti-racist activism. We begin with a historical survey of various ways that racism has been inscribed on the commemorative landscape, and readings in history, political theory, cultural studies, and other fields to gain insight into these contested commemorative objects, their development, and social significance. 

Imagining and Creating Africa: Youth, Culture, and Change
African and African-American Studies; L61 FYP 178A
The goal of this course is to provide a glimpse into how youth reshape African society. Whether in North Africa with the Arab Spring, in West Africa with university strikes, or in East Africa through a linguistic full bloom, youth have been shaping social responses to societies for a long period.  In this course, we will study social structures, including churches, NGOs, developmental agencies as well as learn about examples of Muslim youth movements, and the global civil society. The course will also explore how youth impact cultural movements in Africa and how they influence the world. 

Travel Noire: Consumption and the Gaze in the Black Travel Movement
African and African-American Studies; L61 FYP 195
This course explores the growing industry of leisure tourism catering to Black people. It takes as its premise that tourism is more than just voluntary, recreational travel; it is an encounter shot through with desire, intimacy, and ideology. We approach the tourism encounter from both sides-the consumer and the consumed-as we explore various types of tourism from domestic and international tourism to sex tourism and heritage tourism. If tourism is a desire machine, what desires of self and other are reflected in the discourse about travel noire? Who is being consumed and what is being made consumable in this growing market space? Students will be required to create a travel itinerary based in Missouri during the course and propose a narrative revision to a local tourism destination.

Global Health in the Francophone World
Anthropology; L61 FYP 247F
Under which socio-historical conditions was the idea of a universal right to health conceived? This complex notion did not spring fully formed from the pen of the jurists who authored the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Instead, it gradually emerged from philosophical texts and artistic works that advocated for this right. In the first part of the course, we will examine the origins of this right in France, which took shape during the Renaissance. First conceived by a doctor who wrote a best-seller recounting the tale of a giant, Gargantua, this right was later forcefully proclaimed by Zola, defender of the rights of workers in the mines of northern France. In the second part of the course, we will extend our study of the healthcare system in contemporary France to public health policies in the French-speaking countries of the West Indies (Haiti), West Africa (Senegal), and Quebec.

Whose Art Is It Anyway?: St. Louis Art Museums and Their Audiences
Art History & Archeology; L61 FYP 1073
Art museums in the United States today face a daunting set of challenges: budget shortfalls, a lack of diversity with regard to both staff and collections, and maintaining visibility in an inundated, ever-changing virtual world. These struggles are undoubtedly unique to an era defined by COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, but at their core are long-standing debates about audience, accessibility, and function. What is a museum's mission? To preserve art or serve the community? Which community/ies does the museum serve? What is the museum's relationship to power and nationhood?

Introduction to Problem-Based Learning in Biology
Biology and Biomedical Science; L61 FYP 112
In this course, students take responsibility for their own active, inquiry-based learning on biological problems. Instructors will guide small groups of 4-6 students in researching issues of biological importance using primary literature as their principal resource. Learning to read and interpret research articles from scientific literature is emphasized. Topics covered in this class have included: neurological disorders, infectious diseases, CRISPR, cancer, and stem cell therapy among others.

The Secret Lives of Plants
Biology and Biomedical Science; L61 FYP 1260
This course is designed to familiarize undergraduate students with the fascinating lives of plants, their evolution, their remarkable structural and morphological diversity, how they grow, and how they have been modified to feed the planet. Topics include: how plants can survive with just water, minerals and light, how they transport water astonishing distances, their unusual sex lives, why they make seeds, how they can grow nearly forever, how plants survive extreme environments without running to hide, why they synthesize caffeine, nicotine, THC and opiates, how they defend themselves from pathogens without an immune system, how they sense their environment without dedicated sensory organs, how plants have been modified by humans to provide food, fiber and fuel, and how genetically modified (GMO) crops are made and their implications to the environment and society. 

Biology of Cancer
Biology and Biomedical Science; L61 FYP 1440
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide. In spite of focused research efforts, cancer still poses a unique biomedical puzzle as it is now recognized that cancer is not a single disease, but rather a collection of many disorders with underlying mechanistic complexities that can affect most tissues in the human body. This interactive 1st-semester course provides an introductory overview of the biology, diagnosis, and treatment of human cancers. We touch upon background topics in DNA structure and replication, gene regulation and transcription, protein synthesis, mutations, and DNA repair, but the primary focus is on the genetic and molecular changes that normal cells undergo during transformation into malignant cancer cells, emphasizing the dysfunction of essential biological processes like programmed cell death, cell proliferation, differentiation, and immune surveillance.

Ancient Literary Journeys
Classics; L61 FYP 1141
This course surveys a broad selection of ancient texts that feature traveling, from the Epic of Gilgamesh and Homer's Odyssey to the novels of the Imperial Era. We will examine closely these literary journeys to real and imaginary places, focusing on themes, structures, and characterization. Furthermore, we will explore how they engage with contemporary intellectual trends and sociopolitical realities, such as war, colonization, and cosmopolitanism; we will also inquire how these accounts of traveling invite their readers (ancient and modern) to think about their own identities and their construction(s) of the Other.

Women in Greek and Roman Comedy
Classics; L61 FYP 1171
Comedies in Greece and Rome were written by men and acted by men. The women we meet in these comedies, then, are always filtered through men and tinged with stereotypes accordingly - they are often depicted as 'untrustworthy,' 'sex-crazed,' 'drunkards.' Even a cunning and powerful woman such as Lysistrata (in Aristophanes' comedy of the same name), who leads a coalition of women to deny sex from their husbands until they end the Peloponnesian War, is a product of a man's imagination and was played onstage by a man in a costume. As fun as it is to read Lysistrata as a feminist hero, there are layers of interpretation that beg to be peeled back. In this course, we will peel back those layers and explore the representation of women on the comic stage by reading a selection of comedies featuring women, some in leading roles and some in smaller ones. 

Classical to Renaissance Literature: Text and Traditions
Comparative Literature; L61 FYP 201C
Students enrolled in this course engage in close and sustained reading of a set of texts that are indispensable for an understanding of the European literary tradition, texts that continue to offer invaluable insights into humanity and the world around us. Homer's Iliad is the foundation of our class. We then go on to trace ways in which later poets and dramatists engage the work of predecessors who inspire and challenge them. Readings move from translations of Greek, Latin, and Italian, to poetry and drama composed in English.

Literature and Democracy
Comparative Literature; L61 FYP 111C
Recent trends in the United States and around the world have led many to believe that the beliefs and institutions undergirding democracy are in peril. This Freshman Seminar examines how literary and theatrical works have explored both the promises and challenges of democracy. Can literary and theatrical works model democracy by articulating multiple points of view in ways that allow for informed civic deliberation? How can literary works allow for free, democratic expression in totalitarian and repressive political contexts? 

Geology in the Field
Earth and Planetary Science; L61 FYP 104
This course is designed to develop foundational skills in field geology and Earth science while promoting leadership and teamwork. Students will receive training in a variety of geological field methods, including field mapping, sampling protocols, section measurement; and structural identification and analysis. This course is field-intensive with multiple field exercises during class periods and 2-3 weekend field trips that will involve camping, caving, and backcountry hiking. The course is primarily suited for students who enjoy working outdoors and intend to major in Earth and Planetary Sciences, Biology, Anthropology, or Archeology. 

Habitable Planets
Earth and Planetary Science; L61 FYP 105A
Why does the Earth have water oceans? Where did our atmosphere come from? Is Earth uniquely habitable among Solar System bodies? This course is an exploration of the origins of volatiles such as water and carbon on planetary bodies, and the internal features that help to regulate our planet's surface conditions. The importance of magnetic fields, plate tectonics, and climate feedbacks with respect to the origins and sustenance of life on Earth will be discussed.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats for 21st Century Education
Education; L61 FYP 102A
This first year seminar will highlight various aspects of critical topics in K-12 education to consider the current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in contemporary K-12 education. This will be primarily a discussion based course covering topics such as (but not limited to): Trauma Informed Care and School-Based Mental Health, Advancing Technology, Restorative Practices, Design Schools, and Equity in Education.

A Star is Born: Literature and Celebrity
English Literature; L61 FYP 166
It's easy to imagine literature as a hermetically-sealed art form, functioning outside, above, or beyond the petty, gossipy flows of popular culture. But the culture of celebrity has long been both a subject and spark for literary writers. This course tracks the long, intertwined history of fame and literary production from the eighteenth century to the present, Lord Byron to Kim Kardashian. We'll read novels and poems about celebrity, learn about literary celebrities both immortal and forgotten, and study the ways in which the emergence of various media (from print to photography to film and television and social media) have forced literary writers to reckon with the type of visibility that fame bestows on the famous.

Reading Lit as Performance: What Can Performance Studies Do for Lit Analysis?
English Literature; L61 FYP 160A
If "all the world's a stage," as Shakespeare famously quipped, is written word our script for navigating it? While theatrical metaphors abound, the textuality of literature is often construed as not just separate from but diametrically opposed to the embodied dimensions of performance. Centering performance as both an object and method of analysis, this course grapples with the politics of performance by asking how words come to matter and toward what ends. In approaching literary texts as both performance and performative, the class will contemplate what tools from performance studies might offer for critical reading practices of literary analysis and interpretation.

The Literary Life
English Literature; L61 FYP 100
This class approaches literature from many angles: the creative to the scholarly, the emotional to the ethical, the edifying to the entertaining. At the heart of our study will be a survey of literary "values" such as invention, emotion, style, subversion, beauty, humor-those fundamental reasons readers come to literature in the first place. 

This Secular Age: Religion and Politics in Literature
English Literature; L61 FYP 156
Leo Tolstoy wrote that every age has a "religious perception" through which art and life are imagined, and that if our age appears not to have one, it is "only because we do not want to see it." The separation of church and state speaks to the difficulties of negotiating religious difference in plural societies, particularly when groups claim that others are wicked or worse. Do religion and justice reciprocate? What role does faith play in politics, science, and art? How are these issues explored in literature? In this first-year seminar, we begin our investigation into modern secularity by considering its nineteenth-century foundations before moving into the twentieth. 

Immigrants and Exiles
English Literature; L61 FYP 151A
Literature has traditionally been a welcoming space for people who, by choice or history, do not fit easily in the mainstream of community life. The widespread changes and upheavals of the last century have vastly expanded the ranks of such people, accelerating the processes of immigration and exile while fundamentally altering traditional notions of home and belonging. This course will examine fiction by writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Albert Camus, Jean Rhys, Franz Kafka, and Teju Cole, who write from and about the position of "outsider," exploring what such texts have to say about living in an unsettled, diasporic modern world - a world in which real belonging seems an increasingly elusive goal. 

Introduction to Environmental Humanities
Environmental Studies; L61 FYP 215A
In this environmental humanities seminar we will consider texts illustrating how American citizens evolved in their perception, use, and expectations of the natural world during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, especially but not limited to the practice of agriculture. We will also consider how practices of agriculture were inextricably tied to oppression and misuse not only of land but of people.

Africans Experiences in the Second World War
History; L61 FYP 192
Most conventional histories of the Second World War pay scant attention to Africa, thereby creating the misconception that the war had little impact on the peoples of the African continent. This introductory seminar restores the experiences of ordinary African women and men to the larger historical narratives of both Africa and World War II. Combining personal memoirs with official primary sources reveals not only how the global conflict influenced African history, but also how Africans helped shape the final outcome and consequences of the war.

Angels, Prostitutes and Chicas Modernas: Women in Latin American History
History; L61 FYP 2118
This course looks at the nation building process through the lens of Latin American women. Students will examine the expectations, responsibilities and limitations women confronted in their varied roles from the Wars of Independence to the social revolutions and dictatorial regimes of the twentieth century. Besides looking at their political and economic lives, students will explore the changing gender roles and relations within marriage and the family, as well as the changing sexual and maternal mores.

Race and Ethnicity in Latin America: Myths, Realities and Identities
History; L61 FYP 2119
What does it mean to identify as mestizo, moreno, or mulato? How have Latin American nations dealt with their mixed racial populations and their rich African and indigenous heritages? What does it mean to be black in nations where the official discourse is one of racial hybridity or color blindness? This course examines the history of racial thinking and the experience of race in Latin America. While the focus of the course will be on the complexities of race in Latin America, a place of enormous ethnic and cultural diversity, we will also draw comparisons to the history of race in the U.S.

Topics in Interdisciplinary Inquiry - Speculative Worlds & Technological Futures
Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities; L61 FYP 150 01
This seminar will explore how speculative fictions imagine and critique emerging technologies and the possible futures they might beget. And what is “speculative fiction”? Margaret Atwood locates this genre in between escapist science fiction and empirical scholarship that projects the future based on current social, economic, environmental, scientific, and technological trends. We will compare notable works of speculative fiction ranging from Oryx and Crake to Black Mirror with such relevant historical antecedents as Thomas More’s Utopia and Emile Zola’s manifesto on “The Experimental Novel.” In the latter part of the semester, we will examine how speculative fiction and imaginative world-building respond to artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual and augmented reality, synthetic biology, and geo-engineering.

Topics in Interdisciplinary Inquiry - Fictions of Chance: Probability before Mathematics.
Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities; L61 FYP 150 02
Recent history has been shaped by events that may be described, with some understatement, as improbable. As often as not forecasters, pundits, and talking heads have been led astray by the tools of popular statistics. Probability, however, hasn't always been a subject for the sciences. Our point of departure will be Aristotle's Poetics, which introduced the idea that fiction helps people understand such contingencies as love, death, war, or exile. We will then range across the history of literature to see how fiction came to represent and make sense of the merely coincidental. Of particular interest will be those contingencies that outstrip our capacity for scientific explanation and so demand other forms of thought, be they ethical, political, or imaginative. Our topics will be probability and improbability, luck and unluckiness, normality and abnormality, error and correction, freedom and necessity, security and risk, laws and their exceptions.

Mapping the World: Introduction to Human Geography
International and Area Studies; L61 FYP 1550
What is human geography and why is it important? This course addresses these questions by introducing students to the fundamentals of the discipline of human geography. A geographic perspective emphasizes the spatial aspects of a variety of human and natural phenomena. This course first provides a broad understanding of the major concepts of human geography, including place, space, scale and landscape. It then utilizes these concepts to explore the distribution, diffusion and interaction of social and cultural processes across local, regional, national and global scales. Topics include language, religion, migration, population, natural resources, economic development, agriculture, and urbanization.

Italy's Invention of the Modern Museum
Italian; L61 FYP 247A
This course traces the development in Italy of what we know as the modern museum. Unfolding chronologically from the Renaissance to the current day, the course will examine the origins and rise of art, natural history, science, and national museums across the peninsula from Rome to Venice, Florence to Naples. We will study the establishment of the early public art museums epitomized by the Vatican Museums, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Capitoline Museums. We will examine the impact on national and cultural identity of Fascist propaganda museums instituted under Mussolini's regime, and we will conclude with an examination of extraordinary new museums in Italy, such as the interactive MUSME (Museum of Medicine) in Padua, and the MEIS (National Italian Judaism and Shoah Museum) in Ferrara.

Early Political Thought: Text and Traditions
Legal Studies; L61 FYP 203C
A selected survey of the political and moral thought of Europe from the rise of Athenian democracy to the Renaissance, with emphasis on analysis and discussion of writers such as Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Castiglione, and Machiavelli. The course aims to introduce students to basic texts in the intellectual history of Western Europe, understood both as products of a particular time and place and as self-contained arguments that strive to instruct and persuade. The texts are simultaneously used to chart the careers of such fundamental notions as liberty, virtue, and justice. 

Modern Political Thought: Text and Tradition
Legal Studies; L61 FYP 207C
What is power? Why are societies divided along lines of race, class, and gender? When did politics become split between the right and the left? Can religion be reconciled with the demands of modern life? Can democracy? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this survey of modern political thought. Thinkers covered will include Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, WEB Du Bois, Hannah Arendt, and Michel Foucault.

The Linguistics of Constructed Languages
Linguistics; L61 FYP 148
This course explores the design of and motivation for constructed languages from a modern linguistic point of view. Constructed languages are those that are the result of some conscious and deliberate design rather than ones occurring naturally. We will explore the different motivations for language construction, from the desire to create a "perfect language", to fictional world building, to fostering global harmony. In characterizing the different types of invented languages, students will develop familiarity with the basic tools of linguistic theory, focusing on phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

On Broadway - Musicals, Race, Place
Music; L61 FYP 1165
The Broadway theatres are closed but pressure to make these stages more racially and ethnically diverse when they re-open is strong. This course looks at the history of the Broadway theatres and the ways this coveted theatrical real estate in midtown Manhattan has played host to white and non-white performers in the signature American theatrical genre: the musical. Using digital and archival research tools, including an abundance of maps, our study stretches from the creation of the Theatre District at the turn of the twentieth century to the present. We will examine groundbreaking and all-too-typical shows-from Show Boat to Hamilton-and look closely for how systemic racism has played out on Broadway stages for Broadway's mostly-white audience. We will produce original research and explore digital humanities methods to questions of racial inequality in commercial popular culture.

Introduction to Memory Studies
Psychological and Brain Sciences; L61 FYP 221A
This course focuses on memory not only as an individual phenomenon but also how our memories for historical events can be determined by the groups to which we belong. We will survey such topics as experimental methods and findings in the study of individual memory; questions of accuracy and vividness of memory; false and illusory memories; eyewitness memory reports that are used in trials; methods to greatly enhance learning and memory; and people with extraordinary memories. 

Improving Student Success Through Psychological Interventions
Psychological and Brain Sciences; L61 FYP 102B
In this seminar, we will learn about psychological interventions in education; how they work; how they can cause lasting benefits; their intellectual lineage; how they can be used, adapted, and scaled to address contemporary problems; and challenges and mistakes that can arise in doing so. In addition to learning from classic and contemporary research, you will design your very own intervention and workshop others' efforts.

Sex and the Bible
Religious Studies; L61 FYP 2401
What does the Bible say about sex and sexual desire? Gender and gender identity? Bodies and bodily pleasure? This class critically examines sex, gender, and sexuality as they are constructed in the Bible. We will consider biblical ideas of sexuality and desire, laws regulating sex and the body, homoeroticism and homosexuality, trans representation, the portrayal of women, and queer characters and moments in the Bible. We will also explore how key biblical texts about gender and sexuality (Adam and Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Whore of Babylon, etc) have been interpreted over time. Our methods of interpretation will include feminist, womanist, postcolonial, queer, and trans reading strategies; biblical texts will come from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.