First-Year Seminars (FYSEM)

FYSEM-110 First-Year Seminar

FYSEM-110AM Art and Words

Fall. Credits: 4

True, a picture is worth a thousand words, but how do we know which words to use exactly? In this seminar, we will focus on the work of language in relation to the visual arts, and learn to distinguish between different kinds of writing, including art history, art criticism, poetry and fiction. We will visit the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and the Skinner Museum, and develop provocative ideas about original works of art. We will practice critical thinking and writing on our own, and work collaboratively on various projects. We will find a deeper relationship between words and the arts by expanding our definition of writing to include speaking thoughtfully, listening actively, and cultivating leadership skills by striking idea-driven discussions on the arts.

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

FYSEM-110AS Art and Society

Fall. Credits: 4

This course explores the interconnections between art and society using a sociological lens. We will examine topics such as the social construction of cultural authenticity; the relationship between cultural capital and group boundaries; and the legitimation of art forms.

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-110AV Women, Politics, and Activism in U.S. History

Fall. Credits: 4

From the founding of the United States to the present, how have women taken the lead to act on their visions of a just, righteous, or sustainable world? Where have they planted their feet on colonized ground and insisted on their own sovereignty, freedom, or citizenship? When have they agitated successfully for fundamental change, whether from homes, fields, and factory floors, or from the halls of power? This course addresses conflicting perspectives within women's politics, with attention to histories of racism, radicalism, feminism, and conservatism.

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-110BC Biology of Social Issues

Fall. Credits: 4

This seminar teaches basic biological principles that affect important, complex and often-controversial social issues. We will challenge ourselves to think beyond our comfort zones, exploring difficult questions in topics such as medical and scientific ethics, aging, gender in society and biology, climate change, conservation, evolution and religion, genetic engineering, and fertility. We will explore how our personal beliefs affect our understanding of biological facts, and will study how press coverage can vary from original published scientific studies. We will discuss in class and reflect in writing, developing both the critical thinking skills and the basic biological knowledge of well-informed citizens.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
P. Brennan
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-110CP What's to Be Done About Capitalism?

Fall. Credits: 4

From the writings of Adam Smith in the 18th century to present-day arguments by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the benefits and costs of capitalism in human society have been hotly debated. Do the benefits of capitalism outweigh the costs? Is it possible or desirable to "tame" markets to maintain their good elements while minimizing the harm? How has a debate dominated by Europeans and North Americans considered or overlooked perspectives from the rest of the world? In exploring these questions, we will engage with some of the key thinkers on capitalism from Adam Smith and Karl Marx through major thinkers in both the developed and developing world to the present day.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
C. Mitchell
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-110DV Adventures in Music

Fall. Credits: 4

Designed for students with or without prior musical experience, 'Adventures in Music' explores the materials of music. Through reading, hands-on interaction with instruments and their players, discussions and recordings, students will explore concepts of pitch, time, space, structure and timbre, thereby enriching their perception of the world of sound. The best way to access the indescribable in music is often to make music. With this in mind the class will embark in mini composition projects culminating in a final project that utilizes the knowledge acquired over the duration of the course.

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

FYSEM-110EJ Environmental Justice

Fall. Credits: 4

Environments are never simply natural or given: they are imbued with unequal entanglements of race, gender, class, and power. Environmental justice is concerned with the questions of risk, harm, access, privilege, oppression, and liberation in human-environment relations. This course examines histories and contemporary manifestations of environmental (in)justice in the United States: from colonization and slavery to industrialization, toxic waste, and pollution; food and justice, including race and gender in agricultural labor, food deserts, and food movements; and recent events around water, including hurricanes, toxic water in Flint, Michigan, and oil pipelines through Standing Rock.

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

FYSEM-110EL Politics of the Self

Fall. Credits: 4

In an era where Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are ubiquitous, self-presentation is a constant concern and practice. What are the politics of self-presentation and -cultivation, if any? Do the choices we make about diet, how to dress, where to shop, and our friends have any political valence? To what extent can these choices be thought of as a form of resistance to popular culture in an era where rebellion is marketed to us? This course will probe these questions by considering the connections among self, appearances, discipline, and the way these are dependent upon the recognition of others. Readings will include the Stoics, American transcendentalists, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Foucault.

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

FYSEM-110EQ Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Floods

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-110FD Italian Food Culture Between Tradition and Modern Business

Fall and Spring. Credits: 4

Food is essential for Italian family and society, and the food industry is an important part of the Italian economy. Starting with Carlo Petrini's Italian Slow Food revolution, we will explore and analyze the strong relationship between food, culture and business in modern Italian society. We will read and discuss literary and historical texts, films, and, of course, cookbooks. Taught in English.

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

FYSEM-110FF The Once and Future Family Farm? A Social History of Small-Scale Agriculture

Fall. Credits: 4

Small-scale agriculture fed the world until the middle of the 20th century, and the majority of the world's population farmed small plots in rural areas until the last decade. What role will family farms play in the world we are creating? We examine how small scale agriculture has changed over the past 200 years in East and West Africa, the Andes, China, India, and in the United States, and consider its future. Using recent and classic scholarship, autobiographies, memoirs, archives, and oral histories, we will develop skills in analysis, critical reading, and academic writing. We will visit local farms and interact with farmers on other continents using social media.

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

FYSEM-110GF God, Free Will, and Morality

Fall. Credits: 4

This first year seminar is a critical thinking boot camp. Students will learn to charitably interpret, logically reconstruct, and critically evaluate arguments. The arguments come from classic and contemporary readings in philosophy about God, free will, and morality. We will focus on questions such as: Does God exist? Is it rational to believe in God? What should I do if I want to do the right thing? When is it ok to criticize other cultures? How much do I owe to others? Do we have free will? Can we ever be held responsible for anything? Students will come out of the class better thinkers, better writers, and better equipped to tackle difficult questions like these with rigor and care.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
K. Vavova
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-110LD A Landscape of One's Own

Fall. Credits: 4

This seminar will focus on portrayals of women in nineteenth and twentieth-century America in the context of nature and landscape. We will explore how women, often objectified in visual images set in nature, appropriated established devices or developed new images and structures to represent womanhood in their own terms. With selected works by Thoreau as our springboard, texts will include essays or sketches, short stories, novels, paintings, films, and photography. Virginia Woolf wrote of the need for a woman to have "a room of one's own," a quiet space for creativity and reflection. What emerges in the works of women writers who chose the land beyond that room for their creative space? The course will focus on women who told the stories of their lives in the context of islands, forests, prairies, and deserts of the United States.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
L. Glasser
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-110MA Exploration of Mars

Fall. Credits: 4

Exploration of Mars is an ongoing effort that has greatly expanded our knowledge of the Red Planet and changed our vision of its surface. We will examine the history of the investigation and exploration of Mars. We will also plan future observations from orbiting spacecraft, engage with scientists involved in current missions, and imagine the best ways to explore Mars in upcoming decades. Developing physical intuition and analytical skills in astronomy, geology, physics and other sciences will be emphasized, as well as speaking and writing ability.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Speaking-Intensive, Writing-Intensive
D. Dyar
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-110MM Music in Women's Communities

Fall. Credits: 4

This course surveys music in a range of women's, and womxn's, communities and ensembles-from medieval convents and "all-girl" swing bands to Cuba's Camerata Romeu and the Butterfly Music Transgender Chorus. Although the focus will be on Western art music, we will also encounter women's music from Ghana and Bulgaria, and women's rock/pop festivals and DJ collectives. Performers and conductors will visit the class, and we will learn about the history of music ensembles at the College. You do not need to be a musician or know how to read music; listening across cultures and genres, we will contemplate the opportunities and challenges of womxn-only spaces for music in the twenty-first century.

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

FYSEM-110MV Performance Movement and the Art of Photography

Fall. Credits: 4

This course will examine different perspectives on how photography is viewed in movement and performance. What has historically been the value of the lens in movement, performance and even sports? How do you learn what to look for in taking photos? Who are some of the current and past artists that are recognized for making movement come to life in the camera? Ultimately we will be discussing and writing about how society recognizes the photo as an art form and what are the implications of seeing still photographs of an activity that is meant to be viewed in motion.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
C. Flachs
Restrictions: Mount Holyoke first-year students only, by placement.
Notes: You will be required to use either a cell phone camera or stand alone digital camera for this class.

FYSEM-110MW Mapping the World, the Mind, the Self

Fall. Credits: 4

Maps are essential tools for understanding the world around us. But do our maps show us the world as it is, or do they allow us to choose the world we will see? Texts for the course may include poetry by Elizabeth Bishop, Thomas Hardy and others; short fiction by Borges, Faulkner and others, and visual art from the College Art Museum.

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-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 on-line 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-110PD The Politics of Disruption

Fall. Credits: 4

Uber, Twitter, Facebook, Google -- smart technologies have transformed our world, disrupting old patterns of life, communication, work, and politics. As new technologies push us into an uncertain future, thinking critically about the positive and the negative effects of disruption has never been more important. Using a variety of materials, ranging from political philosophy and historical case studies to popular articles, podcasts, television and film, this course will help students develop their college-level critical thinking skills through exploratory and argumentative writing, personal reflection, engaged learning, and analytical discussion.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
Other Attribute(s): Writing-Intensive
A. Hilton
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-110PH Environmental and Public Health

Fall. Credits: 4

This course offers a broad introduction to the problems and solutions in the field of environmental and public health. Students will read about and discuss issues that occur in both industrialized and developing countries. Topics include the biological, physical, and chemical agents of environmental contamination; methods used in epidemiology and toxicology to evaluate environmental hazards; policies currently in place to reduce health risks and protect populations from exposure; and emerging global environmental health problems.

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

FYSEM-110PQ Politics of Inequality: Social Movements in the U.S.

Fall. Credits: 4

The course explores comparative racial and ethnic politics in the U.S. during the twentieth century. We will analyze the creation and maintenance of structural inequalities through laws and policies targeted at persons of color in the areas of healthcare, transportation, immigration, labor, racial segregation, and education. Through readings, lectures and films, we will discuss critical histories of community struggle against social inequality, registering the central impact that race, class, gender, sexuality, and citizenship have had on efforts toward social justice.

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

FYSEM-110RB Race and Science

Spring. Credits: 4

In Race and Science, we will focus on three themes: our current understanding of human variation based on what we know about human evolutionary history and population genetics; how science has been used to both support and undermine racial categories and hierarchies; and how racial categorization impacts human health and well-being. We will explore these themes through readings, videos, class discussions, student expert panels, and research papers.

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

FYSEM-110RE Religion and Climate Change

Fall. Credits: 4

Religion and climate change might seem to be an odd combination. After all, we tend to imagine religion as the domain of faith, emotion, and the otherworldly and the climate as the realm of science, objective knowledge, and the here and now. Nevertheless, this course investigates their sometimes surprising connections. For example, how do religious communities work to promote or oppose political action on climate change? How do religious conceptions about God's relationship with nature or with humanity impact adherents' views on climate change? How might the futures predicted by climate models and those prophesied in sacred texts affect people's actions today?

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

FYSEM-110SW The Future Is Female: Science Fiction By Women

Fall. Credits: 4

In the genre of science fiction, women authors have always been present if not always as widely known or accepted as their male counterparts. Published in 1818, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is considered the first true science fiction story; in 2018, N.K. Jemisin became the first person ever to win the Hugo award for science fiction/fantasy three years in a row. Many of these authors not only present a rich, imagined world of scientific "what ifs," but also a nuanced, evocative view of possible societies, exploring issues of social justice, race, gender, sexuality, and class -- often at their intersection. This course will explore works of science/speculative fiction by women and nonbinary writers, with the occasional foray into other relevant works of literature, television, film, art, and pop culture.

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

FYSEM-110TA Thinking With Animals

Fall. Credits: 4

From the ancient world to the present day, animals have been captive to the demands of human exceptionalism. Evolutionary theorists, along with critical thinkers from a growing number of disciplines, have interrogated the human-animal binary, asking difficult and provocative questions about the nature of life and the politics of being. In this course, first- year students will explore these issues from a variety of perspectives, revisiting their own assumptions and experiences as they discover works of art and literature that engage directly with animal presence and absence. Special attention will be paid to the discourse of species as it intersects with other forms of difference.

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

FYSEM-110TS The Work of Translation

Fall. Credits: 4

Mount Holyoke's mission is "purposeful engagement in the world" but in a multilingual world, our goal can only be achieved with the help of translators and interpreters. As the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 46% increase in translation work 2012-2022, we consider it as a scholarly, professional and lay activity. Challenging stereotypes of translation as derivative or faulty, we reflect on the wealth of languages and cultures at Mount Holyoke College and how the curriculum depends on the work of translation. Students discuss what is gained, lost or simply transformed in translation. This introduction to translation studies is especially valuable to students with a background or interest in languages.

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