First-Year Seminars (FYSEM)

FYSEM-110 First-Year Seminar

FYSEM-110BD Rooted Movements: Black Dance Culture

Fall. Credits: 4

In this course, we will look at movement as a dance form and as political activism. This will be a literary, media-based, and technical exploration of the history and influence of Black Dance culture. This class will concentrate on understanding the roots, influences, and Africanist presence in American dance culture. Students will be required to think critically and analytically while articulating their thoughts about the material orally and in writing. The classroom experience will seek to understand and appreciate the historical, political, cultural, and social contexts that influenced the creation of Black Dance culture.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
S. Barron
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110BT Talking Robots

Fall. Credits: 4

Have you ever wondered why Siri or Alexa doesn't understand things you say? Or wondered if actual robots can understand language as well as the ones we see in movies? In this seminar we will learn about social robots and what it takes for robots to converse with humans. We will read research conducted by computer scientists, linguists, and psychologists, as well as investigate representations of social robots in popular media and literature.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
H. Pon-Barry
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110CB Cinema and the Brain

Fall. Credits: 4

Cinema is a form of art that uniquely captures and portrays the human mind. In this course we will explore how mental experience is encoded in the brain, using film as our object of study. Students will, through movies, analyze major topics in psychology and neuroscience such as memory, mental time travel, addiction, and empathy. Course readings and class discussion will further offer students the opportunity to develop their critical thinking skills in order to better understand the multiple layers of cognitive processes and behaviors depicted in movies.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
M. Sabariego
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110CL Representative Works of Modern Chinese Literature

Fall. Credits: 4

The twentieth century started with the downfall of the Chinese monarchy, numerous humiliations at the hands of Western countries, and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911. In the spirit of reform and renaissance, a group of young writers, educated in both China and the West, spearheaded a new direction in Chinese literature. This group of writers abandoned the classical Chinese language, was keenly interested in social development and betterment, attacked Confucian tradition, and adopted Western ideals. The class will read representative works of these writers and try to understand their sociopolitical impact, while appreciating the artistic qualities of these writings.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
Y. Wang
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110CU Introduction to Latin American Cultures

Fall. Credits: 4

Examines the confrontation, assimilation, and transformation of Indigenous, African, and European cultures in Latin America from the sixteenth century to the present. Focuses on the processes in which distinctive self-images emerged in the region and how these images have been challenged and changed over time. Uses films, literature, and folk traditions to complement scholarly analysis of the emergence of a New World mentality.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
A. Pitetta
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110CW Goodbye, Conventional Wisdom

Fall. Credits: 4

One of the hallmarks of a liberal arts education is to draw on a broad base of knowledge in order to interrogate common assumptions. No one exemplifies this critical approach better than French philosopher Michel Foucault. One of the most influential thinkers of recent times, Foucault revolutionized several academic disciplines and even questioned the very notion of a discipline itself. He did so by revealing the history and transformations of ideas now viewed as self-evident. This first-year seminar invites students to develop similar analytical skills. Following Foucault's lead, the course pays special attention to preconceptions about government, freedom, identity, and sexuality.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
J. Crumbaugh
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110CX Climate Change: Myth or Reality

Credits: 4

Described by some as "...the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," and "the most important environmental issue of our time" by others, climate change has become a significant polarizing issue in our society. This course examines the science of climate change. How does the climate system work, what do we know about past (geologic) climate change and what is the evidence that humans are warming the planet? What are the implications of a warmer world?

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
A. Werner
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110DC Chinese Diasporic Communities Around the World: History, Identity, and Race

Fall. Credits: 4

How does a study of the Chinese diasporic communities in Southeast Asia, the U.S., and other parts of the world help us rethink concepts of 'Chinese-ness'? We seek to answer the question in this introductory history seminar on the Chinese diaspora. Coverage spans from the 1500s to the present. Readings focus on the question of Chinese-ness as constructed and negotiated by different groups and individuals. Themes include imperialism, race, ethnicity, gender, nationalism, transnationalism, orientalism, hegemony, and globalization.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
R. Chu
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110DM The Mathematics of Perspective Drawing

Fall. Credits: 4

How do we calculate the optimal viewing distance of a painting? If we are drawing a building, how do we decide which lines are parallel and which intersect? Renaissance artists answered both questions using the idea of linear perspective. We will use the mathematics of perspective drawing to solve visual puzzles, create drawings, and analyze works from the collection of the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. Readings and writings will invite students to think about the nature of perception and how we describe the world around us.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
J. Sidman
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110EQ Disaster Science: Earthquakes, Floods, and Volcanoes

Fall. Credits: 4

This course explores the sometimes catastrophic intersection of geology with people's lives. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and floods are geologic events; they are also natural hazards that pose significant challenges to communities in high risk areas. Where are these risky areas? Why? Is it possible to predict when and where catastrophic geologic events will occur? How do we assess geological risks? Using case studies from around the world, we explore these three natural hazards in the context of evolving geologic research on plate tectonics and climate change.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
M. Markley
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110GP Gender and Power in the History of Mount Holyoke College

Fall. Credits: 4

Mary Lyon, founder in 1837 of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, held out to her students the possibility that they might transform the world around them -- a tall order for young women who were excluded from proper citizenship and political power. Duty, discipline, and economy would make it possible. What transformations ensued? And what can we learn from them about the complexities of gender and power in worlds shaped by racism, colonialism, capitalist development, national aspirations, Protestant dominance, and normative regimes of gender, sexuality, and bodily comportment? This course will introduce students to the richness of the College Archives and the possibilities of historical thinking.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
M. Renda
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110HD Childhood

Fall. Credits: 4

Did you really learn everything you needed to know in kindergarten? In this course we will explore how children's development, with a focus on early childhood (ages 0-8), is shaped by the family, school, community, cultural, and policy contexts in which they participate and live. We will read research conducted by psychologists, sociologists, and education researchers, as well as investigate representations of childhood in popular media and literature.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
J. Jacoby
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110HP Happiness and the Good Life

Fall. Credits: 4

This course introduces the skills needed to navigate college, with a focus on philosophical writing, analysis and argument. Our topic is happiness and 'the good life.' Happiness is something we all want but often struggle to define. We will look at what philosophers have said about the nature and importance of happiness in our lives, as well as recent positive psychology literature on what makes us happy and why. While we draw from multiple disciplines the emphasis of the class is on philosophical analysis and argument. Students will learn to integrate campus resources, such as LITS and the SAW Center, into their coursework, as they hone skills in clear, rigorously argued, analytic writing.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
L. Sizer
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110LG Slang: Community/Power/Language

Fall. Credits: 4

Language is a living system. It grows and changes, despite efforts to preserve it. This course examines how slang participates in these changes. What separates slang from standard language, and who sets the standard? Through readings in linguistics and literature, this course examines how we use language to connect, create, and control.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
M. Shea
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110MK Race in the Marketplace

Fall. Credits: 4

This course looks at the central concerns of consumer culture through the lens of race and ethnicity. Through exploring issues such as multicultural marketing and advertising, discrimination in e-commerce, consumer boycotts, and urban food deserts, students will gain theoretical and empirical insight on the ways that racial and ethnic boundaries shape, and are shaped by, consumption.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
P. Banks
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110ML U.S. Multiethnic Literatures: Refracting America

Fall. Credits: 4

This course examines African American, Asian American, Chicana/o-Latina/o, and Native American literature and cultural politics. Examining the historical intersection of race, gender, and sexuality, we will explore themes of cultural identity, segregation and community formation, citizenship, labor, class, and family. Authors may include Toni Morrison, Danzy Senna, Josefina López, Sherman Alexie, Junot Díaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Joy Kogawa.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
I. Day
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110NA The Imitation of Nature

Fall. Credits: 4

The imitation of nature has been one of the inspiring principles of human thought and technical advancement across the ages. Following the threads that link the ancient theories of Aristotle to the Renaissance inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci, in this course we explore the complex interaction between humans and nature, up to the contemporary development of artificial intelligence and robotics.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
M. Lovato
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110ND Nomads!

Fall. Credits: 4

In this first year seminar, we will learn how to use primary textual and visual sources to critically analyze everyday life of the nomadic communities living in Central Eurasian and Inner Asia steppes, such as the Mongols and the Scythians; and of the Lakota and the Comanche peoples in the Great Plains in North America. Their histories are often told against the rise of their rival powers, mostly sedentary ones. Students will listen to interviews, speak with leading historians on these subjects, study art, and read accounts by and about these nomads. Taken together, we study how certain communities came to be represented and misrepresented in the history and contemporary imagination of others.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
L. Wu
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110NN The Nonhuman

Credits: 4

This course will examine representations of figures not considered human, focusing on the nonhuman animal, with attention to the monster and the machine. We will analyze the literary and visual techniques with which these figures are depicted, the social and political concerns they address, and the tenuous boundary between human and nonhuman. Authors and filmmakers may include Cronenberg, Fowler, Hitchcock, Hurston, Kafka, London, Martel, Poe, Reichardt, Sewell, Spiegelman, Wells, and Woolf.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
E. Young
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110NP New American Opera

Fall. Credits: 4

Since 1980 more than 300 operas have been premiered in the United States. These works collectively represent a major change in creative direction, creating new opportunities for hitherto unrepresented and underrepresented voices. New development processes have allowed the art form to be newly responsive to the issues of our time. We will attend at least one performance of a new opera during the course, practice critical thinking and writing on our own, and work collaboratively on various projects thus exploring this new and rapidly evolving scene, listening deeply, and exploring texts that are shaping a brave new world of music.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
T. Ng
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110NR International Human Rights in Global Politics

Fall. Credits: 4

What are human rights? Can you list them -- and, is there a list somewhere? Does it matter? Do some people in the world have more access to human rights than others? Why? This seminar examines the origins, evolution, and practices of human rights ideas, norms, and institutions in global politics. We will explore the wide range of debate and controversy regarding human rights: are human rights universal (i.e. rights inherent in all human beings) or do they originate and obtain only in specific cultural contexts. Are human rights individual or collective? Should we prioritize various types of rights over others (i.e., civil and political rights vs. social, cultural, and economic)? We will examine how concepts like state sovereignty and power affect our consideration of these questions, as well as how well states and international organizations adhere to human rights norms and institutions. We will review how non-governmental advocacy organizations mobilize around human rights and the conditions under which they are (and are not) successful. Finally, we will examine how human rights have evolved and changed over time and whose voices are, and are not, reflected in national and international debates.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
J. Western
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110PC Op-ed: Writing on Politics, Culture, and the Arts

Fall. Credits: 4

We will read and discuss current writing on politics, culture and the arts. Drawn from a variety of print and online sources (including The New Yorker, Arts and Letters Daily, and Bomb), subjects will range from literature, cinema, and art to international politics, crime, and celebrity culture. Using strategies and techniques learned from the readings, students will write essays and articles of their own.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
P. Scotto
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110PE Performing the Self

Fall. Credits: 4

How do we represent ourselves as we document our lives and communicate with others? In this seminar we will move beyond critiques of selfie culture, instead analyzing self-representation as an important avenue for forming identities. We will study forms of self-representation across history and will focus on visual and new media as platforms for performing selfhood. Students will discuss the politics and aesthetics of self-fashioning across these media forms, and will execute multiple forms of self-expression, including the argumentative essay, the op-ed, the blog post, and the tweet.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
H. Goodwin
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110PS Self-Portraiture

Fall. Credits: 4

How do we represent ourselves? How can the self -- that is to say, subjective experience, private life, identity, consciousness -- be translated into written form? How, in turn, does writing fashion and construct the self? Throughout history, authors and thinkers have engaged these questions in countless texts and textual forms -- in essays, confessions, autobiographies, and poetry. This seminar will sample influential and innovative works of literary self-portrayal from around the world, exploring how a wide variety of writers have rendered themselves in language, narrative, and text. Authors may include Augustine, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Joyce, Nabokov, and Plath.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
S. Roychoudhury
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110PT Politics and Truth

Fall. Credits: 4

What is the relationship between truth and politics? Does democracy require truth or pervert it? Can truth thrive in any type of government? What's really at stake here? In this course, we will explore a variety of classic texts, ranging from such authors as Plato to Karl Marx to Hannah Arendt to Martin Luther King, Jr. to contemporary feminist theorists. We will focus on developing the ability to reflect on your own beliefs, analyze authors' arguments, and to articulate and defend your own perspective.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
E. Markovits
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.
Advisory: for students in their first two semesters at the College only

FYSEM-110PZ Interweaving Themes in Physics and Art

Fall. Credits: 4

Physics and art represent the world in seemingly different ways. They share, however, many common themes: the guiding role of symmetry, the tension between order and disorder, and the emergence of structure from many simple constituents. We will explore some of the big ideas in physics, including quantum mechanics, relativity, entropy, and chaos theory, by looking at how these underlying themes are represented in the visual arts. Islamic tessellations, Japanese Suminagashi paper marbling, and works by contemporary artists will guide us toward an intuitive understanding of some of the most exciting ideas in physics, without the need for any prior physics background.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
S. Smith
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110RJ Explorations in Restorative Justice

Fall. Credits: 4

This course is a first year seminar on the principles and practices of restorative justice. Restorative justice is a movement that seeks to reimagine justice by building on indigenous theories and practices of human community. Students examine principal restorative justice models and programs for how they understand and respond to harm, especially as they reflect the accountability of key stakeholders (victims, offenders, communities and justice systems). Restorative justice approaches are contrasted with conventional western ways of addressing harm, be they small or large ruptures in the social fabric. The ideas of key activists and theorists in restorative justice circles are critically engaged in institutional settings ranging from schools to prisons.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
L. Wilson
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110RT Reproductive Rights and the State

Fall. Credits: 4

What is the role of governments in regulating human reproduction? How has this changed throughout the 20th and 21st century? Is reproduction an area of our private lives that should be left outside the realm of government? Or is the state actually needed to safeguard our reproductive rights? This course analyzes the history of reproductive policies in the US and compares it with cases from the global South. From family planning to population control, from woman's right to reproductive justice, we will analyze the evolution of language to name this policy arena and the way this has affected policy design. Through the use of a variety of primary and secondary sources, this course will help students improve their critical thinking, argumentative writing, and analytical skills.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
C. Fernandez Anderson
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110SD Performing the Self: Shakespeare and Identity

Fall. Credits: 4

Best known as one of the literary canon's pillars, Shakespeare has also provided multiple templates for artists and storytellers who wish to challenge traditional concepts of literature, theatre, and history. Our class will explore four of Shakespeare's plays through the lens of identity, both those forms extant in Shakespeare's own time and those articulated in various contemporary adaptations, both stage and screen. In particular, we will focus on BIPOC, postcolonial, and LGBTQ adaptations.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
A. Rodgers
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110SR Stress and Resilience

Fall. Credits: 4

Is it true that what does not kill us makes us stronger? What is stress management? What is "stress culture"? This first year seminar will explore these questions, focusing on the relationship between stress and resilience. We will consider different ideas about stress, adaptive coping, psychological and resilience and their relationship to psychological and physical well-being. We will consider cultural differences in approaches to stress, as well as explore the impact of stress on our lives and society.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
A. Douglas
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110SX Sexuality and Society

Fall. Credits: 4

What is the impact of what is included and excluded in formal sex education programs? What does it mean to maintain good sexual health? How does sexual identity relate to behavior and attraction? As a class, we will explore sexuality at an individual, interpersonal, community, and societal level. Primary topics will include sex education, sexual identity, health, consent, relationships, and media portrayals of sexuality.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
C. Flanders
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110TC Why Are We Divided: Inequality, Politics, and Populism

Fall. Credits: 4

This course explores the intersection of inequality and politics in the United States. We begin the course with an examination of racial, gender, and class inequalities in the U.S. The next section of the class considers the ways in which these inequalities both reflect and influence political divisions in the U.S. today. We end the course with an analysis of populism. While focusing primarily on the Trump campaign and presidency, we will also examine populist movements throughout the globe.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
K. Tucker
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110TG Transgressive Music

Fall. Credits: 4

The seminar will introduce and discuss various musical works and genres that fall under rock critic Ann Powers' definitions of 'Violator Art,' exploring them within the context of their wanton and disturbing appeal, as well as their often scandalous social impact. Topics will include the Second Viennese School, free jazz, protest music, punk rock, hip-hop, works such as J. S. Bach's 'Cantata No. 179,' Strauss's 'Salome,' Stravinsky's 'Le Sacre du printemps,' Billie Holiday's 'Strange Fruit,' George Crumb's 'Black Angels,' and artists such as Laurie Anderson, the Sex Pistols, Missy Elliot, and Nirvana.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
D. Sanford
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.
Notes: Students should be prepared for mature themes and some coarse language.

FYSEM-110TL Across World Regions: Italy Between Europe and the Mediterranean

Fall. Credits: 4

Thinking of Italy as both a European and a Mediterranean country, this course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the cultural complexity of the Mediterranean region. Shifting perspectives between European, Middle Eastern and Global studies, we will focus on how Italian writers, poets and critical thinkers, from the classic to the contemporary period, have thought about Italy among European and Mediterranean nations, religions, and cultures. We will cover some of the most important developments in Italy's culture, history and literature, and will question key concepts in geography, history and literature to explore the complexity of the Mediterranean region and of the contemporary world.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
M. Lovato
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110TP How to Build an Octopus: An Exploration of Animal Bodies

Fall. Credits: 4

How have animal bodies developed to meet the challenges of living on earth? We will study the common needs of animals -- such as eating, breathing, and moving -- and the design constraints these place on living bodies. We will also examine the manner in which cells come together to make biomaterials like bones, beaks, and beetle wings, and the way a squishy animal fashions a skeleton from water. Finally, we will trace these same principles of tissue design to better understand the potentials and pitfalls of lab-grown organs.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
S. Bacon
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.

FYSEM-110UA Adolescence in the U.S. Today

Fall. Credits: 4

What does it mean to be an adolescent? Popular culture has a lot to say about this life stage, not all of it rooted in evidence. In this course, we will examine the range of adolescent experiences in the United States and critically question common assumptions. We will consider how social context and relationships influence youth as they navigate school, college and career expectations, extracurricular activities, and social media. Our interdisciplinary approach will draw on readings from psychology, sociology, history, education as well as media resources.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
K. O'Carroll
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.