FALL 2004


The two-semester First-year Seminar, through the reading of a series of core texts common to all sections, introduces every in-coming student to crucially important intellectual, artistic, and cultural ideas which serve, in turn, as a strong basis for a liberal arts training as it develops in subsequent years at the college. Yet the course is not meant to be a mere survey of background material. Rather, frequent writing assignments and an intimate seminar format among peers encourage an active debate over ideas for which there is no foregone conclusion. Seminar reading and discussions are supplemented by a mandatory series of guest lectures, panel presentations and films.


Schedule of Fall Sections


The seminar's current yearlong theme is "What is Enlightenment: The Science, Culture and Politics of Reason." Though 17th - 18th Century European Culture is the main focus, the course also looks back to the Ancient World and to non-European thought in the first half; and, in the second half, will look forward to the modern era where many assumptions of the Enlightenment have fallen under severe critical scrutiny. The Fall Semester syllabus includes,


·          Augustine:  Confessions

·          Austen: Mansfield Park

·          Confucius: The Analects

·          Defoe: Robinson Crusoe 

·          Descartes: Discourse on Method  

·          Diderot: “Supplement to Bougainville’s Voyage” & selections from The Encyclopedia in Political Writings

·          Equiano: Narrative of His Life 

·          Galileo: Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo

·          Ibn Tufayl: The Story of Hayy bin Yaqzan

·          Ibn Khaldun: selections from The Muqaddimah

·          Locke: Second Treatise on Civil Government

·          Machiavelli: The Prince 

·          Plato: Symposium


Authors to be considered in the Spring Semester may include: Kant, Hume, Rousseau, Mary Shelley, Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Achebe.  By way of an engaged encounter with the above texts, a number of critical problems will emerge that pertain to the formation of modern intellectual disciplines. For instance, scientific method, psychology, political theory, economics, and the novel were all new ways of knowing the world that came into being during "the long eighteenth century". Not only did the concepts of equality and individual liberty represent a radical departure from the past, but the rise of global exploration and empire influenced scientific and political thought as well.


            Students are encouraged to pursue the development and articulation of their own point of view on the core reading. The spirit of First-year Seminar is best exemplified by the observation that in our daily lives we frequently encounter (and ourselves invoke) concepts drawn from the selected texts; without a first-hand knowledge of those concepts and a critical and historical framework in which to understand them, we risk having others define them for us. First-year seminar is designed to be the cornerstone of your introduction to rigorous, individual learning at Bard.