FRS 101 Signals, Yardsticks, and Tipping Points of Global Warming and Ocean Environments ST
Shelly and Michael Kassen ’76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences
In a recent USA Today article, “Is Earth near its tipping points from global warming?” Richard Moss, director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Office, commented, “In a sense, we are looking at a series of tipping points for humanity and climate.” Physical signals of global warming, such as temperature, sea level rise, and concentrations of greenhouse gases are the most certain past and future yardsticks for global warming. The interconnections of these physical effects with biological ones suggest that the next significant climate change impacts will involve dramatic species extinctions, and for human life, increased disease and hunger.
This seminar will focus on understanding climate signals, yardsticks, and tipping points of global warming followed by discussions of what we can do to begin the process of solving the carbon and climate problem. General topics will include principles of climate change, the scientific basis for risk of human-induced climate change, and potential environmental and biological impacts of global warming. Emphasis will be placed on how climate change is expected to affect ocean systems and life. Subject areas related to environmental impacts will include atmosphere-ocean interconnections, melting of continental ice caps and glaciers, sea level rise, sea temperature and acidification, and changes in vertical ocean circulation. Topic areas related to biological consequences will include limits of temperature tolerances and adaptations from single cells to whole organisms, including inter-relationships within complex ocean communities, such as coral reefs.
The format of the class will be lectures, readings, discussions, films, and hands-on lab and field inquiry-based exercises, including a seven-day excursion during fall break (Saturday, October 30 to Sunday, November 7) to the island of Bermuda. We will be based at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science (BIOS), www.bios.edu, an institution with an international reputation for scientific research and education on marine ecosystems. The island of Bermuda is located in the core of the Sargasso Sea, a warm clear surface ocean environment in the Mid-Atlantic, an ideal place to study the role of the ocean in global climate change. Early studies in the Atlantic have revealed connections between both surface ocean circulation, such as the Gulf Stream, and deep ocean circulation with climate. In ongoing research in affiliation with BIOS, the Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series Study (BATS) is focused on understanding the causes of variability in ocean biogeochemistry, and provides the framework for the longest continuous time series of open ocean data in the world. Lab exercises will use BATS data to study and track changes in sea temperature and ocean circulation patterns. The unique marine habitat around Bermuda includes reef-building corals which also provide excellent field sites for the investigative labs of the course to study the impact of a warming Gulf Stream on temperature tolerances and adaptations of ocean communities, including the coral bleaching phenomenon.
During the trip, students will conduct snorkeling-based exercises over shallow coral reefs linked to lab-based exercises at the BIOS station on coral bleaching, explore the completed restoration of a nearby island (Nonsuch Island) to pre-settlement conditions, and contribute to a new island restoration project initiated by BIOS at Cooper’s Island. Students must plan on devoting their fall break to the class trip, must be able to swim, and have a valid passport. All costs of the fall break trip are covered by the University. (Wednesday, Friday 11 a.m.–12:20 p.m.)
FRS 103 Metals and Art LA
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
The first priority of this seminar will be to ask what an understanding of materials can tell us about the creative process in art. Artists are, first and foremost, makers, and our subject will be making in metal (mostly). Taking our case studies from all over the world, and ranging from prehistory to the Renaissance to modern times, we will look at Egyptian gold, Greek lost wax casting, Chinese pattern-block casting, medieval and 20th-century ironwork, Cellini’s Perseus, Rodin sculpture, and more, finishing with the little bronze dancers of Edgar Degas, an artist who, contrary to popular belief, never made anything in metal. The central question before us at all times will be how the thinking of artists relates to their materials and techniques. Perhaps surprisingly, we will find that a concern with materials leads directly to some classic preoccupations of art history—artistic intentionality, for example, or the idea of a tension between ends and means—and that it gives us a fresh perspective on them. And we will see familiar works differently when we look on them with metallurgically informed eyes.
Along the way we will find also that the history of art in metal has something to tell us about the history of science. Sometime in the ninth millennium b.c. , a prehistoric craftsman worked a piece of native copper into a bead and in the process discovered a hitherto unknown class of materials, a class defined by new and unfamiliar physical properties. Was that discoverer a scientist or an artist? The steps that led from that starting point to our modern understanding of metals are not easy to trace, for most of them were taken by ancient metalworkers who did not put their expertise down in writing; hands-on knowledge of any kind seldom made it into the written record before modern times. Thus if we wish to follow the progress of pre-modern understanding of materials, our only recourse is to study its reflection in the expanding repertoire of metallurgical techniques. A technique is an exploitation of physical properties, and the techniques that in their day were at the cutting edge of innovation are documented for us mostly in fine artifacts that we nowadays put in art museums. In the view of at least one distinguished metallurgist, the prehistory of materials science is to be found in the history of art. (Monday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 105 Water: Keystone for Sustainable Development QR
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
The seminar focuses on the premise that the health of any economy and the well-being of any society are intimately intertwined with the functioning of the ecosystems on which they depend. Poverty, disease, and political collapse will follow the failure of environmental support systems. Water is fundamental for human life and the keystone of environmentally responsible development. The seminar will explore issues related to water shortages in different regions of the world and their implications for food, disease, and energy. The stress that the scarcity of water places on sustainable development will be studied from the perspective of its impact on food production, the health of ecosystems, and the consequences that this carries at local, regional, and global levels. Emphasis will be placed on the links of those impacts to a changing climate and their expected consequences regarding floods, droughts, and biodiversity. (Monday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 107 Truth and Objectivity in Ancient and Modern Historiography HA
Marc Domingo Gygax
Professor Whitney J. Oates ’25 *31 Freshman Seminar in the Humanities
Scholars trying to explain the human past are confronted with two major problems: Is there any such thing as “historical truth?” To what degree can objectivity be achieved in the study of history? A comparison of the writings of the ancient Greek and Roman historians and the work of modern historians can be very illuminating in dealing with these questions. In this seminar we will analyze the historical methods, philosophy of history, and narrative strategies of ancient historians such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Livy, and Tacitus. We will also read the work of historians from different historiographic schools of the 20th century (historicism, positivism, postmodernism) who have written on the problem of truth and objectivity in history. The readings will include publications by G. R. Elton, E. H. Carr, H. White, and R. J. Evans. (Monday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 109 Music and the Holocaust: Culture, Identity, and Ideology LA
Professor Roy Dickinson Welch Freshman Seminar in Music
In early 20th-century Germany, musical culture was a central component of national pride and identity. For many of Germany’s Jews, this classical music heritage was a core element of their own identification as German citizens. Indeed, many of Germany’s leading singers, conductors, violinists, and pianists were of Jewish background, not to mention such prominent composers as Felix Mendelssohn and Gustav Mahler. Moreover, Jewish patrons were a mainstay of classical music audiences and key figures in music publishing, management, and journalism.
With the rise of religious and “racial” anti-Semitism in the later 19th century and the institution of anti-Semitic legislation by the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, music became a principal battleground of cultural and “racial” ideology. In short order classical music became, for some, an arbiter of what it meant to be German, and, for others, pushed to the point of extinction, what it meant to be a human being.
This course begins by examining some of the controversies surrounding music as a means of commemorating the Holocaust before addressing the larger historical perspective of Jewish experience within German culture from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. There follows an examination of the nature of right-wing music ideology and the means by which it was transformed into state policy after 1933. The central focus of the course rests upon the years of the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945, during which Jews were first ejected from public musical life and finally either forced into emigration or hiding, or herded into concentration camps.
Throughout this period the Jews themselves continued to cultivate a vibrant musical life, first through the officially sanctioned Jewish Cultural Association (Der jüdische Kulturbund) in Germany (1933–1941) and then, after the annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939, within the concentration camps themselves, including the notorious death camp of Auschwitz. Particularly significant is the flowering of cultural activity in Theresienstadt near Prague, where the Nazis created a self-governing “city for the Jews” intended to show the world that their racial policies were benign. Theresienstadt was in fact a potemkin village whose façade of normalcy masked the fact that it was little more than an antechamber to the death camps in the east. Nevertheless, under primitive conditions, the concerts, opera, theater, and cabaret within Theresienstadt were of the highest quality and give evidence of the way the inmates used culture as a form of spiritual resistance.
The final section of the course, “After Auschwitz,” returns to an examination of the role of music in post-war commemorations of the Holocaust and the way in which the Holocaust has shaped the course and narrative of music history. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 111 Dante’s Inferno and the Latin Classics LA
Dante’s Divine Comedy is generally acknowledged to be one of a handful of the greatest works in the Western literary tradition. This seminar will attempt to discover why. Its aim is to increase a student’s ability to read a great work of literature closely and deeply. The main thrust of our joint work will be just that. In addition, each week (in the second half of the seminar) we will study one set of close textual confrontations between a classical Latin text and Dante’s poem (e.g., Aeneid 2.22–48 and Inferno 13.20–48—assignments brief in compass but marked by powerful examples of the poet’s reworking of his inherited materials).
Each student will write three brief papers over the course of the semester (three pages will be an absolute maximum), the topics chosen in consultation with me so as to inform discussion in seminar. The fourth and final paper (10–12 pages) should have a wider scope. There will also be a 30-minute “practice midterm” (graded but not counting toward the student’s final grade). It and a final in-class exercise will be based on an assemblage of some 50 passages from the Inferno that will be distributed the first week. The final exercise will require the student to deal with six of these in two hours.
The Princeton Dante Project: This online compendium of materials (Italian and English text and voice, commentary, illustrations, access to other online resources) will be our basic text (but each student should have a traditional text of the poem as well). The course will have its own listserv for questions and discussion.
If you are interested in studying Dante but find yourself thinking, “No, that is too hard for me,” please think some more. Dante is hard for me, too. If you are willing to commit yourself to serious and consistent effort you will probably have the time of your life. I’ve been doing just that for a very long time. (Monday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 113 What Makes a Poem Endure?—24 Lyric Masterpieces LA
“What makes a poem endure?” Perhaps most obviously, the force at work is the will of each generation of poetry readers, reciters, and writers who resolve to keep poems alive. To this extent, the task of our seminar will be to take part in this generational process. We will be choosing, praising, criticizing, analyzing, memorizing, and otherwise coming to know well 24 important poems from the past. The works we discuss will be rooted in periods ranging from antiquity to the early 20th century.
As we pursue the question of how masterpieces are made and received, we will study the authors and historical circumstances giving birth to these particular works. We will focus upon the after-lives of the poems as well, looking to how they came to prominence and, as often as not, how they also entered into periods of obscurity and re-evaluation. At the same time, we will keep an ongoing record of the most important modes and forms of poetry—and of meters, rhymes, and voices—as we consider the relation these works bear both to the traditions from which they descend and those to which they contribute.
At the end of the semester, we will invite a group of Princeton experts on the visual arts, music, and the novel to meet with us for a round-table discussion of “the masterpiece” in a range of forms. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 115 Eye of the Tiger: Reading Buildings LA
We all look at buildings. But what does it mean to understand them? We look at buildings from the outside as we first come upon them. Later, as we experience them, we look from the inside. We can understand buildings in simple, pragmatic terms, and we can understand them as architecture. This seminar is about the logic of architectural form: the phenomena, the principles, characteristics, geometries, and themes at the basis of making and understanding architecture—irrespective of time. We seek to define the “defineable” while acknowledging that much of the soul-stirring power of architecture eludes definition. This is a course for anyone interested in understanding architecture.
Works of architecture are supposed to embody inherent relationships between outside and inside. Yet, between inside and outside, between form and system, between idea and realization, there are as many contradictions and conundrums as there are clarities. These contrasts make architecture endlessly fascinating and endlessly challenging. Consider Nassau Hall. Virtually everything about the building’s organization strategy can be inferred from its exterior. It is symmetrical, hierarchically arranged about a single, central axis running southward from FitzRandolph Gates across Cannon Green and down campus. There is a cross-axis of internal circulation with all the offices along it. Crystal clear. Alternatively, consider Whig and Clio halls. They are identical—monumentally symmetrical—on the outside, yet radically different on the inside. Neither fulfills the symmetrical promise of its exterior. How do we make sense of this?
This seminar will explore questions such as: Can we understand the inside of a building from the outside and the outside from the inside? What are the important relationships between architectural form and space? How well can buildings be understood from photographs and drawings? What compositional and organization strategies have been used in architecture throughout the ages? Most significant—what is the singular distinction between historic and modern architecture that enables the radical nature of some of today’s architecture on the “cutting edge?”
A secondary theme of this seminar is a focus on the development of the Princeton University campus, using a number of its buildings as illustrative examples. A place of unusual beauty, Princeton’s architecture ranges from (mostly) good to excellent. We explore a quarter-millennium of buildings, tracing how the campus has grown and transformed as different attitudes tied to the cultural ethos of their era have prevailed.
Visual exercises emphasizing both analysis and design, and maximizing each student’s potential for invention and creativity, are a regular part of class discussion. There is limited but challenging reading, and written assignments will emphasize clear, direct, purposeful, “anti-jargonistic” writing. (Monday 7:30–10:20 p.m.)
FRS 117 Sprawl SA
A survey by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism in 2000 found that urban sprawl tied with crime as a top local concern for most Americans. This seminar focuses on sprawl—the vast expansion of cities into the countryside in recent times—in both a historical and a global perspective. They key questions participants in the seminar will seek to answer are: What is sprawl? How do we measure it? Why, when, and where does it occur? Do we need to be concerned about its manifestations and consequences? How can cities effectively prepare for their inevitable expansion? Can cities be made more compact and, if so, should they? What are the policy instruments now being used to combat undesirable sprawl? Do they work or do they make things worse?
The seminar is structured as a general introduction to the theory and practice of urban planning as it pertains to the central issue of sprawl, or urban expansion. Through reading a broad range of texts on planning and sprawl, regular class discussions, the presentation of case studies by students, and practical exercises with ArcGIS mapping software, students are introduced to what we now know about the growth and expansion of cities, to the successes and failures of urban planners in guiding and moderating urban expansion, and to the challenging agenda facing urban planners today in making room for a planet of cities. By the end of seminar, participants should have formulated informed views about urban sprawl, its global dimensions, its historical origins, and the appropriate policies needed to confront it in both industrialized and developing countries. (Tuesday, Thursday 11 a.m.–12:20 p.m.)
FRS 119 Killer Love: Passion and Crime in Fiction and Film LA
This course explores some of the most intriguing themes and motifs of the literary imagination: passion, crime, and death. We will study the ways extreme affection is represented and codified in fiction and film, also discussing its ambiguous relation to religious, moral, and social ideals. We will focus on the nature and circumstances of passionate intimacy, as it is thematized in the examined works, and its often fateful relationship to fierce instincts and impulses of the human psyche. Finally, we will reflect on the somewhat paradoxical fact that what we perceive as canonical literature is often an account of unsanctioned emotions and deviant behaviors. What is at stake when readers or viewers are presented with narratives that capitalize on dark or violent manifestations of desire? (Monday, Wednesday 11 a.m.–12:20 p.m.)
FRS 121 Environment and Development SA
M. V. Ramana
Bert Kerstetter Freshman Seminar
“Reliance on Oil Sands Grows Despite Environmental Risks,” “Poor and Emerging States Stall Climate Negotiations,” “Solar Power, Without All Those Panels,” “The Lithium Chase,” “U.N. Reports on Developing Nations’ Energy Needs”…
All these are headlines from the New York Times in recent months, and all of them reflect the relationship between environment and development in a variety of contexts. Both environment and development have emerged as the focus of scholarship, culture, lifestyle, mass movements, policymaking, violent confrontations, and international diplomacy over the last century. While both concepts have been widely contested, they shape, and have been used to reshape, the world we live in. This seminar will look at some of the arenas where these ideas have been the focus of attention and conflict, and the ways in which environmental and developmental problems have been conceptualized and sought to be solved.
The course has three parts. The first part will introduce some of the broad debates over developmental and environmental issues, with classes focused on demands for environmental justice, concerns about ecological limits, attempts to reconcile economic growth and environmental limits through the idea of sustainable development, and social movements challenging current patterns of resource utilization and distribution. The second part will focus on examples of local, national, and international concerns, and on occasion conflict, over three areas: renewable natural resources, nonrenewable mineral extraction, and linkages between the use of energy and environmental pollution. Some of the issues to be considered in this part of the course are the health and environmental impacts of the use of biomass for cooking, conflicts over oil production in Africa, uranium mining and indigenous communities, and air pollution due to coal burning. The last part of the course focuses on the problem that is widely considered to be the greatest environmental threat humanity is confronting today and one that could affect development patterns profoundly: climate change. The three weeks devoted to this issue will look at the physical causes and impacts of climate change, technologies that could help mitigate the problem and their limitations, and the debate over international allocations of emission rights and mitigation responsibilities. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 123 Behind the Scenes: Inside the Princeton University Art Museum LA
Agnew Family Freshman Seminar
Would you like to see a Toulouse-Lautrec up close and without its frame or hold an ancient Chinese vessel in your hands? Participants in this seminar will go behind the scenes of a major university art museum with an encyclo-pedic collection of more than 70,000 objects from ancient to contemporary art. Sessions will focus on discussions of connoisseurship and the role of the museum in the 21st century. Students also will study all aspects of exhibition planning, from scholarship and education to loans and installations, through three major exhibitions, Gauguin’s Paradise Remembered: The Noa Noa Prints; Nobody’s Property: Art, Land, Space, 2000–2010; and Inner Sanctum: Memory and Meaning in Princeton’s Faculty Room at Nassau Hall. Course readings will introduce students to some of the most compelling practical, theoretical, and ethical issues confronting museums.
A team of curators, the director, and other members of the professional staff of the Princeton University Art Museum will lead the seminar sessions, which focus on particular topics. Students are expected to critically discuss issues in acquisitions, conservation, education, and interpretation based on readings and outside projects. There also will be a trip to New York City to visit museums, art galleries, and collections. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 125 Narrative: Fiction-Making and Truth Telling LA
Professor Amy Gutmann Freshman Seminar in Human Values
Narrative—storytelling—has increasingly come to appear as one of the basic ways in which we understand our lives in the world. The “narrative construction of reality” (as one psychologist has called it) seems to be part of our cognitive toolkit. Narrative may be a basic operation or competence we learn as humans—one we all learn to use. Our lives are in fact intertwined with narrative, with the stories we tell and hear told, those we dream or imagine or would like to tell, all of which are reworked in that story of our own lives that we narrate to ourselves in an episodic, sometimes semi-conscious but virtually uninterrupted monologue. We live immersed in narrative, recounting and reassessing the meaning of our past actions, anticipating the outcomes of our future projects, creating “chapters” in our lives.
The seminar will study a number of stories of different types with a view to understanding what narrative is and how it works. We make up fictions in order to understand the world and our place in it. But how can we know the truth-value of these fictions? Autobiography, psychoanalysis, and legal proceedings pose these issues with particular force. But novels and films respond with their own truth claims. Our readings will thus span a range of narrative types, including: folk tale, detective story, autobiography, psychoanalytic case-study, legal opinion, novel, and film. In studying these works, we will always be asking both how narratives work, and also what work they do in our imaginative and moral lives. We will also pay some attention to the analytic study and theory of narrative.
The seminar will begin with apparently simple fictions—such as folk tales —and the early (and short) Spanish picaresque novel, Lazarillo de Tormes, then move on to consider “detection” as a basic instance of how we use narrative construction, working from literal detective stories (Sherlock Holmes) to more complex variants, such as Sophocles’s Oedipus the King, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Franz Kafka’s The Verdict, and Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up. Then we will consider the narrative shaping of “life stories,” in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (Books 1–4), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Sigmund Freud’s case-history of the “Wolf-Man,” and Jean-Paul Sartre’s autobiography, The Words. The final section of the seminar will consider some problematic modern instances of narrative construction: Marguerite Duras’s The Ravishing of Lol Stein, Sophia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation, and the record of a court case from Baltimore, Maryland. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 127 The Changing Brain: Plasticity and Regeneration During Development and Adulthood EC
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
For much of modern neuroscience, the dominant view has been that the adult brain does not change, except for the worse (with aging, injury, and disease). Despite evidence to the contrary, neuroscientists clung tenaciously to the belief that the production of neurons, a process called neurogenesis, and the formation of new connections, a process called synaptogenesis, occurs only during development. In the past decade, however, there has been a complete overhaul of this view, and the field of neuroscience now recognizes and is intensely focused on the phenomenon of structural change or brain plasticity. This seminar will consider past and current concepts of the brain’s potential for change in an attempt to answer these and other related questions: How similar are developing and adult brains? What role does experience and lifestyle play in brain development and maintenance? Is it possible to maximize the brain’s potential for growth? Is neuronal growth always beneficial to brain function? Can naturally occurring plasticity be harnessed in the service of brain repair? How might stem cells be used to enhance neuronal growth and facilitate regeneration?
This seminar will involve reading, presenting, and discussing primary research articles. Although no specific background in neuroscience is necessary, a strong interest in biology is important. (Monday, Wednesday 11 a.m.–12:20 p.m.)
FRS 129 The Soviet Gulag SA
The Gulag—what do we know about this except that the word conjures an abstract horror? The word Gulag refers to the extensive, far-reaching system of slave labor camps that dotted Soviet Russia and claimed millions of lives. Gulag, an acronym for the words Glavniyi Upravlenie Lagerei in Russian, simply means Main Administration of Camps. In this course, we will attempt to make sense of the context for the development of this slave labor system. We will try to understand how the Gulag came into existence, why it endured for so long, and what the possible consequences are for civil society. We will first examine the ideology that led to the formation of a communist state in Russia. Then, in an attempt to understand how and why a relatively new government could set up what would become an enormous slave labor system, we will study the Soviet state, including the dynamics of Stalinist political, cultural, economic, international, and social state policies, and its use (and abuses) of power. To see how the camps functioned as a part of the Soviet state, we will read about the organization of the Communist Party, and about its subordinate organization (precursors to the KGB), which ran the camps. And we will look at the Gulag from the inside, by reading camp memoirs by survivors and former employees.
Throughout the course, we will ask the age-old question of how “ordinary people” could participate in such a system. What are the ethical and sociological questions posed by the Gulag? To what extent was it a distinct product of Soviet communism? Over time, many millions of people have found totalitarian philosophies appealing. This course will help us understand how it happens and why. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 131 From Natural Law to Human Rights: History of the Western Natural Law and Natural Rights Traditions through the French Revolution SA
Peter T. Joseph ’72 Freshman Seminar in Human Values
Although human rights issues continue to be debated and contested, the longer history of human rights is often unexamined and even forgotten. Human rights, rather than being a 20th-century phenomenon, mark both a culmination of and a transition from the Western natural law and natural rights traditions.
Throughout the course we will examine three key shifts in the natural law and natural rights traditions. We will begin by examining the shift from a dominantly moral theological idea of natural law that is characteristic of the late medieval period to a moral philosophical idea of natural law that begins to emerge with European expansion, the dissolution of Universal Latin Christendom, and the processes and problems of early-modern state formation.
The majority of the course will be concerned with examining the second shift: a shift toward an increasingly secular understanding of natural law and natural rights theories. This second shift is marked by the emergence of two corresponding theories: a secular state of nature from which people implicitly contract into civil society and an international state of nature from which states explicitly contract into conditions of war and peace (ius gentium). We will examine how these new theories employ both traditional and innovative understandings of the rights and duties of individuals, communities, states, and international society as a whole and in doing so we will examine the shift in emphasis towards ius gentium as the central category in natural law and natural rights theories.
The third and final shift that we will examine in this course is the transition from natural rights to human rights. We will examine the redefinition of natural rights as human rights through a comparison of two rights revolutions in the 18th century. First, we will discuss the American Revolution as primarily a natural rights revolution. Second we will discuss the French Revolution as a human rights revolution. In each case we will keep a close eye to the importance of civil law as well as the legal categories of subject and citizen. At the end of this course students will have acquired an understanding of and critical perspective on the history of rights traditions that inform the human rights documents and regimes of the 19th and 20th centuries. (Monday, Wednesday 11 a.m.–12:20 p.m.)
FRS 135 Good to Be Shifty: American Swindlers and Impostors LA
A surgically fashioned face, a wine cellar stocked with the rarest vintages, a casual reference to mother’s cottage in the Hamptons—America is abundant with images that are designed to project the appearance of youth, wealth, and sophistication. Indeed, we live in a land of products and people where it is often difficult to distinguish the “knock off” from the “genuine article.” This seminar will examine literary and cinematic portrayals of the American experience as a process of self-invention that is, at once, liberating and oppressive, authentic and fraudulent, heroic and comical. In particular, we will meet the variety of swindlers, impostors, and social counterfeits who have long thrived in this fluid nation of strangers: politicians, evangelists, financiers, beauty doctors, art dealers, country club swells, wedding crashers, and many others.
We will begin with Benjamin Franklin, whose most intriguing invention was himself and whose autobiography became the leading template for generations of self-made Americans. The principal business of the seminar will then consist of close readings of American literature such as Poe’s “The Man That Was Used Up,” Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson, Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Auster’s City of Glass. We will also study film: Sturges’s The Lady Eve, Welles’s F for Fake, and a recent documentary chronicling the exploits of an impostor who attended Princeton University. The seminar will be interdisciplinary in its approach to these works, drawing upon a variety of materials such as historical and psychological studies of gambling and advertising.
Our study will give particular attention to the “frontier” settings in which these shape-shifters frequently operate. We will examine, for example, the rise of the so-called “confidence man” (or “con-man”) as a product of the technological and economic forces driving westward expansion in antebellum America. These tales of self-invention and imposture will also be read with a close eye on the shifting boundaries of race and gender as they relate to issues of assimilation and social mobility. We will even consider this protean figure as a master of deception in cyberspace. After all, as one frontier swindler observed in 1845, “It is good to be shifty in a new country.” (Wednesday 7:30–10:20 p.m.)
FRS 137 20th–Century Poems and Poets: Politics, War, Religion, and Art LA
This seminar will focus on a few poets, and only a limited number of their poems. The hope will be to understand how each of these writers sought to respond to the increasingly complex, often violent, sometimes promising, and sometimes apparently meaningless nature of life in their societies, as well as in aspects of their own personal experience.
There will be selective brief readings in the biographies of individual poets, as well as in episodes of the political and social history (including war and civil war) of the period from the 1890s to the 1960s. The primary goal will be to concentrate on several important themes and preoccupations in the work of W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Wallace Stevens, and Philip Larkin.
Two seminar sessions will concentrate on a number of lyrics from the late 19th and early 20th century, to give some sense of the larger context in which our main poets were writing. There will be a small selection of lyrics from Keats, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Arnold, Hopkins, Frost, and some of Walter Pater’s prose.
We will usually spend two weeks on the poetry of each of the seminar’s five major writers. When we study Yeats, there will be a concentration on the lyrics dealing with the Irish national movement and the beginning of civil war. In addition, Yeats’s love lyrics, and his commitment to poetry and art—as a counterpoint to politics and war—will be an important focus.
In Eliot’s verse, the relationship to public life is more indirect. But “The Wasteland” was published shortly after World War I, and the “Four Quartets” during World War II. These and other major poems show Eliot struggling with his own vocation as a poet; with aspects of his personal—including spiritual and religious—experience; and with his perception of the bleakness that seemed to characterize so much of the society in which he lived.
Auden, meanwhile, was born into a very different world from his predecessors. We will read work of his from the 1930s, when he was engaged by the social and political issues of his time, leading to the outbreak of World War II (“September 1, 1939”), as well as some of his poems that touch on religious themes. In the later verse, we will concentrate on Auden’s effort to explore moral and other dilemmas presented by ordinary daily existence, outside the public realm.
In Stevens and Larkin, we encounter two poets who had—unlike Yeats, Eliot, and Auden—no desire to pursue religious “solutions” to existential dilemmas, but who discovered very different ways of making sense of human experience in their poetry (and in their lives).
Participants will write a few short papers (three to five pages), usually discussing and analyzing a single poem in detail (or perhaps a small number of closely related poems). (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 139 Soccer in Latin America: Politics, History, and Popular Culture LA
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
The Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini famously claimed that “there are two types of football, prose and poetry. European teams are prose, tough, premeditated, systematic, collective. Latin American ones are poetry, ductile, spontaneous, individual, erotic.” Latin Americans have long been defined by others—and represented themselves—in terms of the performance of their soccer players. In this course we will explore several facets of the game’s role in Latin America, approaching them from a historical, cultural, and aesthetic perspective. Literary texts will range from short stories and poetry centered on the sport, to the narratives of prominent chroniclers who elevated soccer to “epic” status, projecting national teams as the embodiment of a collective identity. Other sources like essays, film, and photography will complement our approach.
In the process of engaging this material, we will investigate some of the interplays between discourses around soccer and politics, discussing its use and co-optation by dictatorial regimes of the 1960s and ’70s, as well as its role in different countries’ assertions on the world stage. Reflections over the place of soccer in the social landscape are bound to invite questions of how, in a region of deep economic inequalities, the sport can function both as a congregator and as the proverbial “opium of the masses.” Throughout the semester, we will attempt to understand how soccer captivates the imaginations of so many, viewing its popularization in the context of wider developments like radio, technology to build massive stadiums, and European immigration. At the same time, our methodology will account for its more “spectacular” aspects, considering some of the intersections between soccer, dance, and theater. The course focuses primarily on Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 141 Scarcity: Its Logic and Consequences SA
Scarcity is a fundamental problem that arises when needs or wants exceed available resources. This seminar will explore the notion of scarcity from various perspectives, including logical, computational, biological, economic, and ethical, with an emphasis on the psychological. The prototypical domain of scarcity is poverty. However, research on the poor raises more questions than it answers. Although their lives are full of shocks (jobs are lost, family members get sick, cars break down), the poor fail to save, and often resort to expensive debt. They also persevere with will and far-sightedness under adverse conditions, working double shifts and denying themselves simple pleasures in order to accomplish modest goals. Fruit vendors in India, for example, borrow day in and day out at 5 percent interest a day, but get up at 3 a.m. every day to go manage their market stall. How to explain this mix of short-sighted yet highly self-controlled behavior?
Scarcity in time produces similar patterns among the busy (or “time poor”). Successful professionals are perpetually overcommitted; they take on obligations they later regret, and commit to deadlines that are frequently violated. Students at top universities pull all-nighters on projects assigned months in advance. Yet, as with the money-poor, myopia is too easy an explanation—these same students exercised forward planning and self-control in order to get where they are. The poor are poor in money, the busy are poor in time, the lonely are poor in social connections, dieters have an impoverished calorie budget, the uneducated are poor in knowledge, and we all feel excessive demands on our limited attention. Even organizations show related behaviors, having to “fight fires” after mismanaging time and talent before an impending deadline.
A central concept we will explore is the “packing problem”—an abstract representation of the challenges of scarcity. We have all struggled with packing a suitcase, trying to fit in items that vary in size and worth. Should you take the coat or just a small umbrella? Packing the most valuable item may not be the best idea since it may also be the more bulky. The packing problem arises when not everything fits. It forces us to decide which items to pack, a nontrivial problem involving forecasting, valuation, ingenuity, and planning. Packing is more complex with smaller suitcases. Scarcity generates complexity, and requires cognitive effort. Whereas the rich need not bother with tradeoffs, the poor must constantly ask themselves: “What will I need to forego in order to avail myself of this or that?” At the heart of scarcity is tradeoff thinking, and a focus on the immediate problem at hand: from starving animals foraging for food to the financial analyst frantically working on a deadline. The anticipated wear and tear of complex packing leads to fatigue, distraction, and error. It implicates the psychobiology of stress, the physiology used to measure its markers, the psychology of habit, decision, attention, and self-control. In the context of thinking about scarcity, we will touch on theoretical computer science, animal behavior, evolutionary biology, physiology, sociology, psychology, as well as questions of justice, fairness, and policy. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 143 Walden in Our Time LA
Henry David Thoreau Freshman Seminar in Environmental Studies
Walden (1854) is a classic tale of one man’s decision to retreat from his village and live alone in a woodland setting. During a two-year stay on the New England shores of Walden Pond, Henry Thoreau built his own house, planted crops, and wrote a first book. After leaving Walden, he spent many years traveling, observing nature, and writing a personal journal on his thoughts and experiences. The journal at first served as Thoreau’s literary workshop, then as a mirror of his thoughts and feelings, then as an innovative marriage of science and art. Finally it became a sophisticated environmental history of his township. Through travel and writing, research and contemplation, Thoreau learned to explore some of life’s fundamental questions: Who are we, and where are we bound? What is our relation to nature? What are its elements and processes, and how may we respect and protect them? (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 145 Charged Space: Context and Setting in the Production and Interpretation of Art and Literature LA
Professor Whitney J. Oates ’25 *31 Freshman Seminar in the Humanities
This course will identify and elucidate the significant but usually unconsidered role of spatial context in the production and reception of art and literature. How do the environments in which art is both created and experienced influence each? The seminar is scheduled to coincide with Inner Sanctum: Memory and Meaning in Princeton’s Faculty Room at Nassau Hall, a Princeton University Art Museum exhibition exploring the history and role of that richly symbolic space, and the portraits within it, in shaping the University’s identity. We will draw upon the diverse strengths of several University faculty members to comprehensively address themes taken up in the exhibition and beyond. Readings will focus on the display of art across a broad range of historical contexts, and examine both the spaces within which artists and writers work as well as the part such locations play in shaping artistic production. The seminar will involve field trips to various campus locations and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we will meet with curators involved in the reinstallation of its American Wing. (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 147 Neuroethics: The Intersection of Neuroscience with Social and Ethical Issues EM
Neuroethics is the study of ethical, social, and political issues arising from discoveries in neuroscience. Some of these issues come from the introduction of new technologies such as brain imaging and brain stimulation. Others come from the development of new drugs that affect memory, mood, and thought. Others are older questions: When does human life end? What types of experiments should be allowed on humans and animals? What are the relations between free will, science, and the law? What is the evolutionary basis of ethics? Each seminar will normally begin with some historical background, and we will then discuss the week’s readings guided by one or two student reports. (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 149 Hedge Funds: Their Purpose, Strategies, and Social Value SA
Jean-Christophe de Swaan
John H. Laporte Jr. ’67 Freshman Seminar
Hedge funds have gained in importance in recent years, becoming an increasingly prevalent investment vehicle as well as a significant focus of policy debate. Originally targeted at high net worth individuals, they now cater to a broad spectrum of investors, ranging from university endowments to funds comprised of hedge funds. Their main appeal stems from their mandate to generate absolute investment returns, meaning positive returns regardless of the performance of global financial markets. The combination of fast growth, lack of regulatory oversight, and limited transparency has triggered a variety of concerns. These include whether the growing size and increasingly ubiquitous presence of hedge funds across financial markets could create risks to the global financial system that are not well understood—an uncertainty most vividly illustrated by the collapse of LTCM, a large hedge fund that required emergency intervention by the U.S. Federal Reserve and major banks in 1998. Another concern relates to whether hedge fund investor rights are being adequately protected as the hedge fund industry’s investor base expands beyond its original niche. In the wake of the current global financial crisis, political momentum is pointing toward greater regulation of hedge funds and financial institutions.
To address these issues, this seminar will offer a combination of theory, practice, and reflection on the economic and social value of hedge funds, along the following lines:
• Introduction to hedge funds, their theoretical underpinning, and purpose.
• Practical overview of their business model and investment strategies—with three case studies to be discussed in class.
• Reflection on the value hedge funds bring to various economic actors, including their investors (e.g., have hedge funds delivered on their mandate to generate absolute returns on behalf of their investors?), the corporate sector, and the global economy. This discussion will be set in the broader context of why finance matters.
• Discussion of the systemic risks hedge funds may create and of the nature and potential efficacy of various new regulations under consideration.
The seminar is targeted at a broad group of students, including those interested in hedge funds as investment vehicles, as well as those interested in the economic development and public policy issues related to hedge funds. There are no specific prerequisites for the class, although having taken an introductory economics class will help. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 151 “How the Tabby Cat Got Her Stripes” or “The Silence of the Genes”
Shirley M. Tilghman
If Gregor Mendel, the 19th-century father of modern genetics, were alive today, his head would be spinning. The simple rules of “Mendelian” inheritance, which he painstakingly worked out with garden peas, have had to be substantially expanded and revised in the last several decades to accommodate the fact that genes are not nearly as well behaved as he thought. A pristine gene, free of any debilitating mutations, may or may not be expressed, depending upon parental inheritance, environmental influences, and even pure chance. This phenomenon, in which external factors influence the decision of a gene to be expressed or remain silent, is called epigenetics. The existence of epigenetic effects is right before our eyes: the stripes of the tabby cat; the complex patterns of pigment in petunia petals; the variegated colors in the compound eyes of fruit flies. The implications for human biology are also widespread. Epigenetics explains why it is only possible to inherit a fetal overgrowth syndrome called Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome from your mother, and Prader-Willi Syndrome, a disorder characterized by obsessive eating, from your father. It has also has forced us to revise our understanding of how cancers arise and is responsible for the low success rate of animal cloning. The future promise of stem cell therapy will only be realized when scientists can better control epigenetic changes that occur at fertilization. Altogether, the underlying molecular epigenetic mechanisms are revealing a wacky new world of gene regulation, which this seminar will explore, along with the societal implications of epigenetics and its evolutionary benefits. The seminar will be accessible to any students who have taken high school biology. (Monday 7:30-10:20 p.m.)
FRS 153 Medieval Globalism: International Trade before Columbus HA
While the ancient Mediterranean world had intermittent trade contact with the cultures of South Asia and East Asia, it was not until the medieval period that a regular system of exchange was worked out that spanned the regions of the Old World. Objects of commerce ranged from the luxurious spices and silks of Asia to more mundane commodities such as wood and salt. Trade was chiefly in the hands of merchants operating in the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, though in some periods it took the overland form known as the Silk Route. The growing demands for trade goods and for markets led to the opening of the Atlantic routes in the Age of Exploration and ultimately to the inclusion of the New World in the global commercial system.
The traditional discussion of world trade, and the world economy in general, has been dominated by the European viewpoint, focused on how Europeans acquired the goods they could not produce at home and how they built markets abroad for their own products. In this seminar, we will seek to examine the actions, motivations, and viewpoints of all of the participants in the medieval commercial network, including members of Islamic, Jewish, Indian, and Chinese trading communities.
General readings and classroom discussions will be used to fill in the basic political, economic, and cultural development of the Old World in the period 500 to 1500 c.e. Some class sessions will be held in the Rare Books and Special Collections department of Firestone Library to examine manuscripts, printed books, maps, and coins relevant to the subject of the seminar. Student contributions, both in seminar and in written form, will focus on the research that each participant will carry out on a specific commodity that served as a link among people of different regions in this period. Each student will deliver four oral reports (three of about five minutes length, one of about 20 minutes) and will write four papers (three short and one medium-length) based on this research. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 155 Race, Class, and the Selective College Experience SA (Canceled)
Despite a steady rise in the demographic importance of minority populations in the United States, the goal of diversity in American higher education and especially the means of achieving it are very controversial. Affirmative action in the admission process is losing support in the public’s mind, and the ground of contestation has shifted to the courts and to public referenda. At the same time, college and university administrators—some of whom are the strongest advocates for affirmative action in higher education—claim that there are educational benefits to diversity. All students, it is argued, are better off and learn more from opportunities to interact academically and socially with students whose perspectives are different from their own. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 agreed with these assessments.
In this course, we will examine the evidence, current controversies, and policy dilemmas surrounding diversity in higher education. What is the educational rationale for the use of affirmative action in admissions? How has this rationale been treated in public referenda and in the judicial system that has, alternately, supported and denied the use of racial preferences in admission? Who benefits from affirmative action? How much do they benefit? Is it possible that racial preferences actually harm their intended beneficiaries? What are the advantages (and perhaps costs) of diversity in higher education? How should we understand the concept of “merit” as it is used in admission decisions at academically selective colleges and universities?
The course will also examine the impact of non-race-based proposals to achieve racial diversity, including economic affirmative action, discontinuing the use of the SAT-I exam in admission decisions, and the use of “X-percent” plans in Texas, Florida, and California. We will study the evidence on the extent of social interaction on campus among different racial and ethnic groups and how intergroup contact is related, on the one hand, to campus diversity and, on the other, to learning from others. Finally, we will explore empirical evidence from studies on campus climate, examine student satisfaction with their college academic and social experience, evaluate explanations for “underperformance” in college by students of color, and assess what college and university administrators can do from a policy and programmatic standpoint to maximize the educational benefits of a racially diverse environment.
FRS 157 Scientists Against Time HA
This seminar will explore some of the critical contributions of (mostly Allied) scientists, engineers, and mathematicians during World War II. Topics will include radar and the Battle of Britain; cryptography and the breaking of the German Enigma code; radar, cryptography, operations research, and the Battle of the Atlantic against German submarines; rockets, missiles, airplanes, and the erratic history of strategic bombing; science and deception in the D-Day invasion; and the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. This will all involve historical analysis and an introduction to some realms of science and technology. Visiting experts will help us sort through the history and science. (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 159 Narratives of Identity in the Other Europe: Reading Culture in the Balkans LA
Agnew Family Freshman Seminar
The Balkans, the quintessential “Other” of Europe, conjure up a faraway realm on the edge of civilization—the proverbial crossroads between East and West. For Westerners, it is often an exotic, even mysterious, corner of the world, rich with ethnic, religious, and, especially, cultural diversity. Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Albania, and Greece will provide the backdrop in this seminar for examining a multitude of narratives in which voices of ethnicity, religion, gender, class, and place all speak forcefully and poignantly. Through literature, language, music, folklore, and popular culture, we will explore how these frames of identity inform contemporary Balkan culture. We will investigate how the past has sometimes been imagined and the present constructed to accommodate deeply held national, local, ethnic, and religious convictions. Moreover, we will view how attempts to perceive the Other, coupled with associations of the Orient, have often been critical to the West’s recognition of southeastern Europe and, in turn, itself.
Southeastern Europe is marked, as a prominent Balkanologist has aptly noted, by a “baroque complexity” that both charms and bewilders us. On the one hand, the Balkans boast Nobel-prize-winning novelists and some of the most daring literary innovations in all of Europe, world-class musicians, complex oral epic songs the length of Homer’s Odyssey, rich collections of folk lyric, ritual songs, and tales, and sensual traditional and popular music and dance (much of it performed by Gypsies). On the other hand, the region has had a complicated and troubling past—and present. Fought over (and conquered) at one time by three multinational empires, later ruled by fascist dictators and then communist ideologues, the Balkans have also generated peasant uprisings, local and inter-ethnic civil wars, and revolutions. How do we understand a world that resonates simultaneously as both familiar and foreign, endearing and brutal, cultivated and parochial; and how does culture reflect these many different narratives?
Balkan culture from the mid-19th-century to the present will comprise the main focus of this course. Narratives of nationalism and their cultural manifestations—the development of languages, literatures, and discovery of folklore—along with inventive recollections of history and the use of historical consciousness will anchor our explorations. We will be concerned with how ethnicity and religion have spawned both conflict and creative diversity and how they are realized in narratives and cultural productions. How patriarchal structures and traditional gender roles characterize Balkan society and permeate everyday life—past and present, as well as public and private—will also engage us. Ties and tensions between urban and rural society likewise inform culture in the Balkans; the village as icon has permeated inventions and reinventions of national collectives, while the 20th-century city eventually brought modernity and urbanization to burgeoning industrial societies. All of these approaches will enable us to explore the meaning of Balkan identity in the context of contemporary culture. We will aim to understand the dynamics of how culture on the border between “East” and “West” is formed and how it functions. Students will be encouraged to pursue their own particular interests during the semester as we read and bring meaning to the many rich and multi-layered narratives of identity in the Balkans. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 161 Language and Cognition EC
Class of 1975 Freshman Seminar
Have you ever stopped to marvel at the speed and effortlessness with which we use language? We produce complex sentences we’ve never heard before, and we comprehend new ones as well, on the time scale of seconds, and often while we are simultaneously doing other tasks that demand our conscious attention. What is the nature of our knowledge of language that allows us to perform this feat in ways that no other animal approaches? Why do two-year-old children seem to learn language so effortlessly while so many adults struggle through their foreign language classes? Does speaking English versus Tsotsil inevitably alter the way we view the world? And when we say things like “The fall is fast approaching” to talk about temporal events, do we unconsciously access thoughts of motion through space? The course will address these questions and introduce students to the amazing amount of implicit (unconscious) knowledge we have about language. We will cover basic theoretical ideas, experimental techniques and findings, major controversies, and basic concepts of the psychology of language. (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 163 Republican Liberty and Religion: 1300–1900 SA
Sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions
The purpose of the seminar is explore the various ways in which political philosophers, jurists, artists, historians, and prophets have discussed the connections between religion and political liberty in Europe and in America. The main theoretical question underlying the seminar is whether republican liberty depends upon a religious basis, or can exist without it. Of equal importance are the similarities and differences between republican religion and different, often opposing, forms of political religion, like monarchical and totalitarian religion.
A distinctive feature of the seminar will involve the study of pictorial sources—Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good and Bad Government, the paintings in the Palazzo Ducale in Venice—that express with particular eloquence the religious content of republican liberty.
This seminar will offer students the possibility to compare American civil religion with previous forms of republican religion in Europe, and invite them to reflect critically on the power of religion in political life. (Thursday 7:30–10:20 p.m.)
FRS 167 Science and Technology for a Sustainable Energy Future ST
Donald P. Wilson ’33 and Edna M. Wilson Freshman Seminar
Have you ever wanted to know how a wind turbine harvests power? Or how a solar cell takes light and converts it into electricity? If so, this class is for you. Sustainability ideas in energy and the environment have forced a close examination on how we use, generate, store, and convert energy. This in turn has opened the door to wider implementation of alternative energy technologies which have become economically feasible in the current energy climate. This course will examine these technologies from the standpoint of the science underlying the different approaches. Each week, we will visit a different energy technology through a combination of discussions, demonstrations, and hands-on experiments. We anticipate two field trips during this semester, the first one to the campus co-generation facility to learn about where our local energy comes from. The second one will be to the Liberty Science Center where students will present demonstrations based on the work of the seminar. The course will be accessible to students from all backgrounds and will not expect prior knowledge of science or engineering. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 169 The Rest of the Story: The Six O’Clock News, Intelligence, National Security, and You SA
Flooded with e-mail alerts, blogs, headline news, podcasts, and even late-night comics, we are assaulted by important information out of context. “Democrats enraged at Bush’s alleged warrantless spying on Americans.” Many claim this is a slippery slope. Should you be concerned? What does this really mean? More importantly, is it legal? Necessary? Let’s find out. Consider: “Increased surveillance pays off in thwarting terrorist threats.” What’s the whole story? Are we winning the war on terror? Or is Uncle Sam spying on you (again)? “Glamorous CIA agent has cover blown as political payback.” Is this just a headline-grabbing, sensational line or is there something serious behind it? The latter. Join this seminar in understanding “why.” This will be a unique semester with mid-term elections and a new director of national intelligence and an opportunity to examine the administration’s positions regarding national security, intelligence, government, and secrecy.
These are simple examples of hot issues in intelligence, national security, and our constitutional democracy. How would you ever recognize the real issues behind the “sound bite” headline and not merely dismiss it as political ranting? Are secrecy and democracy compatible? Tough question—come wrestle with the answers in this seminar.
While the smorgasbord of relevant topics is broad, this seminar will familiarize the student with the intelligence, national security, and constitutional background essential to discuss and evaluate the controversies regarding the potentially irresolvable trade-off between national security and civil liberties; privacy and the increased role of the private sector. The dilemma has raged for centuries, is expanding, and is currently on the front burner for public policy as well as technology practitioners. We must see both sides.
The seminar examines these tensions through history, statute, scientific innovation, public opinion, the media, and current events. Can we implement effective homeland security and not adversely impact our constitutional rights? Who are the key players? What is the “correct” relationship between intelligence and law enforcement? Did Homeland Security “solve” the problems facing the U.S.? Does technology threaten or protect our constitutional democracy? What information should be shared and/or protected? Is the post-9/11 reform on the right track? Can popular culture affect national security and foreign policy? You’d be surprised. Tune in to 24 with us and study the question.
Our readings will include current news articles, basic statutes, testimony, and both sides of contentious debates along with key commission reports, and juicy exposés of CIA and FBI spying on Americans and its fallout. Is the Patriot Act evil as some portray? Read it in class and decide for yourself. The pendulum swings again as it has since the founding of the republic. By seminar’s end you will be able to decide if you believe your government is making the right choices—for the country and individuals—based on evaluating intelligence and national security issues viewed through the lens of current events. Can popular culture influence policy? You may be surprised. What does 24 have to do with the Global War on Terror? In addition to core readings, a spicy spy novel, and award-winning film and TV episodes along with recent scholarly works, students will be expected to stay on top of current events, come prepared to debate controversial topics, and use outside resources—even late-night comics. There’s more to Jay Leno’s remarks than just humor! VIPs from the CIA and FBI at a minimum will visit our course to share experiences you can’t hear anywhere else. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 171 Red Shirts, Black Shirts, and T-Shirts: Tracing Ideology in a Post-Ideological World HA
Is ideology dead? Do we live in a post-ideological age? Are capitalism and liberalism the only viable ideologies today? Are we experiencing the end of history as we know it? In an age of permanent fear and emergencies, are utilitarian, pragmatic political programs the only viable options? These are some of the questions that this seminar will examine.
The point of departure for this seminar will be the current debate about whether we are indeed living in an end-of-history age. The seminar will then trace the intellectual and ideological origins of radical left-wing and right-wing ideologies that have been responsible for shaping European and international politics for much of the 20th century, and it will explore their legacies in today’s world. We will follow the development of communism from the early socialist utopias to Marx’s scientific materialism to the different Marxist schools, including bolshevism. We will examine the emergence of fascism both as a revision of Marxism from within and as a reaction against it, and we will consider the relationship of both the radical left and right with capitalism and liberalism. Lastly, the seminar will look at the ideological legacy of the radical left and right in the 21st century—do the rise of radical Islam (what some are calling Islamo-fascism) on the one hand, and anti-globalization movements on the other, signal a return of radical ideologies to the political arena? (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 173 The Information Revolution: Insights into Technology, Language, and Biology QR
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
Information exchange and transfer are basic to human existence and are common to a variety of technological, physical, chemical, biological, and social processes. For example, much of the information technology that has dominated the technological landscape of the late 20th and early 21st centuries is designed to enable these functions. Moreover, humans use spoken, written, and symbolic languages to communicate in many diverse ways. On the other hand, in the biological context, information exchange at the cellular level involves chemical signaling, and is basic to many biological processes including the transfer of genetic information from generation to generation. Irrespective of the means of communication, the primary goal of all information exchange is the reliable transfer of information. In its highest form, the theory of reliable communication encompasses sophisticated mathematical ideas. However, the fundamental concepts at the heart of this theory, developed in the 1940s by the renowned engineer and mathematician Claude Shannon, are both intuitive and general enough to be understood by a wide audience.
Shannon introduced three basic concepts to characterize information transfer and used them to develop his fundamental theory of reliable information transfer. These concepts are: entropy, a quantitative measure of the information in any system; coding, a method of introducing redundancy to information to achieve reliable communication; and compression, a technique for reducing information to its minimal form in order to transmit or store it as efficiently as possible. The contributions of Shannon and his successors over the past half a century led to an information revolution and an explosion of innovative new technologies to communicate, process, and store information. Today’s ubiquitous wired and wireless communication networks, as well as the computers, media players, and storage devices that are an inseparable part of our daily lives, are testaments to the application of Shannon’s fundamental ideas. Further, the universality of Shannon’s concepts has led to their application in a variety of other areas such as linguistics, genomics, neurosciences, quantum mechanics, and cryptography.
In this seminar, we will study Shannon’s fundamental ideas and the insights they bring to a wide variety of fields, such as those noted above. We will first discuss the basic concepts of entropy, coding, and compression. Then we will examine a series of examples from linguistics, biology, finance, history, genetics, and modern digital communications, to illustrate these concepts and to demonstrate their power and simplicity in characterizing the primary objective of communications: reliable information transfer.
Classroom activities will include the presentation and discussion of the fundamental concepts of information and communication, discussion and analysis of a selection of examples and reading materials, interaction with guest lecturers, and student presentations. Also included will be two hour-long interactive experiments, one at the beginning of the course and the other toward the end of the course, that demonstrate the fundamental principles discussed in the course. The mathematical tools required for this seminar are basic and should be accessible to all freshmen with knowledge of high-school calculus. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 175 What is “Modern?” LA
This seminar will explore what we mean, historically and visually, when we say “modern”—a vague concept that is nevertheless part of our daily discourse. When does “modern” start? What does “modern” look like? How does it manifest itself in film, painting, and literature? How is the modern way of looking, reading, and even being different from before?
In an attempt to provide insight into these questions, we will take a snapshot tour, changing geographical locations as we seek some defining artworks and concepts of the “modern.” We will begin in London to discuss industrialization and urbanization; then move to Paris to discuss the beginnings of cinema and the underlying notions of spectacle. We will investigate such themes as sex, psychoanalysis, decadence, speed, mobility, space, and displacement. A special emphasis will be placed on Russia, its culture, and its relationship to the rest of Europe as the exotic “outsider” that is simultaneously an “insider.” We will also examine the cultural significance of the Russian Revolution, as well as the condition of exile that it forced onto some artists. Our snapshot tour will end in America, in the grid-like structure of Manhattan, perhaps the most well known emblem of the modern. Interdisciplinary by design, this seminar will offer a taste of the “modern.” It will provide a critical introduction to some foundational artworks, concepts, and texts, interweaving art history, history, and literary studies. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
In the century and a half that followed the start of the Civil War, Americans created and then dismantled a brutal, comprehensive and effective system of racial oppression. The rise and fall of that system, known as Jim Crow, is the topic of this seminar.
Among the modern world’s social and political revolutions, the civil rights revolution was among the most orderly and nonviolent. We will explore the evolution of America’s civil rights revolution, from Reconstruction through the present, combining social, political and public policy perspectives. We’ll meet the men and women who led the civil rights movement; the foot soldiers, both white and black, who fought to dismantle Jim Crow; and those individuals, both North and South, who struggled to preserve the status quo.
The seminar will also examine the intersections between public policy and social history. Questions include: Who makes history – social movements or political and cultural elites? How and why did the aims of the civil rights movement evolve? Why did the modern civil rights revolution begin in a specific time (the post-war period) and place (the American South)? What impact have policy changes since the 1950s had on American race relations? What is the meaning of equality? What obligations do the state and its citizens owe past and present victims of injustice.
Above all, we will investigate the challenges and meaning of living in multi-racial society. (Tuesday 7:30–10:20 p.m.)