First-Year Seminars

Offerings for 2019-2020

Art in the Golden Age of Venice
Art History and Archaeology; L61 FYP 1095
The art and architecture of Venice are inextricably linked to the city's distinct socio-political structure, cultural past and geography. This freshman seminar will consider the arts in Renaissance Venice within the city's unique context.

What Did Confucius Say? Ethics, Power, and the Great Books of China
Chinese; L61 FYP 150A
How do we live a good life? What is the basis of our moral decisions? Is the government responsible for creating an ethical society or is it up to individuals? Such questions were central to philosophical debates in China, yet they are of universal relevance and remain so today.

Engaging the Classical Past in Modern Fiction
Classics; L61 FYP 115A
This course will explore the persistent, but often camouflaged, influence of classical antiquity on modern genre (popular) fiction. Students will read and discuss both texts from antiquity, including, for example, Ovid's Metamorphoses or Lucian's A True History, and selections from the works of major 20th century authors drawn from the canon of a specific genre.

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. 

Immigrants and Exiles
English Literature; L61 FYP 151
This course will examine fiction by writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Albert Camus, Jean Rhys, Franz Kafka, and V.S. Naipaul, 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.

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. 

Easy Riders, Migrant Laborers: American Mobility in Literature and Film
English Literature; L61 FYP 160A
The open road-a quintessential American image. This seminar explores the stories of open space, social mobility, and renewed possibilities that pervade American literature, film, and culture. What accounts for the pull of the open road? What roles have these stories played in American identity? We'll pursue and complicate ideas of mobility, examining how differences of class, race, gender, and national origin shape them.

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.

Geology in the Field
Earth And Planetary Sciences; L61 FYP 104
This course is designed to develop foundational skills in field geology and Earth science while promoting leadership and teamwork. There are no prerequisites, and the class is suitable for students with little or no academic background in Earth science. 

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.

You Never Heard Such Sounds in Your Life: American Avant-Garde Music
Music; L61 FYP 1026
This first-year seminar introduces students to the fascinating history of avant-garde music making in the United States. A series of case studies will address a number of important avant-garde musicians and schools of thought spanning the early twentieth century to the present.

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.

Introduction to Memory Studies
Psychological and Brain Sciences; L61 FYP 221A
This course focuses on memory not only as an individual phenomenon but also as the basis for the transmission of culture and the construction of collective identity.

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.

Medieval and Renaissance Venice
General Studies; L61 FYP 
This course will introduce students to the unique culture and artistic achievements of the Venetian republic from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance.

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.' 

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

International Public Affairs
International and Area Studies; L61 FYP 103B
We live in a complex, fast-paced world. Technological advances and economic interdependence bring us closer together, even as globalization creates new challenges that cannot be solved by one country alone. In this class we will examine the forces that affect competition and cooperation in a globalized world.

Topics in Interdisciplinary Inquiry
Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities; L61 150 02
Walls, Borders, and Frontiers: Making Others, Making Ourselves: Borders and frontiers have been at the center of the project of creating modern states and societies. We will ask a set of key questions: What is a border? How do arbitrary lines take on practical significance? Where do states begin and end? What is the enduring impact of borders for those living on either side of it?

Biology of Cancer
Biology and Biomedical Sciences; L61 1140
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-year course provides an introductory overview of the biology, diagnosis, and treatment of human cancers.

Topics in Interdisciplinary Inquiry
Interdisciplinary Project in the Hummanities; L61 150 01
Code and Craft: We will examine historical and contemporary understandings of technical code, on the one hand, and human craft, on the other from the late nineteenth century to the present, paying attention to the social, cultural, and political contexts of efforts to formalize thought, design, and economic practices. 

Critical Issues in Contemporary Education
Education; L61 102A 01
Social Inequality, Development, & Early Childhood: An understanding of the social, political, and economic contexts of families and schools is essential to understanding how social factors impact individuals. Race, class, health, and place exert influence on individual achievement and opportunity throughout the life course. This course will examine such factors as they relate to early developmental outcomes, school readiness skills, later academic achievement, and success in schooling.

Critical Issues in Contemporary Education
Education; L61 102A 02
Building up and Breaking Down The School-to-Prison Pipeline: What are the historical, political, social, and economic forces that have impacted how schools can push marginalized students towards prisons, and more importantly, what can be done to counteract this phenomenon?

Sound On: Listening in/to Digital Culture and Music
Music; L61 1027
What does twenth-first-century life sound like? The aim of this course is to interrogate, denaturalize, and critique familiar experiences and technologies of contemporary listening: from earbuds and mobile devices, to streaming services and social media, to the ambient music of capitalism and the (mediated) persistence of live performance.

American Monuments: Memory, Identity, and Ideology
Art History and Archaeology; L61 185
This seminar examines public monuments in the United States through the lenses of collective memory, identity, and ideology. It surveys an evolving tradition from Americans' early and short-lived reluctance to fund public monuments-John Quincy Adams famously declared that "democracy has no monuments"-up to the recent controversies over Confederate monuments.

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. 

Bodies in Brazil: Race, Representation and Nation
Latin American Studies; L61 170
This course will examine cultural expressions of the body in Brazil from an interdisciplinary perspective. We will examine how ideas about bodies--both individual bodies and the "body of the nation"--have mattered in Brazil's history and have been expressed through art, literature, and film.

Women, Men and Gender in African History
African and African-American Studies; L61 1053
Gender is a powerful lens through which to examine Africa's past. Defined as the behaviors, attitudes and roles that society assigns the sexes, gender is one of the principles that has shaped African societies from the earliest times to the present. This course provides a broad introduction to major themes and debates relating to gender in African history. We will examine how gender has been produced, reproduced and transformed in the lives of African women and men from the latter parts of the nineteenth to the twentieth century.