Writing and Therapy
FYS 001, CRN 2931
This course examines the ways in which writing can be therapeutic and the most effective methods for writing therapeutically. This focus allows us to explore different functions and facets of writing; it also allows us to read about and discuss a variety of human experiences, specifically the ways in which different people make sense of illnesses from catastrophic trauma (such as war) to chronic dysfunction (such as manic depression or obsessive compulsive disorder). Reading, writing and discussion are all thoroughly integrated in the course.
Banned Books: Ideology, Suppression, and Censorship
FYS 003, CRN 6453
“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions.” Justice William O. Douglas
This first year seminar will explore, examine, and analyze the practice, function, and ideology of what is commonly known as “book banning.” Often, books are challenged with the “best intentions”—to protect others, frequently children, from “difficult” ideas and information. In order to understand these practices and the ideology behind them, we will read banned books and challenged books as well as a plethora of essays and articles on the topic. The course will focus on the social and cultural ideologies that motivate the restriction of reading materials, primarily in the United States. Throughout the semester, we will try to answer various questions about censorship: What kinds of materials are considered “offensive?” Why do some groups (or individuals) try to restrict access to certain books? What are the motivations of these groups, and what are the functions of censorship? We will also grapple with questions of literary and social value, feminism, sexuality, language, and representation.
Primary texts include Forever (Judy Blume), Annie on My Mind (Nancy Garden), and The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood). Course requirements include weekly writing (in and outside of class), a midterm and a final project.
Social Justice: Confronting Culture, Creating Change
FYS 004, CRN 6788
Social justice is both a process and a goal. The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to their needs. [In a just society…] all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. […] The process for attaining the goal of social justice, we believe, should also be democratic and participatory, inclusive and affirming of human agency and human capacities for working collaboratively to create change.
--Lee Anne Bell
In this course, we will engage in the process of community-based social justice by examining ways to analyze, understand, and resist forms of oppression, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, transgender oppression, religious oppression, classism, ableism, and ageism. Through a variety of in-class activities, writing assignments, and service-learning with our community partners, we will develop the critical tools necessary to understand oppression and our own socialization within oppressive systems and to develop techniques to interrupt and change oppressive patterns and behaviors in ourselves and in the institutions and communities of which we are a part.
Honesty & Lies
FYS 005, CRN 6959
This seminar will explore the sociocultural role of dishonesty, examining the concept through various lenses: literary, philosophical, political, journalistic, academic, and psychological. We will read and discuss theories about lying—why people lie, and the effects of dishonest behavior on the liar and the listener/reader. In particular, we will analyze the prevalence of dishonesty in contemporary American society. Why do so many politicians lie, and how do they justify their behavior? Why do memoirists lie about their lives, and does it matter when they do so? Why do journalists plagiarize? Why do students misrepresent themselves on Facebook? The writer Ralph Keyes alleges that we live in a “post-truth era,” which he describes as an “ethical twilight zone. It allows us to dissemble without considering ourselves dishonest.” We will decide whether or not we agree with his assessment, and talk about the possible impact of post-truth culture.
Decisions and Revisions
FYS 006, CRN 6456
In this course, we will explore "texts"—including novels, short stories, movies, music video, and drama—that take different perspectives on the practices of adaptation and revision. In some cases, the works we read will revise themselves over and over, as with Ken Grimwood's novel Replay. Others, like Krapp's Last Tape, feature characters obsessively reliving (and revising) their own memories of the past. Some—including Mohsin Hamid's How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia—"recycle" popular forms, in this case, self-help literature. Alison Bechdel's graphic memoire Fun Home uses visual depiction to retell difficulty episodes from the author's youth, allowing her and her audience to come to terms with a partly factual, partly fictionalized past. And Joyce Carol Oates's short story retells one of the most famous stories of Russian literature from an alternative point of view. Lars von Trier's film collaboration with Jorgen Leth titled The Five Obstructions will structure our progress through these explorations and experiments. It consists of a short film, "The Perfect Human," and five re-makes and will serve as the inspiration for the six main essay assignments of the course. These assignments will invite participants in the course to engage in their own experiments with revising, adapting, and re-envisioning their work from multiple perspectives and in multiple modes.
Shakespearean Adaptions & Appropriations
FYS 007, CRN 1129
This course will consider the various ways in which Shakespeare’s poetry and plays have been adapted and appropriated over the last 400 years. What makes Shakespeare’s works so ripe for adaptation? Does adaptation and appropriation diminish or enrich Shakespeare’s work? How do the genres or mediums of adaptation shape the message? In addition to studying a selection of Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, we will examine works such as Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Fred Wilson’s “Iago’s Mirror”, Tim Blake Nelson’s O, and Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed, edited by D. Gilson. In this writing intensive course, students will be asked to complete short weekly writing assignments in addition to longer pieces that will be assigned throughout the semester. There will be an emphasis on drafting and revision as well.
Jane Austen: Property and Propriety
FYS 008, CRN 7469
This course will focus on Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey. Our primary focus will be on the role of landscape aesthetics in these novels, reading them as texts that relate to changing notions of the "ideal" place or property. We will read poems about estates and nature to situate these novels within those cultural debates about the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque. We will also consider how these notions of place suggest ideas about national identity, imperialism and other global issues. We will also discuss notions of propriety and what is "proper," considering ideas of boundaries, warnings, and limits of civility. Lastly, we will be considering the extent to which each of these texts challenges notions of neoclassicism and romanticism. We will also watch movie adaptations of these novels (and see clips from movie versions of Pride and Prejudice), read critical essays from the past thirty years, and read shorter texts from 1750-1820.
Dickens Won't Die: 175 Years of Narrative and Adaptation
FYS 009, CRN 6479
Jay-Z, Ludacris, and the Beastie Boys shout out to Charles Dickens. The Decemberists regularly invoke him. Lloyd Jones, a writer in New Zealand, uses a Dickens character created 140 years ago to explore the life of a war-traumatized little girl. Gwenyth Paltrow stars in a film adaptation of the same Dickens book. The Los Angeles Times and several other newspapers report the arrest of Bernie Madoff with astonishment at his resemblance to a Dickens character. Countless television actors (plus Mickey Mouse) have embodied Ebenezer Scrooge. The staying power of Dickens (his works as well as his celebrity) is nearly unrivaled, as is the broad range of artists who have adapted his imaginative creations.
In this seminar, we will study some of Dickens’ original writings and critically analyze works that respond to, reimagine, or adapt Dickens. We will consider questions such as: What do we learn from identifying elements that persist across centuries? What do we learn from seeing what elements of Dickens’ work change over the years? What do adaptations and revisions teach us about contemporary culture, about Victorian culture, and about our own reading practices? Assigned texts will include novels, films, and songs. Students who wish to get a head start will enjoy reading Dickens's Oliver Twist (Penguin edition) over the summer.
The Power of Tradition, Forces of Change: Confucianism and the Succession Crisis of the Wan Li Emperor (1587); Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament, 1529-1536
FYS 010, CRN 6481
This course examines two different cultures, China in 1587 and England in 1529, at points of crisis in leadership and compares their ideas and debates on how to preserve unity, national identity and authority, and yet accommodate changing views of social, economic and religious justice. What are the sources of power of those who govern the society, and what constraints exist on that power? How are the demands of the community (political, religious, or class) balanced with a growing sense of individual liberty? What tensions exist because of differences in wealth and status and attitudes toward economic inequality? Students will explore these questions and attempt to articulate some tentative conclusions about how traditional structures of authority are or are not to be maintained in the face of challenges from new ideas.
Class is conducted not through lecture or discussion but through an elaborate role-playing pedagogy known as “Reacting to the Past,” which seeks to introduce students to major ideas and texts by replicating the historical context in which these ideas acquired significance. Students read classic texts, set in particular moments of intellectual and social foment, which inform the roles they are assigned e.g. The Analects (Confucius), Utopia (Thomas More), The Education of a Christian Prince (Erasmus). They conduct debates, write Parliamentary legislation and propose written bills (Henry Game) or advise the Emperor and write "memorials" (China). Confucianism and the Succession Crisis of the Wanli Emperor introduce students to the suppleness and power of Confucian thought. The game unfolds amidst the secrecy and intrigue within the Forbidden City, as scholars struggle to apply Confucian precepts to a dynasty in peril. Henry VIII and the Reformation Parliament takes up the King’s “great matter” (his desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon) during the tumultuous years 1529-1536. Sir Thomas More has just been named Lord Chancellor after the dismissal of Cardinal Wolsey, while Thomas Cromwell conspires to lead the king’s party to his own ends. Four ideas/issues clash and contend for dominance: medieval Catholicism, Lutheranism, Renaissance Humanism, and Machiavellian statecraft. Students will read works representative of all traditions in each game, will write papers in role, and reflective essays outside of role once the game debates have concluded, in order to explore and reflect upon major issues and perspectives.