FIRST YEAR SEMINAR - SPRING 2002

THE FIRST YEAR SEMINAR REQUIREMENT

All first year students are required to take two seminars, one in the fall, the other in the spring semester. The seminars are courses in which the student is introduced to the literary, philosophical, and artistic legacies of several interrelated cultures. Works are chosen to represent a wide range of intellectual discourse, from poetry, drama, and fiction, to history, philosophy, and polemic.

INTENSITIES - ENCOUNTERS WITH THE WORK

In the spring semester each section of the Seminar focuses on a single work of demonstrated historical importance. A work may be interpreted as, for example, a symphony, a painting, a scientific treatise, a city plan, a dramatic performance, a novel, an ethnography, a case study, or a political tract. Faculty will devote the semester to an in-depth study of the particular work they have chosen, students will engage with this work by writing frequent analytical papers .

CRN

15487

   

Course No.

FSEM II JB

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Death Set to Music

Professor

James Bagwell

Schedule

Mon Wed 1:30 pm - 2:50 pm OLIN 104

On the title page of the score of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, the words of poet Wilfred Owen are inscribed: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity. All a poet can do is warn." In this seminar, we will investigate how composers approach death as a musical subject. Using Britten's War Requiem as a centerpiece, compositions from the distant past, along with contemporary works, will be studied with regards to text, historical and cultural context, and musical content. Projects will include two or three short writing assignments and one term paper related to the topic chosen in consultation with the instructor.

CRN

15398

   

Course No.

FSEM II AB1

Title

First-Year Seminar II: The Erotic and the Homoerotic: The Case of Caravaggio's Musicians

Professor

Anne Bertrand-Dewsnap

Schedule

Mon Wed 10:00 am - 11:20 am OLIN 301

Scholars have argued over the erotic and homoerotic qualities of several of Caravaggio's paintings. This seminar will focus on one of them, The Musicians, which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. We will investigate the painting to focus on this debate and its ramifications. For instance, we will analyze the iconography and iconology of the painting, its patronage, and the perception of homosexuality as well as heterosexuality in early seventeenth-century Rome and today. We will also use the painting to explore the manner in which the artistic persona of Caravaggio has been constructed over time and recently been remodeled as sexually charged and violent.

CRN

15399

   

Course No.

FSEM II AB2

Title

First-Year Seminar II Bernini's Ecstasy of Saint Teresa: A Baroque Example of the Unity of the Arts

Professor

Anne Bertrand-Dewsnap

Schedule

Mon Wed 11:30 am - 12:50 pm OLIN 301

This seminar will focus on the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, a sculptural work Gianlorenzo Bernini produced for the Cornaro Chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. Bernini was one of the major artistic figures of seventeenth-century Rome. For this sculpture, Bernini united painting, sculpture and architecture in a beautiful totality, one that breaks down the barriers between the world in which we live and the work of art. We will use this work as a case study to explore the various facets of Bernini's artistic legacy. For instance, we will investigate Bernini's working methods, the importance of his studio and his relationship with the Counter-Reformation movement and its leaders in Rome.

CRN

15297

   

Course No.

FSEM II MC

Title

First-Year Seminar I: Montaigne's Essays

Professor

Mark Cohen

Schedule

Mon Wed 11:30 am - 12:50 pm LC 118

Montaigne's Essays represent one man's assessment of himself and his times at the end of the sixteenth century. Never in world literature has such a candid and detailed self-examination also had such philosophical and cultural profundity. The essay, a genre invented by Montaigne, is a piece of short prose, shorn of rhetorical flourish or systematic philosophical armature, in which common opinions and higher learning were subjected to the "trial" of individual judgment, and framed by digressions on personal, even embarrassingly intimate matters. In a great essay such as "Of Cannibals," for instance, Montaigne skewers his society's claim to be bringing civilization to the indigenous peoples of Latin America at the same time as he discusses ancient history, contemporary map making and the changing course of his local river. Beneath the apparent disorder of each essay, however, a careful reading discerns a secret pattern of interconnections and echoes out of which emerges a new vision of human life, one which values the private, the idiosyncratic and the skeptical attitude in order to enshrine acceptance of our natural, limited existence as opposed to transcendental ideologies. Above all, Montaigne exhibits the sheer joy and unending abundance of writing itself.

CRN

15098

   

Course No.

FSEM II DD

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

Professor

Deirdre d'Albertis

Schedule

Mon Th 10:00 am - 11:20 am OLIN 310

This seminar is devoted to close study of Charles Dickens's last complete novel, an intricately plotted tale of shifting identities and thwarted desires. The story of John Harmon's near death on the banks of the Thames and his resurrection as "John Rokesmith" displays the great writer at the peak of his creative powers, uniting in one novel detective narrative and social criticism, erotic obsession and economic analysis, pathos and passionate anger. We will consider the work in social, political, and historical context, consulting Mayhew's *London Labour and the London Poor* and other contemporary writings in an attempt to understand the brutal divide between rich and poor that characterizes Dickens's fiction. Readings on Victorian education and urban culture, as well as 19th century theories of race, gender, and class will inform our approach to the text.

CRN

15290

   

Course No.

FSEM II AD

Title

First-Year Seminar II "American Me": The Techne of Assimilation

Professor

Aureliano DeSoto

Schedule

Mon Wed 1:30 pm - 2:50 pm LC 115

Since the social movements of the 1960s, assimilation as a process of social formation, understood traditionally as a shedding of racial-ethnic specificity in favor of an American totality, has become a dirty word. In our contemporary world of rhetorical multiculturalism, socio-cultural and linguistic differences, most often predicated on race, have become axiomatic. However, assimilation remains integral to the process of acculturalization and adjustment for immigrants, if having become a somewhat underground phenomenon. This course examines the process of assimilation through an examination of a single text: Richard Rodriguez's Hunger of Memory, and the extensive literature that surrounds this text. Rodriguez's 1981 memoir has proven to be a lightening rod for debates around race, ethnicity, assimilation, and the various and contradictory meanings of American identity for people of color. The course seeks to understand, first, how assimilation functions as a process for contemporary racial-ethnic immigrants, and second, the political and cultural imperatives that keep assimilation a vital aspect of immigrant experience.

CRN

15403

   

Course No.

FSEM II PG

Title

First-Year Seminar II: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Professor

Peter Gadsby

Schedule

Mon Th 1:30 pm - 2:50 pm OLIN 306

Tristram Shandy (published between 1759 and 1767) is a parody of the then new novel form, is perhaps the progenitor of the 20th century stream of consciousness novel, and has been called the longest "shaggy dog" story in the language. Through the thoughts and observations of our shrewd and bawdy hero, you will meet his devoted father, Walter, his uncle Toby, whose passion is for military fortification, the bewildered Mrs. Shandy, the argumentative Parson Yorick, the irrepressible household servant, Obadiah, and many other curious characters. We will spend the semester reading the work slowly to discover what, if anything, happens.

CRN

15303

   

Course No.

FSEM II FG

Title

First-Year Seminar II: The Communist Manifesto

Professor

Frederic Grab

Schedule

Tu Th 8:30 am - 9:50 am OLIN 310

Arguably the most influential secular text ever written, The Communist Manifesto recently celebrated its 150th birthday in an orgy of denunciations and nostalgia. We will explore the reasons for both reactions through a detailed examination of this seminal text. In addition to a few other works by Marx and Engels, we will read several novels dealing with social conditions in England in the mid-19th century (e.g. Dickens's Hard Times), and view Charlie Chaplin's classic film, Modern Times.

CRN

15489

   

Course No.

FSEM II FH

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Alessandro Manzoni: The Betrothed

Professor

Frederick Hammond

Schedule

Tu Th 10:00 am - 11:20 am OLIN 104

In the genre of the epic historical novel, Manzoni's The Betrothed (I promessi sposi), published in 1827 and acclaimed by authors as diverse as Goethe and Poe, ranks somewhere between War and Peace and Gone with the Wind. The Betrothed is set in seventeenth-century northern Italy, and its protagonists are not great personages but the engaged peasant couple of the title, whose fate is worked out in a panoramic and deeply researched historical context. Promessi sposi shaped the course of nineteenth-century Italian narrative and was also an icon of the Rigorgimento movement for the unification of Italy. Its canonization as an integral part of Italian secondary education obscures the fact that it is also an exciting story, full of sex and violence, and seasoned piquantly by political, social and religious criticism.

CRN

15376

   

Course No.

FSEM II LK

Title

First-Year Seminar II: A Passage to India

Professor

Laura Kunreuther

Schedule

Tu Th 3:00 pm - 4:20 pm LC 210

This first year seminar focuses on E.M. Forster's classic novel set in colonial India. The novel centers on the desired intimacy between two men -- an Englishman and a Muslim Indian -- and the question of whether this friendship is possible. Forster's novel offers a rich portrayal of the dominant social categories (race, religion, gender) that defined cultural difference in British India. Through a close reading of the novel, we will address themes such as the quest and desire for authentic culture, the sexual and racial politics of imperialism, and the conflicts involved in cross-cultural communication and knowledge. We will emphasize the place of the novel within a broader context of other cultural production (novels, histories, films, photographs, scientific studies of race) in and about colonial India. In addition to the novel, we will also read letters and other writings by Forster while he lived in India; historical essays about the time and place in which the novel is set and written; anthropological work on the culture of colonialism, and critical writings about the novel itself. Throughout the course, we will juxtapose these writings with films about colonialism and the politics of cross-cultural intimacies. Students will be required to write five essays over the course of the semester.

CRN

15377

   

Course No.

FSEM II DM

Title

First-Year Seminar II:

The Villa: Architecture and Attributes

Professor

Diana Minsky

Schedule

Th Fri 10:00 am - 11:20 am OLIN 301

Using James S. Ackerman's The Villa as the central text, this seminar will focus on the characteristics and evolution of the country house from ancient Rome through Renaissance Italy to Georgian England and twentieth-century America. Ackerman argues that a villa, as opposed to a working farm, embodies an idyllic interpretation of rural life, reflecting society's shifting understanding of the intersection of the natural and the man-made. The class will supplement Ackerman's book with fictional and scholarly accounts of villa life and with visits to many Hudson Valley estates. Presentations and term papers will explore how the style and significance of Hudson Valley houses fit within Ackerman's characterization of villa architecture.

CRN

15407

   

Course No.

FSEM II GM

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Joyce's Ulysses in Historical Context

Professor

Gregory Moynahan

Schedule

Mon Wed 11:30 am - 12:50 pm ASP 302

Although the text concerns only the single day of June 16th, 1904, each chapter of James Joyce's Ulysses is written in a completely different historical and literary style. This course will complement Joyce's stylistic innovation by using contemporary documents (newspaper accounts, advertising, folksongs, philosophy, etc.) and excerpts from historical texts (epic, medieval annals and saints lives, nineteenth-century historical novels) to unfold the historical context and resonance of each of Joyce's chapters. The course as a whole will then question how these various means of casting the reader in time and history illuminate the social realities of Dublin in the early twentieth century, and particularly the political, ethnic, and religious tensions that led Joyce to a life of exile. Stuart Gilbert's guide to Joyce's text will be used to ease our reading of Joyce's work, as well as to shape our exploration of the text against its initial template of the Greek epic.

CRN

15488

   

Course No.

FSEM II BAO

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Great Books: Tacitus The Annals of Imperial Rome

Professor

Barbara Olsen

Schedule

Tu 10:00 am - 11:20 am OLIN 301
Th 10:00 am - 11:20 am OLIN 101

In the entire history of the world, few people have ever exercised as much power as Romes early Emperors. Perhaps best know to us for their famed scandals, figures like Nero, Tiberius, and Caligula still fascinate us nearly 2000 years later by their complex mix of lurid excess and supreme military and political power. The reason these names and those of Augustus and Claudius are so familiar to us is largely due to the power of their characterizations in the historian Tacitus masterful work The Annals of Imperial Rome. In the Annals, Tacitus chronicles Rome first Imperial dynasty, beginning with the death of Augustus, the first Emperor, in CE 14, down to the death of Nero in 68, covering in-between the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius. Throughout, Tacitus approaches history as the juncture of fact, rhetoric, psychology, and art, providing vivid character studies of Romes first Emperors, their families, and their entourages. As he records accounts of familiar in-fighting, treason, political intriques, and not a few accusations of incest and murder, Tacitus offers a powerful critique of the dangers of autocracy stemming from his sense that Rome, even at the height of its power, is doomed. At times vicious and biting, at times straightforward and thoughtful, Tacitus Annals is powerful both as a work of art and as a history. Throughout the course, we will be addressing such themes as imperialism, Romes responses to 1st century Judaism and Christianity, and social differences within the Empire based on lines of race, class, and gender. We will also be supplementing the Annals with both ancient and modern texts, including screenings of I, Claudius and Gladiator. 4 6-page papers required.

CRN

15373

   

Course No.

FSEM II SR

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Worst Journey in the World

Professor

Susan Rogers

Schedule

Tu Th 10:00 am - 11:20 am PRE 101

This masterpiece of travel/expeditionary writing is the account of Robert Falcon Scott's 1910 doomed quest for the South Pole. In March 1912, two months after reaching the South Pole, he froze to death in a tent just eleven miles from a depot of food and heating oil. Cherry-Gerard's version of this heroic expedition is a literary feat, containing descriptive narrative, journal entries, and poetry. Cherry-Gerard describes men hauling hundreds of pounds of gear through unrelieved darkness, with temperatures reaching 50, 60, 70 degrees below zero - all with humanity and even humor. In this course we will investigate notions of adventure (from Latin, "an arrival"), geography (and uncharted lands), while also exploring the historical, cultural and political climate that encourages such adventure. For students interested in biology, the writings of Dr. Wilson, Chief of Scientific Staff, offer detailed information on Polar life, especially his investigations into Emperor Penguins.

CRN

15407

   

Course No.

FSEM II JR2

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Herodotus' Histories

Professor

James Romm

Schedule

Mon Wed 1:30 pm - 2:50 pm OLIN 310

"History" was the word the Greek author Herodotus chose to describe his text, but in his time this word meant simply "inquiry." Herodotus frames his work as a record of the wars between Greeks and Persians, ending about 480 B.C., but his "inquiry" goes far beyond that framework and into the realms of geography, anthropology, biology, religion, morality, and political science. His subject matter, in other words, is as vast as humanity itself and the earth that contains it, not to mention the gods above. In this course we shall explore many of the diverse paths that lead through his work, paying particular attention to one of the most central: His effort to understand Greek cultural identity in contrast to that of the "barbarian" world.

CRN

15287

   

Course No.

FSEM II JR

Title

First-Year Seminar II Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain

Professor

Justus Rosenberg

Schedule

Mon Wed 10:00 am - 11:20 am OLIN 309

This work portrays the doubts, hopes, fears, uncertainties, the emotional turmoil, the groping quest for and final achievement of human maturity experienced by a young person in Europe during the first part of the 20th century. A model "Erziehungsroman" (Novel of Education), it deals with the many political philosophical and aesthetic issues that were facing the protagonist at the time and does this with magnificent dialectic precision, clarifying lucidity, poetic and striking imagery. The degree and extent to which the various ideas and trends expressed in the novel are relevant for young people at the beginning of the 21st century, be it in Europe or the Americas, is a constant in our discussions.

CRN

15485

   

Course No.

FSEM II GS

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Poe's Tales

Professor

Geoffrey Sanborn

Schedule

Tu Th 1:30 pm - 2:50 pm OLIN 304

In this course, we will read Edgar Allan Poe's 66 published tales as a body - a strange and difficult body - of work. The emphasis will be on the tension between Poe's aesthetic idealism and his cadaverous materialism: i.e., his aspirations toward the absolute Oneness represented by the love-object and his obsession with the way that love-objects tend to "turn", or go bad, like milk. Related inquiries: the relationship between knowledge and evidence in the detective tales and the relationship between "whiteness" and "blackness" in his work as a whole. When the occasion demands it, we will supplement the tales with selections from his collected poems and critical essays.

CRN

15476

   

Course No.

FSEM II LS

Title

First-Year Seminar II: The New American Poetry 1945 - 1960

Professor

Leonard Schwartz

Schedule

Mon Th 11:30 am - 12:50 pm OLIN 307

This work, edited by Donald Allen, was the seminal anthology that launched many of the most important breakthroughs in contemporary avant-garde American poetry. The seminar will study both the works of the poets in this book and the implications of this work for literary language itself. Poetry to be considered includes The New York School (Ashbery, O'Hara, Guest): the Black Mountain Poets (Duncan, Creeley) and the Beats(Ginsberg and others). Other readings(for example David Lehman's The Last Avant-Garde and Marjorie Perloff''s The Poetics of Indeterminacy will provide historical and theoretical perspectives on the anthology and the poets it brought to the fore.

CRN

15361

   

Course No.

FSEM II RS

Title

First-Year Seminar II: The Lower East Side

Professor

Rona Sheramy

Schedule

Tu Th 3:00 pm - 4:20 pm OLIN 304

In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Lower East Side of New York City was home to a stream of immigrants from eastern and western Europe and Asia. Over the past several decades, this same area has become the locus of nostalgia and mythmaking among many descendants of these immigrant communities. This course will focus on one neighborhood, the Lower East Side, to explore how and why American ethnic groups infuse spaces and places with meaning. After first considering the history of various ethnic groups (including Russian Jews, the Irish, and Chinese) on the Lower East Side, we will explore this neighborhood in the collective memory of these communities. Primary sources will include fiction, memoirs, film, and photography.

CRN

15112

   

Course No.

FSEM II AS

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Robert Hooke's Micrographia

Professor

Alice Stroup

Schedule

Tu Th 11:30 am - 12:50 pm OLIN 308

A monument of natural philosophy and scientific illustration, Robert Hooke's Micrographia (1665) was the first laboratory manual in microscopy. A great experimentalist, Hooke developed his research as a Fellow of the newly founded Royal Society of London. Hooke and his colleagues intended the work to be a manifesto of experimental method and faith in progress. They also hoped Hooke's observations would lend credence to atomism, a notorious ancient philosophy that was being rehabilitated in the seventeenth century. The work's descriptive and experimental language suggests objectivity, as does the author's recourse to geometric principles. Yet Hooke's treatise is also permeated with a theological agenda. We will read the Micrographia, examining its philosophical antecedents and experimental foundations. We will also investigate Hooke's life and work, his association with the Royal Society and contemporary savants, as well as the links between science and society during the Scientific Revolution.

CRN

15477

   

Course No.

FSEM II DT

Title

First-Year Seminar II: The Conquest of Mexico

Professor

David Tavarez

Schedule

Tu Th 11:30 am - 12:50 pm OLIN 304

This seminar will focus on two chronicles about the conquest of the Aztec Empire by Hernando Cortés-The Conquest of Mexico, written by Cortés' secretary Francisco López de Gómara, and the True History of the Conquest of the New Spain, written by one of Cortés' disgruntled subordinates, Bernal Díaz del Castillo. After a review of the context of production of these two works and a brief look at Aztec and early modern Spanish society and culture, we will contextualize and challenge the conquerors' perspectives through an examination of various Nahua and Yucatec Maya textual genres-annals, songs, wills, letters, and calendrical texts-that provide a rather complex, contradictory, and protean vision of the momentous encounter between Europeans and Americans in the New World.

CRN

15486

   

Course No.

FSEM II WW

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Elsa Morante's History

Professor

William Weaver

Schedule

Mon Th 3:00 pm - 4:20 pm PRE 101

When it appeared in Italy in the early 1970's, Elsa Morante's novel was greeted with great enthusiasm and, in some quarters, by polemical disapproval. This vast, rich, ambitious work is an attempt to review Italian (and, indirectly world) history in the 20th century from the point of view of a humble family: a widowed mother of two, a schoolteacher in Rome, who witnesses great events and is subjected to their small, but shattering consequences. Reading will be supplemented by screenings of Italian postwar films and other documents.

CRN

15288

   

Course No.

FSEM II FW

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Don Juan

Professor

Fiona Wilson

Schedule

Mon Wed 11:30 am - 12:50 pm OLIN 308

When the first cantos of Byron's Don Juan were published in 1819, they were greeted as blasphemous, outrageous - and utterly fascinating. More recently, readers of this sprawling tragi-comic poem have characterized it as the epic of modern life. This class will explore the writing, reception, and influence of Don Juan in relation to the rich cross-cultural variety of source materials that fed its creation. Among other issues, we will be considering: Byron's life; the history and politics of post-Waterloo Europe classical definitions of satire and the mock-heroic; Augustan Poetic precedents; literary competition; and the development of the Don Juan legend, as exemplified in opera, Italian commedia dell arte and English pantomime.

CRN

15093

   

Course No.

FSEM II AZ

Title

First-Year Seminar II: Ovid's Metamorphoses: Metamorphosis, Myth, and Mischief

Professor

Alan Zeitlin

Schedule

Mon Wed 11:30 am - 12:50 pm OLIN 310

Ovid's epic, The Metamorphoses, is the greatest repository of myth that the classical world bequeathed to later ages. It is therefore delightful to read for anyone who enjoys this body of narrative. But Ovid was very much a product of his own age and of his own quirky temperament, and any intelligent reading of the poem must attend to the subtle ways in which he treats materials that were for him already quite ancient. By reading the Metamorphoses carefully (twice, in fact -- once at the beginning of the course, and again in the last few weeks), I hope that we can gain a sense of this subversive, mischievous literary sensibility. In order to begin to tap the poem's riches, we will also read some of Ovid's other works (the Amores, Ars Amatoria, Tristia, Heroides, and Ex Ponto), familiarize ourselves with the history, politics, and culture of his age, and, if we have time, glimpse at the influence his epic exercised on later writers such as Shakespeare.