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First-Year Seminars: Fall 2014

Each new first-year student's fall schedule will include a first-year seminar. For seminar requests, you will list eight seminars you are interested in taking. Students in the Honor Scholar Program do not request first-year seminars because they are assigned to their seminars. You will select the rest of the courses for your schedule during New Student Orientation in August.

(de)Constructing Race in the United States
Archaeology of Democracy: Art, Politics, and Culture in Classical Athens
Beyond Good and Evil: Romanticism and Radicalism in German Culture  
Biology Writing 
Climate Change and Philosophy 
Complexity Thinking for the 21st Century
Confession in Literature and Film 
Cooking and Chemistry 
Cyber Security and Computer Ethics 
Dynamic Water 
Earth's Climate Past and Present
Education for Social Justice: A Community-Based Approach 
Gender and Sexuality in Comics
Global Diseases, Global Responses
Global Perspectives on Reproduction and Childbirth
Gutenberg Galaxy
Incremental Musical Instrumentarium
Legacies of Constantine
Liberty and the Role of Government
Love & Friendship
Man Up!: Unpacking Manhood and Masculinity
Materials of Art: The Science of Making Things Beautiful 

Medical Imaging: Science, Technology, Politics, Ethics, and Cost
Microbes and Human Health
Music, Art and Death
Music Criticism
Nekyia: Journeys from the Other World
Noir, Film and Novel
Other: Across Space, Across Time, Across the Room
Reading and Writing the Holocaust
Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Era
Say it Loud: Contemporary African American Poetry
Science of Attraction and Close Relationships
Shock Value
Spanish in the U.S.
Studies in Popular Song

Women's Stories in the Age of Louis XIV
Writing Creative Nonfiction: A Sense of Place
Writing Small




(de)Constructing Race in the United States
John Schlotterbeck

Within your lifetime non-whites will comprise a majority of the U.S. population. Yet, historically, North America has always been home to a mix of different people. Europeans’ arrival after 1600 only added to this diversity and initiated debates about the origins and significance of human differences. These discourses became ever more complex as people from Africa, Mexico, Ireland, Eastern and Southern Europe, China, Japan, and elsewhere arrived in the United States, either by choice, through enslavement, or by annexation in wars of conquest.

This first-year seminar examines the origins of ideas about race arising from these cultural interactions, the intellectual and social meanings attached to perceived physical differences, and the work race does in shaping American culture and identity and in operations through political, economic, and social institutions. Topics include race as social construction, comparisons in racial thought about different racial groups, “whiteness” as racial marker, minority representations of Anglo-Americans and of other racial groups, uses of racial stereotypes in popular culture, challenges to prevailing conceptions of race, and people of racially mixed ancestries. Several field trips will complement readings, writing, and lively class discussions.

 

Archaeology of Democracy: Art, Politics, and Culture in Classical Athens
Rebecca Schindler

Classical Athens has long been considered the birthplace of Western culture, both for its particular form of democratic politics and its artistic achievement. Using evidence from the archaeological record, this course examines the relationship between democracy and art. From the (seemingly) mundane civic buildings of the Athenian agora to the Parthenon, we will consider how politics and art intersect from the inception of democratic policies in the 6th century BCE to Athens' decline at the end of the 5th century BCE. Our investigation begins with the Athenians themselves. Students will have the opportunity to read some of the great works of ancient political theory, including Solon, Thucydides, and Plato. Combining those written records with archaeological remains, we will strive to understand the urban development of Classical Athens and the modes of artistic display employed to promote Athenian power in the Mediterranean world. However, we will also consider how contemporary politics can influence the way history is written. How have scholars - from archaeologists, to historians, to political theorists - drawn conclusions about Athens to suit their own political agendas?

Beyond Good and Evil: Romanticism and Radicalism in German Culture
Howard Pollack-Milgate

Perhaps nowhere have the things we take for granted – democracy, science, freedom, wealth, morality, love, harmony, gravity, logic, even sanity – been more radically explored and/or challenged than in German culture, in its thought, its literature, and its history. In this seminar, we will plunge with German thinkers, writers, scientists into the muddy depths of the soul and the vast expanses of the universe, in order to see our familiar (post)modern world from a different point of view and to discuss whether the forces of Order or Chaos, Life or Death will ultimately prevail. (A partial list includes Marx, Wagner, Nietzsche, Freud, Rilke, Einstein, Cantor, and Gödel.)

Beginning with the imaginative visions of German Romanticism in the late eighteenth, through the triumph of science and technology in the nineteenth, the mysticisms and great historical cataclysms of the twentieth, we will take stock of our twenty-first century problems and possibilities in order to map out some approaches to the great questions: Nature, Art, Civilization, Community, Humanity, and Spirituality from the unique point(s) of view of the German tradition. (No knowledge of German is required)

Biology Writing
Dana Dudle

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences recently identified four critical societal needs for the next several decades: sustainable production of food, protection of ecosystems in the face of global change, development of renewable energy, and improvement in individual human health. Understanding biological patterns and processes is crucial because each of these issues relates directly to biology. Scientists need to write clearly about these complex, interdisciplinary problems in order to facilitate public engagement. Also, community members need to read scientific texts with confident minds and critical eyes. In this seminar, we will approach texts from the popular press and from the scientific literature that will help us learn about food production, cancer cells, environmental conservation, and more. We will write clear, concise, and precise prose exploring these texts, and practice ways to present data graphically in ways that can inform and engage our communities.

Climate Change and Philosophy
Rich Cameron

Climate change poses significant philosophical problems. For example, it poses problems in epistemology or the theory of knowledge: what do we know about climate and how do we know it? How do we explain the gulf between the scientific "consensus" on climate change and public skepticism? And so on. Moreover, it raises problems about who we are (e.g., what responsibilities do we have and why?) and what it means to be an educated person in the 21st century. Can we learn to imagine living well yet sustainably, what will we need to know in order to live well in a climate changed world? The course will introduce students to research from a wide range of fields and in both the physical and social sciences and responses to the climate crisis of many forms. But our primary focus throughout will be on climate as posing existential questions each of us needs to grapple with: who am I and what should I do given the world as it is?

 

Complexity Thinking for the 21st Century
Glen Kuecker

The 21st century presents humanity with a range of large-scale, interconnected, and synchronous crises. It calls upon us to develop new critical reasoning skills to develop ways of adapting, mitigating, and leveraging a global system on the edge of collapse. This course aims to introduce students to complexity and systems thinking as a way to see and think about the great challenges ahead. Through texts like Homer-Dixon’s The Upside of Down and Johnson’s Emergence, we will learn how complex adaptive systems operate, and apply that learning to real world analysis. We consider the challenges of transitioning fuel, food, and production systems away from hydrocarbons, the meanings of adapting to climate change, the opportunities and predicaments presented by urbanization, and the turbulent reproduction of global capitalism. In becoming complexity thinkers, the course aims to help students to integrate their other course work into their own, holistic assessment of the 21st century human condition.

Students taking this seminar can participate in a May Term 2015 Extended Studies course about the making of Habitat III, which is the UN Habitat’s 20 year plan for how humanity will make the transition to 2/3 urban by 2030. This course will travel to Mexico City to see complexity thinking first hand in one of the world’s great megalopolises, and it will attend ICLEI’s Resilient Cities conference in Bonn, Germany.

Confession in Literature and Film
Peter Graham

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, confession is usually required for salvation. Christians confess to purge themselves of guilt and sin and because they want divine forgiveness. In literature, confession has traditionally been didactic. Augustine’s Confessions, the first book to document an author’s emotional and spiritual experiences, details one man’s moral progress from randy sinner to joyful and devoted believer. More than thirteen hundred years later, literary confession came into vogue with Rousseau’s Confessions and De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, but by this time the confessional genre was showing symptoms of narcissism, decadence, and righteousness. With the advent of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis, confession became more secular and scientific: the psychoanalyst replaced the priest, and mysterious, almighty sin was reduced to a less threatening formula of unconscious human desires and needs. In recent times, literary memoir, documentary film, and trash TV have led another resurgence in the popularity of confession. Indeed, we are in a confessional era where everybody from political interns to the president airs his or her sins aloud.

Among other things, this course will examine the tensions of individual and group, religious and secular society, nature and nurture, and sex and celibacy. Although the majority of the course will be devoted to readings from Augustine, Freud, Primo Levi, and Elaine Pagels, at least a third of the course will concentrate on “real” and “faux” documentary films, including Y Tu Mama Tambien and Paris is Burning, and confessional feature films from Ingmar Bergman and Mike Nichols.

Along the way, students will learn to do close readings of film scenes and literary texts, write creative and analytical papers and lead challenging and provocative discussions. As a final project, students will get the chance to make their own confessions—by either writing a piece of memoir or directing a short confessional film.

 

Cooking and Chemistry
Jeff Hansen

Food is an essential part of life. Besides needing to eat to live, we also use food in many other ways. Food can provide pleasure; it can bring people together; it can separate us from each other. But what is the science of food?

This is a chemistry course. Our primary goal will be to understand food and cooking from a scientific perspective. We will first focus on developing an understanding of some chemical concepts and applying those concepts to understanding the food we eat - what it is made of, how it is prepared, how it nourishes us. However, along the way we will think, talk, and write about food from several perspectives including, of course, the chemical perspective, but also its nutritional, historical, anthropological, ecological, and social importance.

Of course food and cooking has a very practical side to it. One reason to understand the chemistry involved in cooking is to improve our abilities in the kitchen. We may take some time during the semester to explore this practical side a little, but you will have greater opportunity for practice during the following Winter Term when you will have priority for enrolling in the Sweet and Savory Science Winter Term course. In the Winter Term course, if you choose to enroll in it, you can apply what we learn during the semester to actual meal preparation.

 

Cyber Security and Computer Ethics
Khadija Stewart

In this seminar, we will explore the history of the Internet, Internet security and computer and Internet ethics. We will discuss the need for Internet security through an examination of the first cyber attacks and the causes of and reactions to those attacks. We will learn concepts related to cyber security and discuss the effects of the lack of cyber security education on everyone in the society from teenagers, to professionals and even international corporations and government agencies. This seminar is writing intensive, which means that there will be several informal and formal writing assignments throughout the course, we will also spend a considerable amount of time talking about writing.

Dynamic Water
Jacob Hale

As soon as you finish reading this paragraph, go to a bathroom sink; turn on the faucet, and let the water flow over your hand. What do you see in the basin? The careful observer will see the splashing water doing something it always does but relatively few people have noticed this subtle and non-intuitive phenomenon.

Water is obviously important and is tremendously complex, both as a material to be studied and as an essential, life-sustaining commodity. The molecular properties of water govern how biomolecules assume their active form and how they move throughout the cell. The thermal properties of water are used (and abused) in industry. In this course we will first view, describe and analyze high-speed video of water dynamics to develop skills in critical observations and forming questions. We will further investigate both the material properties of water along with the economic, ecological and political impacts of water usage. These discussions will serve as a context to develop critical skills of investigation.

Earth's Climate Past and Present
Tim Cope

As is often the case with scientific claims, many people find the notion of global climate change difficult to assess because they lack basic information. Without this information, reasonably skeptical people are forced to decide between competing views on the basis of which side they trust, rather than on their own assessment of the evidence. Fortunately, scientific claims are verifiable! In this seminar, we will use freely available climatic data in a variety of forms to draw our own informed conclusions about the past and present records of global climate change.

 

Education for Social Justice: A Community-Based Approach
Rebecca Alexander

In this class we will explore education as a tool for working for a more just and sustainable world. We will use a community-based approach, beginning with an analysis of the ways in which social and environmental justice intersect with our own lives, then exploring the community around us (Greencastle) and then looking at global connections and relationships. We will examine what social and environmental justice mean to us and others, analyze different understandings of the role of education in pursuing justice, and examine how ideas such as community, experience, privilege and power are understood in social justice education work.

Gender and Sexuality in Comics
Kelley Hall

Comic books have been a part of American culture for a century. As cultural artifacts, they can tell us a great deal about what is important in our culture (and to whom it is important). The goal of this course is to examine the ways in which comic books and graphic novels portray gender and sexuality in contemporary and complex ways. We will pay attention to how the gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity are represented in comic books are shaped by historical context and the personal experiences of the authors. We will be reading a range of comic books, graphic novels, and excerpts from popular press books. For the final project, students will create their own comic. This seminar is recommended for students interested in Women's or Gender Studies, sociology, and popular culture.

 

Global Diseases, Global Responses
Sharon Crary

In this course we will explore global health disparities. While some of the diseases that infect billions of people around the world may be familiar, others are rightfully classified as "neglected" and are relatively unfamiliar. Is this differential awareness limited to the general public or is a similar effect seen in the scientific research community? Are their any similarities and differences about diseases with high health tolls? Full understanding of the complexities of global health problems and disparities requires a broad, interdisciplinary approach, so we will explore biochemistry, in a manner that is accessible to all students, side-by-side with the study of global health governance and ethics. Throughout the course we will be considering what, if any, personal response to global infectious disease might be helpful.

 

Global Perspectives on Reproduction and Childbirth
Angela Castañeda

How does culture influence your reproductive life? According to medical anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd, “The mother’s womb is replaced by the womb of culture, which, comfortably or uncomfortably, cradles us all.”

In this seminar, we focus on how reproduction is shaped by cultural meanings while simultaneously entangled in religious, economic and political discussions. Course material includes an analysis of ethnographic fieldwork on topics that include the increasing medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth, the role of technology in assisting reproductive bodies, and performance and activism in reproduction. Through the use of an anthropological perspective, we will learn more about “intimate” life processes in both local and cross-cultural contexts.

The content of this course corresponds to an off-campus Winter Term course to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Students in this seminar will have the opportunity to enroll in this Winter Term course.

 

Gutenberg Galaxy
Tamara Stasik

"Ours is the first generation to study literature in the digital age. E-books are outselling paperbacks; online scholarly databases are superseding library stacks; new works are being composed, distributed, and consumed electronically. How fundamental is this shift toward digitization? How does it affect the nature of the literary text, and how does it impact our work as readers and critics?" --Adam Hammond, "The Digital Text"

This course explores answers to these questions by investigating both the interpretive and creative possibilities opened up by shifts in textual production and the social consequences of these changes. We will focus on two significant transitional moments, one in the past and one in the present. By examining the 15th century impact of Gutenberg’s printing press, and the 21st century movement from print to digital forms and the Post-Gutenberg Revolution, we will question how they alter the role of the reader, change the nature of narrative, and affect the task of interpretation. By examining a range of case studies from medieval manuscripts and renaissance incunabula (early printed books) to digital-born forms such as web-comics, flash poetry, and even video games, we will gain hands-on experience that will help us reflect on the historical, cultural, and critical heart of the humanities: the literary text.

Incremental Musical Instrumentarium
Carla Edwards

Incremental musical instrumentarium is the development of musical instruments through time. In this course we will explore the history of instruments from the Renaissance period into the 21st Century. We will learn about the instruments through research, by listening to examples, through experiential performing, and through writing about our experiences. Topics will range from origins of various instruments, instrument building, how culture affects instrument building and design, and how culture affects instrumental ensembles. We will also explore the "Veggie Orchestra,” the "Landphilharmonic" and other non-traditional music groups. The class will culminate with each student creating an instrument from “found” materials and a class composition featuring those instruments.

Legacies of Constantine
David Guinee

In February, 313 CE the emperor Constantine proclaimed universal toleration of Christians in the Roman Empire. In the previous year he had defeated his rival Maxentius to become sole ruler, and Christian sources record that on the eve of the battle Constantine had a vision that inspired him to carry the cross as a standard or upon the shields of his soldiers. Although Julian the Apostate would attempt to restore worship of the old gods during his short reign, the Roman Empire never reversed course and became progressively more Christianized from that point onwards. The fourth century saw a dramatic transformation as Roman pagan traditions gave way to Christianity. The transformation, however, was not a complete revolution in which all things Roman disappeared to be replaced by Christian counterparts. Constantine became a Christian, but he was a Roman emperor. While the Church transformed the Roman Empire, Roman ideas transformed the Church. In this class we will examine the life of Constantine and the political and intellectual forces that shaped his reign and the transformation of Rome.

Liberty and the Role of Government
Jeff Gropp

“It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once” – Hume. This seminar will expose students to the various readings in libertarian political thought while simultaneously demonstrating the confluence of economics, political theory, and history in contemporary America. Course readings and discussions will include historical documents in liberty such as The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution and excerpts from The Federalists Papers. Other influential writers we discuss will include, among others, Mill, Hayek, Tocqueville, Mises, and Locke.

In this seminar, students will develop skills to evaluate and understand current economic events through the lens of libertarian political theory. For example, how can we understand the collapse in housing prices, health care reform, the federal deficit, and the recent financial crisis from this perspective? Assignments will include weekly readings, research on selected topics, and require students to articulate and defend their position using the analytical tools and reasoning developed throughout the course.

 

Love & Friendship
Richard Lynch

What makes a friend? What do we owe our friends? Can I be a good friend even if I'm a bad person? What's the difference between a friend and someone I love—or are they two ways of saying the same thing? When we say, "I love you," what exactly do we mean? Why does sex make all this so much more complicated? Why are there so many songs about love?

As we begin our college years, these questions become especially important as we leave old friends behind, make new and different friends at school, and explore new freedom in our selves and our relationships now that we're (finally) out of our parents' house. We will explore the interwoven themes of friendship and love from philosophical, historical, literary, and sociological perspectives—with a hefty dose of popular music from across the decades! We will draw on classical philosophical accounts from, for example, Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, as well as contemporary engagements from figures such as Erich Fromm, Michel Foucault, and Andrew Sullivan. We will hone our skills as careful readers, attentive listeners and critical, self-reflective thinkers through an emphasis on writing and discussion.

 

Man Up!: Unpacking Manhood and Masculinity
Matthew Oware

What does it mean to be a man? Our mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, teachers, friends, significant others and media have told us in blunt and subtle ways. Many times important people in our lives admonished, “Boy, you need to man up because…” You may have a good understanding of their perspective, but this course will explore how literature and scholarly research addresses manhood and masculinity. For example, is there only one way to be a man biologically, socially, or culturally? How is manhood defined nationally and transnationally? Does masculinity differ based on race, ethnicity, and class status? Does size really matter? Is masculinity fluid? How do sexuality, gender construction, and sex roles inform our understanding of being a man? This course attempts to complicate our normative understandings of manhood by tackling these questions through thoughtful films, lively presentations, and exciting writing assignments.

The content of this course corresponds to an off-campus Winter Term course to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Students in this seminar will have the opportunity to enroll in this Winter Term course.

 

Materials of Art: The Science of Making Things Beautiful
Hilary Eppley

This interdisciplinary course will investigate the intersections of art, technology, and science, using case studies from ancient times to today's highly technological society. We will investigate concepts such as how our eyes perceive color and where the color we see comes from, how people have isolated pigments from plants and minerals through time, how manufacturing processes have revolutionized the materials for the production of art, and safety and environmental issues surrounding the use of certain materials for art. We will learn about the role that science and complex instrumentation plays in art restoration and the detection of forgeries. In addition to writing and discussion assignments, students will do some “laboratory” activities such as developing their own black and white photographs using simple equipment, experimenting with metal patinas, making their own paints, and extracting dyes from natural plant sources. Students will be evaluated on short writing assignments, quizzes on scientific and historical content, participation in discussion, and laboratory activities. A final project will integrate scientific and artistic analysis of a particular material and will include writing, presentation to the class, and a hands-on artistic creation.

 

Medical Imaging: Science, Technology, Politics, Ethics, and Cost
Bridget Gourley

This course will look at the fundamental scientific principles underlying key types of medical imaging. We will examine the types of information that can be obtained from different classes of imaging - radiography, tomography, magnetic resonance, nuclear medicine and ultrasound imaging. We will look both at what we can learn and what we can't know from different types of images. We will consider the limitations and what drives the cost associated with different approaches. As we build an understanding of the science of different imaging techniques, we will also investigate the politics and ethics that underlie health care decisions and the advancement of new techniques. This course is appropriate for anyone interested in a broader understanding of medical imaging, both the non-scientifically and scientifically focused student.

 

Microbes and Human Health
Lynn Bedard

For much of human history, microbes (bacteria and viruses) have been invisible enemies that medicine has to fight. Recent findings have indicated that, in many cases, bacteria that live on and in our bodies impact our health in many positive ways. Through exploring the human micro biome, the rising problem of antibiotic resistance and selected examples of microbial plagues, students will gain a better understanding of the connections between human and microbes.

 

Music, Art and Death
Nicole Brockmann

This course explores ways in which death is presented musically and artistically in social and religious ritual, in drama (film, opera), in instrumental art music (symphonic works, chamber music), and in popular, traditional, and art song. How do composers' and performers' ideas about death and the afterlife influence the composition of these works, and what role do musical and artistic works play in shaping how we process death both abstractly and emotionally? Coursework includes reading, writing, and listening/audiovisual assignments. No previous musical training is required.

Music Criticism
Scott Spiegelberg

Music critics can be objective reporters, giving only the facts of a concert or recording as descriptively as possible. They can also be cultural gatekeepers, expressing firm opinions on what is good and what is bad. This course will explore what it means to be a music critic. Students will critically listen to music from classical and popular music styles and write reviews in a variety of styles.

 

Nekyia: Journeys from the Other World
Keith Nightenhelser

"Nekyia" names the kind of trip heroic figures took in ancient Greek traditional tales to the land of the dead. And back--that's the hard part!

In this first-year seminar we will first study such stories, starting with those of the Greeks and Romans, but looking also at other writings from ancient literatures of the Near East and Asia. Then we will expand our view to journeys to other kinds of alternate worlds, not just Lands of the Dead.

Some of our readings will be in history (memoirs of experiences that seemed to be returns from death to those who experienced them), some from modern fiction, poetry and film, and some from philosophy, sacred writings, theology and psychoanalysis. We will use approaches common in literary study, anthropology, history and the study of religions, and aim to develop skills in historically and culturally informed analysis of narratives from a variety of disciplinary approaches.

 

Noir, Film and Novel
Michael Sinowitz

As the easy translation of the French suggests, the focus of this course is stories with dark themes. We will be exploring the term noir—some see it as an adjective, others as a genre—in both films and novels. We’ll start with the classic versions of these tales, which tend to center either on a hard-boiled detective or a hard-boiled criminal. Typically these stories also feature a dangerous and glamorous woman protagonist, the femme fatale. After surveying classic examples of the genre, we will also explore the ways in which noir texts continue to appear today as well as the relation between these contemporary texts and their predecessors. Readings will include: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett; The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain; The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler; Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson; Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley; Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; Citizen Vince by Jess Walter; Understanding Movies by Louis Giannetti; More Than Night by James Naremore; They Say/I Say by Gerald and Cathy Berkenstein Graff. Films will include The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, Out of the Past, and Touch of Evil.

 

Other: Across Space, Across Time, Across the Room
Joseph Heithaus

Using fiction, poetry, memoir, history, and our own writing, this class will examine what “otherness” means. As such we’ll strive to come to some terms with the things that both define and divide us— language, culture, race, class, history, allegiances to place, and so on. Ideally, the students and professor will break down the very barriers that divide each of us as we learn more about each other. Our notion of the very term “other” will be dynamic and will change from class to class.

We will begin by getting to know the other people inside the class (that person across the room who is a stranger when you enter, but something else when you leave), characters from works of fiction (the character who feels like some other version of you by the time you finish the story or the novel), poems that open up for us characters and sometimes the poets themselves for study. We’ll read at least one biography, one memoir, one novel, parts of the book A Short History of the Human Race, as well as poems, essays, plays, and each other's writing.

This class will not only be fueled by various stories of the lives of the people in it, but the other reading and learning students are doing in other classes. As such, we will borrow knowledge from economics, psychology, sociology, mathematics, history and any of the various courses offered in a liberal arts curriculum.

 

Reading and Writing the Holocaust
Julia Bruggemann

Much has been written about the Holocaust yet much remains to be said. In this course, we will encounter a variety of texts about the Holocaust ranging from historical documents to scholarly analyses to films as well as personal and fictional perspectives. Moreover, we will create our own texts responding to the existing literature. In the process we will develop not only a deeper understanding of the historical event, but also hone our own writing and critical thinking skills.

 

Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Era
David Worthington

During this semester we will focus on rhetoric--the study of language, symbols, and material objects--that influence the choices, thinking, and actions of people in and about civic space. We will look at triumphant moments as well as troubling issues, images, and arguments that sought to define oppression or defend subjugation--put simply, in this class you will confront troubling and sometimes maddening materials. We do this because it is difficult to measure success without a bench line, without something to overcome or evaluate against. It is difficult to know what a great piece of rhetoric is without knowing what it was responding to.

This seminar will primarily address the period between 1954 and 1970, broadly encompassing the Civil Rights Movement. We will address the rhetoric that emerged from the period through speeches, propaganda, editorial writing, and symbolic activity such as protests. We will begin with a brief long-scale examination of the race in the United States, with textual examination of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. We will engage the work of people like Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as lesser-known figures in the movement. We will dwell on both "great event" moments such as the murder of Emmett Till, the Birmingham bus boycott, the 1963 march on Washington, and Selma but also less popularly known events like the emergence of black voting blocs and the Black Panther Party. We will engage with troublesome literature that was part of the segregationist/Jim Crow strategy to maintain oppression in both the South and the North. In addition we will view historic video of the era that will contextualize the struggle for civil rights. Students will be expected to develop a sense of how the arguments for civil rights were framed to address audiences that were often unsympathetic or uncaring about civil rights.

 

Say it Loud: Contemporary African American Poetry
Eugene Gloria

Contemporary African American poets are currently producing a vibrant and thriving body of formal and experimental work by poets who have garnered the highest, national acclaim. This first year seminar seeks to introduce significant contributors to this particular American literary tradition. We will also examine the work of some of their predecessors in the twentieth century (such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, and Langston Hughes just to name a few).

 

Science of Attraction and Close Relationships
Susanne Biehle

This seminar is designed as an overview of the issues and theories associated with attraction and close relationships. We will examine major psychological theories of close relationships as well as perspectives from anthropology, biology, and sociology. Some of the topics we will discuss include attraction, relationship development and dissolution, maintenance of relationships, relationship satisfaction, jealousy and infidelity, and individual differences in motivations, thoughts, and behaviors regarding intimate relationships. Assignments and discussions will focus on examining the scientific literature regarding these issues and on how insights about these topics could be used to improve the quality of your own relationships.

Shock Value
Lori Miles

This course will investigate ways to approach and interpret contemporary artworks that are shocking or controversial in nature--art that surprises, confronts, angers, or repulses the viewer. After introducing the aesthetics and ethics involved in making meaning of difficult images, we will begin investigating the purpose of "shock" in contemporary art. Through case studies and discussion, we will examine works that are controversial by their context (placement, site, or timing of installation) including our own "Fits and Starts" by Marc Swanson, Wellesley College's recent "Sleepwalker" by Toni Matelli, and the removal of Joe Paterno's portrait from Penn State. We will then move into content-driven controversies, those artists who intentionally choose to work with difficult, often shocking subject matter. Topics covered in these discussions will include obscenity, violence, and politics. Artists discussed in this class include (but are not limited to) Robert Mapplethorpe, Kara Walker, Chris Burden, Andres Serrano, Orlan, Guerilla Girls, and Santiago Sierra. During the semester, we will be discussing various social, aesthetic, and legal issues that shape our understanding of shocking imagery in order to frame the role of controversy in contemporary art.  

Spanish in the U.S.
Sandro Barros

This course provides a descriptive and critical overview of the linguistic and cultural practices of the different Spanish-speaking communities in the United States. Our main objective is to develop critical and linguistic awareness about the relationship between language, individual, and society, in the context of the use of Spanish in the United States, with special emphasis on historical migration patterns and settlements, characteristics of Spanish in contact with English, and language use and language attitudes patterns. Finally, we will discuss the role of Spanish in Education and the future of the Spanish language in the U.S.

 

Studies in Popular Song
Ron Dye

In this seminar, students will gain a more informed knowledge of popular music by studying its form and meaning, its methods of composition, its relationship to technology, and its position in the marketplace since the mid twentieth century. Students will exchange ideas with one another regarding what makes for a “good” or “successful” song, and as a group we will examine specific song samples from different decades and various music genres including rock ‘n roll, jazz, rhythm ‘n blues, soul, country and hip hop, among others. Work in the course will include reading and listening, class discussions, an oral history collection and a final research project.

 

Women's Stories in the Age of Louis XIV
Carrie Klaus

In this first-year seminar, we will read and discuss impassioned letters, fictionalized memoirs, and an influential novel about a teenage girl new to the court--all by women who wrote and published during the celebrated reign of "Sun King" Louis XIV of France. We will consider how these women told stories about themselves and about their lives, and how they used their writing not only to narrate, but also to shape, the world around them. Students' own writing will include both creative and critical projects.

Writing Creative Nonfiction: A Sense of Place
Greg Schwipps

Creative nonfiction, like fiction or poetry, is a type of creative writing. As such, it uses the tools of the creative writer: figurative language (similes, metaphors), dialogue, flashbacks, scenes, frames – in short, tools that increase the dramatic effect of a piece of writing. Various types of creative nonfiction exist: personal essays, articles, travel accounts, profiles, memoirs and narrative histories. The lines surrounding this genre are not clear, and arguments do occur regarding the true definition of creative nonfiction. For this class, we will limit this discussion, as it can be tedious and sometimes pointless. Instead, we will focus on the reading and writing of creative nonfiction, and by the end of the semester, new definitions will emerge.

The second component of this course involves the subject area we will explore in our creative nonfiction writing: Greencastle, the place, and its surrounding areas. While you will be able to investigate your own past and places in personal narratives, most of the writing you do in this class will in some way involve the local community. My hope is that this practice gives you both practical experience with creative nonfiction writing and a better sense of where you will live for the next four years.

 

Writing Small
Lili Wright

Why write small? How can one address big issues, ideas, and themes in just a few pages and give readers an experience that endures? How do contemporary writers continue to reinvigorate the short story by playing with structure? What is each writer seeking to express? What literary strategies has the writer used to achieve this end? What techniques used in these stories could we as writers employ in our own creative work?

In this seminar, students will study more than two dozen contemporary American short stories from a diverse collection of writers, including Sherman Alexie, Raymond Carver, Lorrie Moore, Joshua Ferris, Karen Russell, and Junot Diaz. We will look at these stories as both entertainment and enlightenment. Like a good car mechanic, we will look under the hood, pull out the pieces (not broken), admire the story’s fine working parts, understand what makes its motor purr.

Specifically, we will analyze each story’s character, plot, structure, dialogue, setting, tone, themes, word choice, and use of metaphor. We will discuss these issues both as literary critics and as creative writers. This will require close reading. This will require thinking big. The course will be discussion-based. The small seminar setting and the often raw and topical nature of these stories will no doubt lead to vibrant discussions and create an atmosphere of intellectual inquiry and vigor.