First-Year Seminars

Offerings for 2020-2021

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.

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 an 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 on these contested commemorative objects, their development, and social significance. 

Anthropological Perspectives on COVID-19
Anthropology; L61 FYP 138
This class explores the evolving relationships between humans, animals, and the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In examining COVID-19 and other zoonotic outbreaks, this course emphasizes that a complex mix of ecological, political, economic, and social factors shape infectious disease emergence and epidemiology. Drawing on popular media, medico-scientific scholarship, and ethnographic case studies, we will explore topics including zoonotic "jumping" and bioinsecurity, environmental degradation and animal agriculture, unequal burdens of risk and disease, politics and public health policy debates, and the lived experience of front-line healthcare, illness, and quarantine. In so doing, we consider the role anthropological research and perspectives might play in understanding and ameliorating global health problems in diverse contexts around the world.

Twenty Thousand Years on Turtle Island: A Deep History of North America
Anthropology; L61 FYP 136
This class will invert this structure and place what we normally think of as American history in the context of a much longer story by drawing on sources from many disciplines, including archaeology, ethnography, ecology, geology, linguistics, and oral history. We will focus on a contested events or issues, where our sources tell different stories, and consider what is at stake for defenders of different narratives.

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.

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.

Coins and Life in the Ancient Mediterranean
Classics; L61 FYP 117
The thousands of coins left from Greece, Rome, and other societies of the ancient Mediterranean are not only fascinating in themselves, but they also provide priceless evidence for what life was like in antiquity. This course will provide an introduction to numismatics, the study of coins.

Magical Thinking: Literature and Theory Engage the Occult
Comparative Literature; L61 FYP 111C
When Alan Moore-polymath, writer of "Watchmen," and occultist-declares that "all of our art has its roots in magic," how might the student of literature react? What does it mean to undertake a theoretically informed analysis of the place of magic in literature? What meaningful bonds link poetic and ritual practice? We will engage these questions by way of an eclectic set of encounters between literary and analytical texts.

Habitable Planets
Earth and Planetary Science; L61 FYP 105
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. 

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.

Contemporary American Memoir
English Literature; L61 FYP 160
Why has memoir become one of the most popular literary genres of the past few decades? This class will examine the development of our "confessional culture" while also charting a historical trajectory of American memoirs from the mid twentieth century to our current moment.

Detective Fiction from Poe to Doyle
English Literature; L61 FYP 155
An introductory survey of the pioneers of the modern detective story. Works will range from those by Edgar Allan Poe in the 1840s to Arthur Conan Doyle´s Sherlock Holmes stories from the late nineteenth century. In between we´ll read works by Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and a few less remembered writers.

Imagining the Medieval in Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction
English Literature; L61 FYP 154
From the sensationalized violence of "Game of Thrones" to Luke Skywalker's monastic planet in "The Last Jedi," in advertisements for light beer (dilly dilly!) and in the fairytale castle that appears before every Disney movie - the contemporary imagination is infused with fictional representations of the European middle ages. In fantasy and science fiction writing in particular, postapocalyptic futures and magical parallel universes are indebted frequently to a mythologized version of the medieval past. 

Literature of Addiction: From Opium to Adderall
English Literature; L61 FYP 156
This course investigates literary representations of addiction, from Thomas De Quincy's CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM-EATER (1821) to Ottessa Moshfegh's MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION (2018). We will study the development of familiar stages in narratives of substance abuse-i.e. experimentation, transcendence, downward spiral, "rock bottom," and recovery/sobriety-posing questions like; What symbolic and literal positions have addicts occupied in their societies? How has the modern pharmaceutical industry and the War on Drugs impacted perceptions of "typical" drug use? 

Protest and Power in Contemporary American Fiction
English Literature; L61 FYP 152
Beginning with Ralph Ellison's seminal INVISIBLE MAN, this freshman seminar will examine the intersection of politics and literature in contemporary American fiction. To what extent can fiction be political? How do we conceptualize the connection between art and politics? Can literature help inspire political change? How have American novelists attempted to chronicle the major political changes and protests of the past century?

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. 

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.

Horror Across Media
Film and Media Studies; L61 120
In spite of-and because of-its propensity for terrifying readers and viewers, horror has proven to be one of the most resilient and popular genres across all forms of media. Why are audiences attracted to a genre that causes fear, revulsion, and distress? This course will consider the cultural, philosophical and generic dimensions of horror and explore how it operates across an array of media platforms: film, literature, television, comics, and video games. 

Superhero Media
Film and Media Studies; L61 FYP 114
This course will examine the superhero as American myth and media industry commodity. We will consider historical, cultural, and industrial aspects of the superhero genre across comic books, films, television series, and video games. Focusing on multiple media allows us to examine an array of medium-specific and cross-media issues (e.g., how criticism of superhero films as "not cinema" reflects a legacy of comics being perceived as juvenile).

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. 

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.

The Nuremberg Trials and International Justice
History; L61 FYP 2443
This course is an exercise in understanding how professional historians and the general public discover and use the past. The main goals of this course are to understand the many different methods and standards applied to the past; to understand how and why each generation changes the past as it seeks to make it "usable"; and to develop the skills of exposition and argumentation necessary to describe and analyze complex historical issues and to express critical ideas effectively.

The Presidency 101: From Washington to Trump
History; L61 FYP 1150
Is this your first presidential election? Or are you a policy wonk? Regardless of your political experience, this course provides an opportunity for students to learn about the American Presidency as a contemporary political institution with deep roots in American history. This freshman seminar introduces undergraduates to the Presidency by considering the institution in its political and cultural contexts.

Classical to Renaissance Literature
Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities; 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.

Early Political Thought
Interdisiplinary Project in the Humanities; 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.

Topics in Interdisciplinary Inquiry
Interdisiplinary Project in the Humanities; L61 FYP 150
This course focuses on the fraught relationship between language and nationhood in Modern Europe, exploring how regional identities, imperialism, immigration, and global trade challenge and complicate the notion of one language for one people.

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. 

The Vietnam Wars
International and Area Studies; L61 FYP 111A
US-centric historical narratives of the Vietnam War obscure the perspectives and lived experiences of the Vietnamese. The social, ethnic, and religious diversity, and the political and gender-related complexities of the Vietnamese are typically neglected. 

Italy's Invention of the Modern Museum
Italian; L61 FYP 247
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.

Jewcy: Jewish Culture in the 21st Century
Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern Studies; L61 FYP 1802
This course will examine cultural expressions of American Jewish identity within an ethnographic context. We will analyze processes of assimilation, Americanization, and innovation, as well as Jewish contributions to popular American culture and entertainment, from Irving Berlin to Madonna, and the 'The Joys of Yiddish' to 'jewlicious.com.' 

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.

Contemporary Issues in Psychology
Psychological and Brain Sciences; L61 FYP 102E
This seminar will enable students to explore in greater depth several of the ideas and concepts in contemporary psychology.

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.