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M L 197

First-Year Seminar in Modern Languages

A seminar focused on a theme related to the study of modern languages. Open only to first-year students.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
1 course

Fall Semester information

Howard Pollack-Milgate

197A: FYS: Deep Thinking: Psychoanalysis and the Search for a More Meaningful Life

We live in a paradoxical age where we seem to know and have more than ever before, but where the growth in our knowledge and possessions increases our anxiety, not our satisfaction, and the power of rational argument seems unable to bridge differences between, say, Republicans and Democrats, or the West and other cultures. One approach to this situation is a renewed focus on experimentation and objectivity: new science, technology, and social engineering appear to some to be the way out of our problems. Psychoanalysis, on the other hand, proposes examining these problems by first studying the world within: to find ourselves and thus to be able to understand others, we must first come to terms with our own unconscious thoughts and wishes which are possible to make out only with difficulty and against considerable resistance in sources such as dreams and works of art. The purpose of this seminar is to provide students with an introduction to psychoanalysis, both in theory -- as first invented by Sigmund Freud and developed in various directions over the past century -- as well as in its suggested applications to individual, social, and political concerns. We will explore psychoanalytic perspectives on the great fault lines of our modern society: sexuality and gender, childhood and adulthood, capitalism and consumerism, work and play, individuals and groups, freedom and oppression, reason and insanity, religion and spirituality, science and technology, and, in general, life and death. More broadly, through the lens of analysis, we will be exploring the question of interpretation and meaning: what it might mean to achieve a deeper understanding of who we are and the world in which we live.

Maria Hristova

197B: FYS: Dragons and Dungeons

Everyone knows dragons don't exist. Or do they? If they didn't, why is fantasy one of the most popular genres today and why are we, as readers, so fascinated by dragons and the worlds they inhabit? In this class we will search for the answers to these and other similar questions through an examination of the cultural genealogy of the dragon (myths, legends, Medieval romances). We will also look closely at some of the founding texts of the fantasy genre, such as The Silmarillion, Earthsea, Dune, and Game of Thrones (Song of Ice and Fire). We will read and discuss a wide range of texts, both literary and critical, and will experiment with different types of writing. Ultimately, we will begin a world-building project of our own.