As you read through the list of First Year Seminars, challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone. Some of you may want to take advantage of Dickinson’s internationalized curriculum and explore an area of the world that piques your interest – perhaps an area where you may study abroad. Other may choose to learn more about sustainability; there are sustainability seminars with a humanities, science, or social science emphasis. Still others may be attracted to seminars on big data, the Harlem Renaissance, the great ideas, and science fact and fiction. Use the First Year Seminar to open your minds and begin the kind of broad exploration that a liberal arts education makes possible.

1. Paying the Game of Life: Balancing Proactive and Reactive Financial Decisions Beyond the College Years

Many decisions in our lives have financial consequences.  If we knew the consequences ahead of time, would we make different choices?  We can plan for some financial events in our lives, but we need to learn how to react wisely to events we cannot always control. During this course, students will have an opportunity to choose post-college careers, research financial rewards and costs based on these selected careers, and then design and write personal financial plans.  Life, however, is full of surprises!  There will be some detours along the way. Throughout the course, students will need to modify plans when they encounter “surprise events” during certain seasons of their life journeys. As an additional aid for becoming financially prepared for the future, several guest speakers from Dickinson and the local community will provide financial planning information to consider.

Professor: Joy Middaugh, International Business & Management
Time: MWF 11:30

2. Cancelled

3.  Bioethics and Bioissues

If you regularly read, The New York Times, or use social media to follow the news, the prevalence of science in our society should not be surprising.  However, while science is an essential part of our daily lives, inaccurate, incomplete, and/or biased communication of science often misleads the public.  Furthermore, in the US there is a cultural challenge in that many people wish to benefit from science, but have little interest in trying to understand it, or even willingly ignore scientific data.  (And to be fair, scientists often do a subpar job at communicating the importance of science to the public.)  In this Seminar, we will work together to gain an informed understanding of several past and present bioethical and biological issues.  Topics of discussion may include genetically modified organisms, vaccines and the anti-vax movement, human experimentation and eugenics, human gene therapy, euthanasia and “living wills,” and social and economic consequences of disease.  Additional topics may be discussed as they arise.  It is expected that you will be of open mind as you read, consider, discuss, and write about these multifaceted issues, and that towards the end of Fall term, you will incorporate and relate your enhanced understanding of concepts underlying these issues via a small group final project and presentation that addresses a topic of your choosing not previously discussed in the course.

Professor: Dave Kushner, Biology
Time: MF 11:30

4.  Dickinson & Slavery:  How Should We Remember

This seminar will explore how the fight over American slavery affected the institution and people of Dickinson College and the surrounding community of Carlisle, Pennsylvania during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and how modern-day Dickinsonians are trying to better understand, remember and memorialize this struggle.  Students in the seminar will learn about the new Dickinson & Slavery initiative from the House Divided Project and will have the opportunity to contribute their own research, writings and multi-media productions to this wide-ranging effort.  From the beginning, American slavery was a complicated and contested factor for members of this college.  Our college founders were both abolitionists and slaveowners.  Enslaved labor sometimes helped build the campus. During the Civil War era, Dickinsonians fought on both sides of the sectional conflict over slavery.  Then, after 1865, former enslaved people became vital –though not always equal—members of the community.  This seminar will tackle some of these important historical questions, but it will also focus on cultural memory and the moral controversies that always come from deciding how to remember such a difficult past.  Seminar participants will engage in a variety of assignments, including primary source research at local archives, essay writing, and multi-media production, including website development, podcasts and short videos.  They will also have opportunities to explore historic sites around Carlisle that have important but often overlooked connections to the story of slavery in America.

Professor: Matt Pinsker, History
Time: MF 11:30

5.  Molecules of Madness

How does the brain function? How does the mind falter? What is the relationship between these two? The field of medicine has greatly benefited from our understanding of the molecular basis of normal human functioning, and we’re now able to treat diseases using this knowledge. But what about mental illness and it’s treatment? There is a growing public awareness that mental disorders can be inherited, but without a basic understanding of the role that the nervous system plays in mental illness, we cannot begin to find truly effective treatments. This course will delve into the field of clinical neuroscience, an emerging interdisciplinary science that attempts to provide a basic understanding of both the human nervous system and the complex behavioral patterns we describe as mental illnesses. We will examine the biological foundations of mental disorders such as addiction, anorexia, autism, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, phobias, depression and schizophrenia. We will be reading a text (Clinical Neuroscience, by Lambert & Kinsley), and each student will read a popular first-person account of a mental disorder and present this topic to the class. Writing assignments will range from reaction papers, poetry (about the brain?), posters and letters to research reports on both normal brain function and mental illness.

Professor: Teresa Barber, Psychology
Time: MWF 11:30

6.  Ideas That Have Shaped the World

Why do ideas matter? What is the relationship between the individual and the community? How can we define human nature? What is justice? Are there universal moral principles? Or are our actions considered moral according to the moment and place in which we find ourselves? Explore these and other fundamental issues of humanistic inquiry through a series of compelling and influential texts. Students will read and discuss the work of authors as diverse as Homer, Plato, Augustine, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Jefferson, Marx, Du Bois, Duras, and Achebe.  The reading list is focused around the question, “How do the ideas of these authors – all from different cultures and eras -- resonate across time and help us to understand our present experience within a global community?” Furthermore, studying carefully the work of outstanding thinkers, readers, and writers is one of the best ways to learn to read, think, and write well. The seminar also features six plenary lectures by visiting speakers and Dickinson faculty on themes and issues central to the readings.

Professor: Jacob Sider Jost, English
Time: MF 11:30

7.  Precision Medicine: Promises and Pitfalls

In 2015, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative, which seeks to “enable a new era of medicine in which researchers, providers and patients work together to develop individualized care.” Personalized or precision medicine has always been a part of medical care, but new methods generating big data on individual patient’s health status are now available, transforming how medicine will be practiced. This course will introduce students to the principles of precision medicine across the care continuum and will engage students to think critically about how precision medicine will change the medical and public health landscape.  Students will learn the context of precision medicine through an introduction to the precision medicine initiative, the techniques being employed and developed, and the evolution of the precision medicine era. Students will examine current examples of precision medicine in prevention and early diagnosis, as well as treatment and disease surveillance. Finally, students will identify the challenges to incorporating precision medicine into our health care system, and debate whether precision medicine objectives can complement those of public health.  This course will employ multiple formats to promote student learning and to introduce different tools for research. These may include lectures, case studies, in-class discussions, small group activities, and a debate. In addition, a tour of the National Institutes of Health is planned to allow students to experience the nation’s premier biomedical research facility and learn more about the clinical research projects in progress.

Professor: Michael Roberts, Biology
Time: MWF 11:30

8.  But Is It Really Art? Golden Toilets and Piles of Candy

In one of the restrooms of the Guggenheim Museum in New York City there is an 18-karat-gold toilet that hundreds of thousands of visitors of the museum have already used.  The sculpture is titled America (2016) by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan and is an example of a participatory artwork found in an unexpected place.  What would you do if you saw a 175lb pile of colorfully wrapped candies in the corner of a museum? Would you take a piece?  The American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres who created the artwork Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) (1991) intended that you would.  Throughout the semester we will look at art that exists both inside and outside of conventional museum and gallery settings and question what makes something art and if it can exist outside of these institutions.  We will question what meaning materials have and how the setting of an artwork influences our interpretations.  Through looking at and reading about visual artists, we will research and write about different artworks including: performance, environmental, and participatory art.  Throughout the semester we will take field trips to see art in person, hear guest speakers talk about their art, and create art that will culminate in an end of the semester exhibition.

Professor: Rachel Eng, Art & Art History
Time: MF 11:30

9.  Education (In)Justice: Intersecting Pasts and Shared Futures

Nelson Mandela argued that “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. It is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace” (2013).  Yet, as Jonathan Kozol demonstrates, “Savage Inequalities” continue to characterize the U.S. educational system. Through the reading of primary documents and secondary texts, memoir and non-fiction, this course will examine the history and role of education in the United States. We will compare and contrast various forms of schooling for young people based on race, class, gender, and religion. We will also explore the history of assimilationist education in the United States, with a primary focus on the Carlisle Industrial Indian School and immigrant education. In examining these intersecting educational histories, we will explore questions of “education for what purpose, for whom, and by whom” and envision the kind of education we want for our shared futures. We are living in an interdependent but unequal world; how can education prepare us to not only succeed in such a world, but also to creatively and responsibly respond to its challenges and ameliorate its inequities? Readings may include: Adams, Education for Extinction. American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928; Nussbaum, Liberal Education: Education for Profit, Education for Freedom; Rose, Keeping Them Out of the Hands of Satan: Evangelical Schooling in America; and Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez.

Professor: Susan Rose, Sociology
Time: MF 11:30

10.  On the Map? Puerto Rican Citizenship, Culture, and Hidden History

In the aftermath of devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico received extensive media coverage. Stories about the storm revealed problems beyond the widespread damage and botched recovery efforts. Many people in the United States were unaware that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. Since 1898 the former Spanish colony has been an “unincorporated territory” of the U.S., its status arguably “in between” that of Latin American countries and the fifty States. How have writers, artists and activists worked to put Puerto Rico “on the map” and bring attention to problems stemming from colonialism and inequality? Who are Nuyoricans, and why is flying the Puerto Rican flag important? In this seminar we will discuss stories, poetry, films and other cultural works by and about Puerto Ricans, showing how representations of Puerto Rican culture and identity have evolved over time on the island and the U.S. mainland. Students will develop an understanding of Puerto Rico’s rich history and culture, as well as explore some of the ambiguities surrounding it. They will create an original, research-based video and/or podcast project for a general audience to help address misperceptions of Puerto Rico.

Professor: Mariana Past, Spanish & Portuguese
Time: MWF 11:30

11.  The Poisoning of America:  Are We Safe?

Lead in our drinking water. Asbestos in our baby powder. Mercury in our sushi. Opioid deaths by the thousands. Every day it seems we hear about new poisons affecting our communities and threatening human and environmental health.  Don’t we have agencies and laws that protect us from these threats?  In this seminar, we will use short articles, films and other readings to understand the intersection between chemicals, corporations, and U.S. food, drug, and environmental policies. We will also examine the role that environmental racism plays in illuminating who gets poisoned, who does the poisoning, and what are the costs to society. Finally, we will explore other models for the safe and sustainable use of chemicals moving forward in the future.  Students will have two opportunities to explore this topic experientially; first, by chemically analyzing poisons in their immediate surroundings via lab work, and secondly, by using an interactive skills-based platform to improve their writing throughout the semester. 

Professor:  Amy Witter, Chemistry
Time: MWF 11:30 

12.  The Search for Life in the Solar System and Beyond: What Are We Looking For, and What Do We Do If We Find It?!?!?

The Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus postulated that there is an infinite number of worlds in the Universe – some like this one, and others unlike it. In 1995 the first exoplanet was discovered and today there are more than 3,500 confirmed planets orbiting other stars within our Galaxy. With the successful launch of TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey) in 2018, we can expect that number to rise. In recent years, there have been a number of missions supported by NASA to explore planets and their satellites, asteroids, comets, and even Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). This is in accord with one aspect of their visions for the Space Sciences program – to Search for Life Elsewhere. This search, however, depends greatly on what we know life to be: Earth and its inhabitants.  If the requirements for life as we know it are liquid water, a source of energy, organic molecules, and biogenic elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, then NASA has already found multiple arenas in which “life” may reside. We will examine the role that NASA has played in the search for Life Elsewhere starting from its inception to today. We will explore the current protocols that are in place in case Life Elsewhere is detected, and discuss the ramifications such a discovery would have on society. What would our ethical responsibility be to the “life” we discovered? A trip to the National Air & Space Museum and the Udvar-Hazy Center will provide us with an opportunity to view replicas of the Mars Rover Curiosity and the spacecraft Voyager up close. A scientist from NASA’s Ames Research Center will Skype in to discuss current and future efforts to search for evidence of life in the Solar System. Students will engage the Dickinson and Carlisle communities through dialogue during the Dickinson Astronomy Club’s Open Houses throughout the fall semester to communicate the nature of science, the importance of NASA’s missions, and the search for Life Elsewhere.

Professor: Catrina Hamilton-Drager
Time: MF 11:30

13.  Food Justice

Food justice asserts that people should have the right to access sustainable, culturally appropriate, and fairly harvested food regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, citizenship, ability, religion, or community affiliation. Food justice activism questions the role dominant food corporations play in the treatment of laborers and the environment. Drawing from US and international examples, we will take an integrated approach to understanding food from harvest, to access, to waste. We will examine these issues through a variety of writing assignments and sources like academic articles, books, documentaries, and popular media from the fields of environmental studies, geography, and sociology. Community service learning focused on food access and poverty in Pennsylvania will animate course themes. Students will work with community partners on local food justice issues.

Professor: Heather Bedi, Environmental Studies
Time: MF 11:30

14. Post-Facts, Big Data: Bias and Denialism in Modern America

How do we reconcile having an endless amount of data at our fingertips with our post-fact world? Some people claim that facts don’t matter even as companies continue to generate more data. Some people refuse to agree on a set of facts before having a conversation, which undermines civil discourse. Many assume that algorithms reduce bias and produce non-refutable facts. This is not necessarily true. This class will explore these issues through a variety of topics including, but not limited to, the delivery of medical care, high frequency asset trading, weather and climate forecasting, the allocation of scarce resources. Selected readings -- including Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction and Atul Gawande’s Checklist Manifesto, and Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise -- will facilitate an exploration of the relationships among big data, bias and facts. Seminar participants will select individual topics of interest to research throughout the semester.  

Professor: Pete Sak, Earth Science
Time: MF 11:30

15.  ID: Self-Portraiture and Notions of Identity 

Who are you? Throughout the recorded history of art there are countless examples of artists attempting to capture and project some essential sense of self.  Often transcending mere representational likeness, many artists engage with the identification of self as it is situated socially and perhaps institutionally - one’s “I.D.” - and also with a sometimes playful approach to the psychoanalytic dimensions of the “id.”  The distance between subject and object collapses in the form of a self-portrait, as the artist considers his or her role as a corporeal, mortal, and artistic being.  The resulting art objects are not bound by these physical restraints, and serve instead as a symbol of or stand-in for the anxiety, labor, and individuality of one’s amorphous ID.   Students in this class will respond to the commonalities and inconsistencies of self-portraiture by researching and writing about the complicated construction of identity beyond the simple mirroring of one’s outward appearance. Additionally, this class will consider what it means to represent oneself as an art object, and also question how the human form—as both an individual entity and representative of a larger collective—may be conveyed through art.  Throughout the semester our investigation of self-portraiture will periodically be punctuated by visits to art studios and museums, art making exercises, and a collaborative curatorial experience.

Professor: Anthony Cervino, Art & Art History
Time: MF 11:30

16.  Science for $1000: A Nation in Jeopardy

Is science in decline in the United States? Has Americans’ interest in pure science waned? Are we falling behind in science education as a nation? What is “bad science”?  Sociologist Yu Xie observes that “Americans like to talk about politicians, entertainers, athletes, writers, and entrepreneurs, but rarely, if ever, scientists.” He recalls an elite dinner of six academics from top-notch U.S. universities, at which the host posed the question: “Who are the most important U.S. scientists today?”  Not one could name a single outstanding contemporary U.S. scientist! Is it possible that Americans support science even though they themselves have little interest in it?  This seminar will examine these and related questions with the goal of understanding how scientific we are as a country.  We will discuss broad topics such as scientific literacy, science education, the role of government in science, the globalization of science, and pseudoscience.  We will delve into the scientific process, focusing on how new ideas are introduced and how they become accepted.  Students will contribute to the selection of additional popular topics such as vaccine skepticism.  Readings will be drawn from newspapers, articles, and books such as Hazen and Trefil’s Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy; Allison Kaufman’s Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science; and Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstitions, and Other Confusions of our Time.  Through discussion and frequent writing, we will ultimately decide how confident we are with scientific truths.  Students will have the opportunity to produce podcasts or talks similar to TED talks that report both false and valid scientific claims or discoveries. 

Professor: Cindy Samet, Chemistry
Time: MWF 11:30

17.  Terminator vs. Astro Boy: Robots in Fantasy and Real Life

Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics have raised hopes and fears about the future of humanity. Some look forward to a techno-utopian fusion of human and machines, while others fear the dystopian collapse of civilization in a robot apocalypse. Such visions have a long history in the West, but not all places view robots and man-machine hybrids in the same way. In this course, we will explore depictions of robotics technologies in film and literature over time and across culture. We will look, in particular, at different imaginations of intelligent machines in Japanese and American science fiction. We will also examine the real effects of robotics technologies and other “smart” things on everyday life. The course will conclude with a debate on the ethical issues provoked by our increasingly roboticized present. 

Professor: Shawn Bender, East Asian Studies
Time: MF 11:30

18.  Reading Race: Culture Wars & Civil Rights

How do we talk about race and racism in an increasingly divided world? What is this thing called “race,” and how is it constructed in different countries and contexts? This seminar will examine these foundational questions through a wide range of literary and cultural texts from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Malaysia. In each unit, organized by geographical region, we will trace the origins of race and racism, delineating how they have shaped some of the most prominent civil rights struggles and culture wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. These include, for example, the Black Lives Matters movement in the United States, Islamophobia in the United Kingdom, and Indigenous activism in Malaysia. Students will develop close and contextualized analyses of texts including the Peabody-nominated podcast, “Seeing White;” When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (2018) by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele; Kamila Shamsie’s novel, Home Fire (2017) on love and loyalty in the age of ISIS; and the Malaysian documentary, A Time to Swim (2018), on Indigenous activist Mutang Urud. Course activities will include a field trip to Ellis & Liberty Island to experience the history of U.S. immigration, as well as discussions with guest speakers whose work illuminates our texts. Over the course of the semester, students will develop individual blogs devoted to a specific civil rights issue of their choice. On this platform, they will curate reflections on a selection of primary and secondary sources, in preparation for a final OpEd on their topic. With Prof. Menon’s assistance, interested students will have the opportunity to pitch their OpEd to local or national media publications. Through in-depth research, writing, and discussions, students will learn to articulate informed, ethical viewpoints on urgent and complex issues.

Professor: Sheela Jane Menon, English
Time: MWF 11:30

19.  Speaking Truth to Power

What does it mean to speak truth to power? What responsibilities do you have as a speaker? What responsibilities do you have as a listener? In this seminar, we will investigate four kinds of speaking truth to power. First, we will consider examples of speaking truth to those who abuse their power, including examples of speaking truth to power from The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and Saturday Night Live. Second, we will study examples of speaking truth to those who consider themselves saviors. We will watch Boy Erased (2018) and read excerpts from Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same title detailing his experiences with "conversion therapy." Third, we will take a look at examples of speaking truth to institutional power. We will watch Spotlight (2015) and read the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court grand jury report on sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Finally, we will consider speaking truth to those who ought to be allies. We will read Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," Audre Lorde's "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," and Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" This seminar will develop your argumentative writing, critical thinking, and ethical reasoning skills. We will explore how to best speak and listen with power dynamics and social justice in mind. 

Instructors: Amy McKiernan, Philosophy; Noreen Lape, Writing Program
Time: MF 11:30

20.  Passport to South America: Ecocritical Journeys through Contemporary Literature

Passport: To Argentina, Chile, Ecuador.

Itinerary: A literary tour through South American mines, rivers, and jungles (look out for snakes and ocelots!). After briefly delving into ecocritical approaches to literature, we will begin our journey in South America through the translated works of several renowned authors, including “The Devil’s Pit” by Baldomero Lillo (1867-1923), “Anaconda” by Horacio Quiroga (1878-1937), “The Tree” by María Luisa Bombal (1910-1980), The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepúlveda (1949-), and poetry selections by Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), and Leonel Lienlaf (1969-). How can our understanding and application of ecocriticism be useful to our reading, researching, and writing processes related to such texts? Equipped with an understanding of how scholars have analyzed the works with an ecocritical eye, we will offer our original interpretations of the material studied. In class discussions and through our writing, we will engage with the existing scholarship and demonstrate how our voices contribute to it. Films used to enrich our conversations may include: SubTerra (2003), The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (2001), and Neruda (2016). Pack your (book)bags, your literary tour awaits!

Instructor: Angela DeLutis-Eichenberger, Spanish & Portuguese
Time: MF 11:30

21. Just Kidding: The Nature of Humor and Its Place in the Good Life

Philosophers, for the most part, tend to be in the business of analyzing those concepts that are most central to the human experience, such as the concepts of truth, beauty, and justice. But despite its obvious importance to human happiness, philosophers have had surprisingly little to say about the concept of humor. What is it, exactly, that makes something funny? If humor, like beauty, is supposed to be “in the eye of the beholder,” why do so many people agree on who or what are the best comedies, comedians, or comedic actors? What is the purpose of humor or comedy? Is it merely to entertain? Or should it do something more than this? And is there such a thing as an “ethics” of humor? Does laughing at a racist or sexist joke mean that you are a racist or sexist person? When is it okay, or not okay, to laugh? This seminar will be divided into three sections: the first focuses on the main philosophical theories of humor; the second focuses on the aesthetics of humor; and the third focuses on the ethics of humor. Our readings will be mostly philosophical, spanning from Plato and Aristotle to the present day. And class meetings will be mostly discussion-based, often prompted by video clips, some funnier than others, some more controversial than others.

Instructor: James Sias, Philosophy
Time: MWF 12:30

22.  Cancelled

23.  Ideas That Have Shaped the World

Why do ideas matter? What is the relationship between the individual and the community? How can we define human nature? What is justice? Are there universal moral principles? Or are our actions considered moral according to the moment and place in which we find ourselves? Explore these and other fundamental issues of humanistic inquiry through a series of compelling and influential texts. Students will read and discuss the work of authors as diverse as Homer, Plato, Augustine, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Jefferson, Marx, Du Bois, Duras, and Achebe.  The reading list is focused around the question, “How do the ideas of these authors – all from different cultures and eras -- resonate across time and help us to understand our present experience within a global community?” Furthermore, studying carefully the work of outstanding thinkers, readers, and writers is one of the best ways to learn to read, think, and write well. The seminar also features six plenary lectures by visiting speakers and Dickinson faculty on themes and issues central to the readings.

Instructor: Chelsea Skalak, English
Time: MF 11:30

24.  Ideas That Have Shaped the World

Why do ideas matter? What is the relationship between the individual and the community? How can we define human nature? What is justice? Are there universal moral principles? Or are our actions considered moral according to the moment and place in which we find ourselves? Explore these and other fundamental issues of humanistic inquiry through a series of compelling and influential texts. Students will read and discuss the work of authors as diverse as Homer, Plato, Augustine, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Jefferson, Marx, Du Bois, Duras, and Achebe.  The reading list is focused around the question, “How do the ideas of these authors – all from different cultures and eras -- resonate across time and help us to understand our present experience within a global community?” Furthermore, studying carefully the work of outstanding thinkers, readers, and writers is one of the best ways to learn to read, think, and write well. The seminar also features six plenary lectures by visiting speakers and Dickinson faculty on themes and issues central to the readings.

Instructor: Peter Schadler, Religion
Time: MF 11:30

25.  Myth, Religion, and the Creative Impulse

This seminar will explore the ways various artists both shape and are shaped by religiously and mythically related concepts such as transcendence, immortality, sacred spaces and worship.  The course will construe these terms broadly, investigating examples of “secular myth” in the arts, (such as the “circle of life” in The Lion King, baseball in Field of Dreams or the mythic elements of Red Dead Redemption), in addition to more conventional forms of eastern and western religious thought.   Through readings in comparative religion, anthropology and the arts, and by examining films, music, drama and paintings and architecture, we will pursue an understanding of how engaging the infinite inspires many artists’ work.  Each student will choose an appropriate artistic work and present/analyze it as their contribution to the seminar.

Instructor: Todd Wronski, Theatre & Dance
Time: MWF 11:30

26.  Thoreau and American Nature Writing

Why have I titled our seminar "Thoreau and American Nature Writing?" Because Henry David Thoreau produced the ur-text, the foundational document, of American nature writing, and because the tradition that followed him has proven so important to the wider tradition of American literature. Nature writing of this kind may, in fact, be the only unique genre that America has contributed to world literature. How will we proceed? Our readings will be drawn from the following texts: Walden (Thoreau), Sand County Almanac (Aldo Leopold), Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey), Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Annie Dillard), The Land of Little Rain (Mary Austin), The End of Nature (Bill McKibben). We will also look at poems and prose extracts by William Blake, William Wordsworth, Robert Frost, and Mary Oliver. The dates of composition of these texts range from the 1790s to our own decade. Although much has changed over the years covered by this time span, the central focus of our seminar's inquiry--the connection of humans to the natural world--has not changed. Why write about nature at all? What obligation, if any, does each of us have to nature? Are such questions even useful as ways of interpreting our experience? By examining the complexities of these ideas, we will explore various ways of defining ourselves and our relation to the world outside us.

Instructor: Ash Nichols, English
Time: MF 11:30

27.  A Parliament of Things: Representing Nature in Politics and Policy

When in the course of the American Revolution, individuals other than propertied white males demanded the vote, founding father John Adams wrote in a mixture of irritation and alarm: “There will be no End of it!” He was right. Men without property, people of color, women, the young, gays and other human beings demanded their rights. Once such demands and declarations run their course, will we have reached or neared “the End of it”? What about nonhumans like trees and wolves and natural objects like rivers and mountains? They cannot demand rights for themselves.  But should they not have legal standing and a voice in decisions that affect them? Do new laws, institutions, and practices need to be invented or discovered to represent the natural world fairly, and in time? In short, do trees have rights? Can nature speak? We will explore such questions from a variety of philosophical, political, scientific, artistic and literary perspectives. We’ll also take a walk or two in the woods near Carlisle to try to gauge what nature might have to say about such matters, and the prospect for creating what the philosopher Bruno Latour has called “A Parliament of Things.”

Instructor: David Strand, Political Science
Time: MWF 11:30

28.   Pensar en la Pelota: Thinking about Soccer Culture in Latin America

Why is soccer (Brazilian futebol or Spanish American fútbol/futbol or simply football to the rest of the English-speaking world) more than a sport, more than just a game? With billions of fans across the planet, why is it the world’s most popular sport? In what ways can soccer have a uniquely positive influence on society and in what ways can it be used for destructive purposes? According to Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, “pocas cosas ocurren, en América Latina, que no tengan alguna relación, directa, con el fútbol” (few things happen in Latin America, that are not directly related to soccer).  More than any other sport, the common language found in this simple game of soccer transcends geographical borders and barriers of identity. Latin America is a complex, culturally and linguistically diverse geopolitical space, yet in Portuguese-speaking Brazil and almost every Spanish-speaking country throughout the region, the ubiquity of soccer remains an undeniable common thread. The populist nature of soccer has been both celebrated and criticized by Latin American intellectuals nearly since its arrival to the Americas in the late-nineteenth century. While soccer play and spectatorship can be powerful vehicles for connecting and unifying communities, the modern game continues to endure rampant corruption, discrimination and violence that tarnish the ideals of Fair Play. With a focus on reading, writing, discussing, debating and thinking about societal issues surrounding the game (such as injustice and inequality) as it is experienced throughout Latin America and the impact that both the beautiful and ugly elements of the game have on individual and collective identities (nation/region, sex/gender, ethnicity, class, education and religion), this course aims to develop critical thought by examining cultural production (literature, film and art) of soccer from Latin America and scholarship on sport and society to gain a greater understanding of the global phenomenon that takes place in stadiums, fields, and homes across the continent (and the planet). Students will write short analytical papers with drafts and revisions. In addition, each student will conduct independent research, write a research essay and present on a topic that addresses an impact of soccer on society through interpretive analysis of soccer fiction. Opportunities will also be given to increase understanding of soccer culture in Latin America through informal writing and reflective experiential learning opportunities. 

Instructor: Shawn Stein, Spanish & Portuguese
Time: MF 11:30

29. Cancelled

30.  Water: From Abundant Resource to Scarce Good

Water plays a crucial role in so many aspects of our life. We expect potable water supplies for drinking, cooking, bathing and flushing. We need water to grow our food and fight our fires. We enjoy water for recreation: from fishing to whitewater rafting. Impressive feats of engineering have allowed us to move water to where we want it. Innovations and improvements in water delivery and treatment have increased life expectancy. Yet we are not managing our water sources well. Many people live without access to improved water supplies and we are contaminating and depleting water resources. This seminar will explore how we use water resources at the local, national, and international level. We will make field trips to the Dickinson College Farm and Yellow Breeches, the Carlisle water treatment plant, and the Cumberland County wastewater treatment plants. You will learn how domestic water supply has improved over time, about institutional rules and water rights in different locations, and pressing challenges facing policy makers today. Working in small groups, you will have the opportunity to research a water management challenge of your choice.

Instructor: Nicola Tynan
Time: MWF 12:30

31.  Ouija Board to Big Data: Possibility, Probability, and Prediction

Today’s world is full of uncertainty and scholars from a variety of disciplines ask questions about what will happen in the future. Economists want to know when global recessions will strike. Climate scientists ask what effect rising temperatures will have on coastlines. Political scientists make claims about what laws might pass during the current Congress and who the next president will be. Outside the academic realm, we all engage in predictions. Should I carry an umbrella because it might rain this afternoon? Will the Phillies win the World Series this year? Whether we immediately recognize it or not, all these questions rely on data and probability. In this seminar, we will discuss mathematical concepts like probability and statistical inference and think about how those ideas inform our understanding of the world. The majority of the class will focus on predictions and data within a social science context – politics; economics; sociology; and law. We will read Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise, Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez’s Math on Trial, and a selection of other texts examining how (and if and when) data analysis aids us in predicting the future. Finally, students will have the opportunity to work on their own data-oriented project where they collect, analyze, and present data in a way that is compelling and accessible to their colleagues. 

Instructor: Sarah Niebler, Political Science
Time: MWF 12:30

32.  Help Yourself: Thoughtful Consumption of Advice in Books and Other Media

Have you ever searched the Internet for advice on how to stop procrastinating or been drawn in by a “self-help” book or article that promises to show you how to become a millionaire by spending more time with your dog (or something equally implausible)?  Did you wonder if the advice you were getting was any good or based on nothing more than wishful thinking and a catchy title?  In this seminar, we will explore popular advice in books and other media on topics like how to succeed in college or get rich quick.  We will examine the strength of statistical and other evidence offered to support this advice and discuss how to decide what guidance is worth pursuing.  Students will also have the opportunity to explore advice regarding a topic of personal interest to them and share their findings with the class at the end of the semester.

Instructor: Tracey McKay, Mathematics & Computer Science
Time: MF 11:30

33.  Into the Wild: Exploring the American Wilderness

Walk northeast from the Dickinson College Farm and within minutes you will arrive at the Appalachian Trail, a footpath that stretches about 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. Each year, millions of Americans walk the Trail and visit other protected areas to immerse themselves in “wilderness.” In contemporary literature and film, wilderness is often portrayed as a refuge, a place to get away from it all. But does the term “wilderness” evoke images of peace and serenity or of voracious beasts for you? How do values with regards to wilderness differ between people and over time? This course explores the evolution of attitudes and policy toward wilderness in the United States. Through various readings, discussions, films, and short field trips, students will analyze the environmental effects of these practices as well as the social implications with respect to race, gender, and socioeconomic status which has largely influenced who is tasked with preservation and who has access to the wilderness.

Instructor: Maiko Arashiro, Environmental Studies
Time: MF 11:30

34.  Black Magic: The Contributions and Influence of Artists of the Harlem Renaissance

“There’s someone waiting there who makes it seem like Heaven up in Harlem.” Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Alvin Ailey, “Fats” Waller, Langston Hughes, Ethel Waters, William Grant Still, and Paul Robeson--some of the most original artists in American jazz, popular song, dance, and theatre--were born of the Harlem Renaissance.  In this course, we will examine these prominent figures, their works, and their lasting effects on our American landscape.  Learning alongside two related first-year seminars on the Harlem Renaissance, we will study the Great Migration and the birth of the New Negro.  Our specific readings and experiential projects will reflect upon the significance of the movement as it relates to African-American cultural identity and the broader American experience.  The seminar will culminate in a “Cotton Club” symposium of art, food, fashion, music, and dance curated by the participating students. Students will also visit New York City's Shomburg Center in Harlem, as well as other key historic landmarks.

Instructor, James Martin, Music
Time: MWF 11:30

35.  Music, Mediated: How Recording Technology Transformed Music

Until the early 20th-Century, Western music-making required a musician with at least fundamental training and, usually, an instrument.  Hearing a professional musical performance required the listener to be in a specific location at a specific time and for a limited duration.  Audience members typically had some basic musical competence.  Under these special conditions, listening demanded focused concentration.  Until the advent of recording technology, music comprised just those unrepeatable, live events in imperfect settings by imperfect musicians for immediately responsive audiences.  The composer’s ideas were immutable and indisputably his.  (Women were almost entirely excluded, except as performing novelties.)  Clearly, our relationship to music now is dramatically different.  Recording technology has entirely transformed how we experience music, how frequently and where we may experience it.  It has even transformed our perception of music and how we listen.  Further, technology has transformed the status and role of music in society. This course explores those transformations and their repercussions—good and bad—for individuals, society, and the environment.  Topics include primer units on music and acoustics, but the course does not require musical knowledge or proficiency.

Instructor: Robert Pound, Music
Time: MWF 12:30

36.  Cancelled

37.  Biophilia: Human Connections to Other Life Forms

Do we need the natural world? Beyond our needs for resources, how and why do we interact with nature?  For most of our history as a species, we have coevolved with other life forms in natural environments.  Today many humans, and certainly most Americans, grow up in a transformed landscape with little direct experience of other organisms in natural contexts. What are the consequences of this extinction of experience?  As a point of departure, the seminar will consider E.O. Wilson's "biophila hypothesis:" that humans have an innate, evolved, emotional tendency to affiliate with other life forms.  We will evaluate this hypothesis by scientific methods, and explore its implications for citizens of the 21st century.  Areas of inquiry will include definitions of “nature,” ways of valuing nature, conservation science and practice, rights of non-human organisms, nature and mental health, and the substitution of virtual for real experience of nature.  Insofar as some of the meanings of biophilia are subjective and experiential, the seminar will seek to build awareness of biodiversity through field work at the College farm and other locations near campus.

Instructor: Tony Pires, Biology
Time: MF 11:30

38.  The Aesthetics of Freedom: Arts of the Harlem Renaissance

This First Year Seminar course will introduce students to the Harlem Renaissance which is sometimes referred to as the “New Negro Renaissance,” roughly a period from 1920-1940 between World War I and the Great Depression. Students will be introduced to the major intellectual and social issues of this period in American cultural history. While exploring the rich visual arts of the era and through consideration of major visual and literary artists: painters, photographers, filmmakers, and writers, this course probes the impetus behind, meaning, and legacy of a period in American history that saw a surge of African American artistic expressions. It delves into the work of visual artists to present students with a deeper and more complete understanding of the complex and dynamic social, cultural, and political phenomenon known as the Harlem Renaissance. While the Harlem Renaissance was centered in New York City, we will examine the other places in and outside of the U.S., including Africa and the Caribbean in which this cultural movement had tremendous impact. This course is designed to foster critical thinking skills and create clear academic writing; thus, in several concise papers, students will debate and research the social and political nature of African American art as well as the shifting notions of gender and racial expressions as they pertain to the visual arts. Specifically, in class discussions and writing assignments, students will critically reflect on negotiations of racial identity and the meanings of freedom and liberation as they were visualized by these vanguard artists. The course will consist of examining multiple genres including critical essays, poems, and novels, plus a field trip to New York City’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and other historic landmarks in New York City.

Instructor: Jerry Philogene, American Studies
Time: MF 11:30

39.  Sunday Saints, Saturday Night Sinners, and Literary Clubbers: Explorations of Harlem Renaissance Sociality

This course examines the vibrant social milieu of Harlem during the 1920s and its influence on African Americans’ conceptions of living the good northern life, as expressed through novels, poetry, and photography of the Renaissance. We will begin with a discussion of the Great Migration that led African Americans from the South to Harlem in search of this good life, which entailed not only better employment opportunities but also improved social conditions.  Subsequently, we will consider the various social scenes, from nightclubs, rent parties, and literati circles to food and fashion cultures, that vivified their visions of survival and meaningful living.  With the knowledge that we glean from our readings and research, we will complete two projects: informed by a trip to Harlem, students will create a photographic catalogue of Harlem Renaissance sociality (including historic landmarks) using green screen technology and, in collaboration with other classes in our Harlem Renaissance learning community, we will host a “Cotton Club” symposium of art, food, fashion, music, and dance.   

Instructor: Lynn Johnson, Africana Studies
Time: MF 11:30

40.  Ideas That Have Shaped the World

Why do ideas matter? What is the relationship between the individual and the community? How can we define human nature? What is justice? Are there universal moral principles? Or are our actions considered moral according to the moment and place in which we find ourselves? Explore these and other fundamental issues of humanistic inquiry through a series of compelling and influential texts. Students will read and discuss the work of authors as diverse as Homer, Plato, Augustine, Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Jefferson, Marx, Du Bois, Duras, and Achebe.  The reading list is focused around the question, “How do the ideas of these authors – all from different cultures and eras -- resonate across time and help us to understand our present experience within a global community?” Furthermore, studying carefully the work of outstanding thinkers, readers, and writers is one of the best ways to learn to read, think, and write well. The seminar also features six plenary lectures by visiting speakers and Dickinson faculty on themes and issues central to the readings.

Instructor: Christopher Bilodeau, History
Time: MF 11:30

41.  America in the Eyes of the World

This seminar, as its title indicates, will explore the way America (i.e., the United States) and Americans are viewed in various countries throughout the world. The aim of this seminar is to bring the students to shed their ethnocentric views and opinions and to begin looking at their own country from the perspective of other countries and cultures. We will concentrate on continents and countries in which Dickinson has a program of studies and where our students are likely to spend a semester or a year: Latin America (Mexico); Europe (Britain, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Russia); Africa (Cameroon); Asia (China and Japan). We will adopt a historical and cultural approach to determine why each country holds its specific views about the U.S. The course will involve intensive monitoring of the foreign press through the internet and will therefore introduce the students to the major issues in international relations. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 illustrate how essential it is for Americas to become more keenly aware of how their country is perceived throughout the world and this seminar will initiate that process.

Instructor: Dominique Laurent, French and Francophone Studies
Time: MWF 12:30

42.  Cancelled

43.  Cancelled

44.  We’re Not Gonna Take It: Politics and Social Protest in American Popular Music

Following a politically charged Grammy Awards ceremony in January 2018, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley publicly argued for a separation between politics and music. “Don’t ruin great music with trash,” she tweeted. This seminar studies whether American popular music and politics have ever been or can ever be separate and investigates how social change/protest informs popular music and vice versa. Students will interrogate differences between protest music, political music, and socially conscious music.  And we will seek to identify what about a song makes it political. Is protest limited to lyrical content only or can genres, instruments, or modes of production be political? Students will read a combination of primary and secondary sources about music, protest, and political movements. Students will compile an annotated bibliography and write a series of substantive essays based on their research. Finally, students may present their research in in-class presentations. Genres of music we may cover include folk, rock, hip-hop, jazz, blues, R&B, country, heavy metal, punk, disco, funk, top 40, and dance.

Instructor: Stacey Suver, English
Time: MF 11:30