Seminars for the Fall Term 2011
FRS 101 Signals, Yardsticks, and Tipping Points of Global Warming and Ocean Environments STL
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
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 include presentations, readings, discussions, films, and hands-on lab and field inquiry-based exercises, including a seven-day excursion during fall break (Saturday, October 29, to Sunday, November 6) 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. (Tuesday, Thursday 11:00 a.m.–12:20 p.m.)
FRS 103 Individuality as an Ideal EM
Kwame Anthony Appiah
Kurt and Beatrice Gutmann Freshman Seminar in Human Values
In the third chapter of John Stuart Mill’s famous essay, On Liberty, “On Individuality, as One of the Elements of Wellbeing,” he seeks to defend and articulate individuality as an ideal. Roughly, Mill believes that each of us should play the central part in planning and managing our own lives. This ideal of individuality is often said to be modern and Western in its origins. Certainly it finds expression in many places in contemporary Western cultures, such as ours. But it is essentially an idea in the ancient field of ethics, as Aristotle understood that term, because Aristotle meant by ethics something like “normative reflection on the making of our lives.” Making a life requires not only attention to our obligations to other people (and, of course, to animals and, perhaps, various aspects of the natural world) but also the evaluation of projects—among them friendship, marriage, career, vocation—whose success or failure will determine whether our lives, taken as a whole, are successful.
In this course we will explore Mill’s idea of individuality, a notion that belongs to ethics in this sense, as articulated in On Liberty. We shall do so by reading and discussing both fiction and philosophy. We shall read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, a novel about life in Eastern Nigeria at the beginning of the colonial period, in which the central character struggles—in a way that is rather unfamiliar to us—to manage his own life and fate; Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions, set toward the end of the colonial period in Zimbabwe, where issues of gender, education, and what it means to be modern are explored against the landscape of rural life; Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, which is the story of the social ambitions of a man of “humble origins” in France in the 19th century; and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, set in England in the middle of the last century, in which the central character explores his failed life against the background of modern Western individuality. Among the philosophers, we shall read from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ronald Dworkin, Michel Foucault, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Joseph Raz. And we shall also read the account of romanticism’s sense of the self in Sincerity and Authenticity, by the great literary critic, Lionel Trilling. (Tuesday 7:30–10:20 p.m.)
FRS 107 What Makes a Poem Endure?—24 Lyric Masterpieces LA
Robert H. Rawson ’66 Freshman Seminar
What makes a poem endure? Perhaps most obviously, the will of each generation of poetry readers, reciters, and writers is the force that keeps a poem 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, following how they came to prominence and, as often as not, how they also entered into periods of obscurity and re-evaluation. We will trace the continuity of many 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 109 Metals and Art LA
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 111 What Do Your DNA and Your iPod Have in Common? QR
Everyone knows that computers are everywhere: the most ubiquitous, versatile tools in existence today. Fewer know that the science behind computing is likely to be the most disruptive intellectual paradigm shift since quantum mechanics. The “algorithm” is destined to replace the “formula” and the “differential equation” as the main conceptual template for the natural sciences of the 21st century.
This seminar will prove this assertion by exposing the students to some of the most radical ideas in computing: for example, why all computers are alike; why Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” goes to the heart of computing; why a living cell is not that different from an iPod; why even cheaters can play poker over the phone; why I can convince you of a fact without revealing a thing about it; why to believe, to trust, and to persuade are not what you think; and much more. (Monday 1:30–4:20 P.M.)
FRS 113 Debating the Constitution: 1787–1793 SA
Sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions
Passionate debate about the relevance of the American Constitution to everyday politics is currently making a comeback. But how well is the Constitution understood? In this seminar, we shall explore the meaning and significance of the Constitution by means of an engagement with the spirited and sometimes fiery constitutional debates during the Founding period.
Among the issues to be considered are: (1) Was there really a “crisis” under the Articles of Confederation that required a new constitution? (2) Were the proceedings at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 themselves unconstitutional? (3) Is the Constitution merely a “bundle of compromises” with no guiding principles, or is there an underlying philosophy? (4) Why did the Constitution’s framers initially oppose a bill of rights? What were the arguments for and against? (5) What were the key objections of the Anti-Federalists to the proposed constitution, and what was the Federalists’ defense? We will conclude with the debates in the early 1790s among Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson over the constitutionality of George Washington’s domestic and foreign policies.
Seminar readings will focus on the writings of the statesmen involved in the debates, with a few secondary sources assigned to provide historical context. Participants will write short papers (1,000–1,200 words each) evaluating the arguments offered by the differing sides. (Monday, Wednesday 3:00–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 115 Wordplay: A Wry Plod from Babel to Scrabble LA
What was Georges Perec thinking when he wrote—and what should we think when we read—his 1969 novel La Disparition (“The Disappearance”), which lacks the letter e ? And what about the continued e-lessness of Gilbert Adair’s English translation, A Void? All forms of linguistic expression involve constraints (this course description must be under 550 words, for example, and a Shakespearean sonnet must have 14 decasyllabic verses), but some of these are more difficult to manage, more remarkable, and just plain stranger than others, like writing hundreds of pages without even once using the letter that makes up about 14.7 percent of any normal French text and 12.7 percent of any normal English one. (In case you are worried about their fate, be assured that Perec used up the saved e’s, while at the same time abjuring other vowels, in his 1972 novella “Les Revenentes,” which Ian Monk [a.k.a. E. N. Menk] proceeded to render as “The Exeter Text: Jewels, Secrets, Sex.”)
The purpose of this course is to bring together interesting reading, thoughtful scholarship, and hands-on revelry in the exploration of the ludic side of language. Linguistic play is part of many people’s normal experience (think of the daily crossword puzzle and the excitement that surrounds the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee) and yet it is widely considered a trivial pursuit, often childish (Dr. Seuss and counting-out rhymes) but sometimes abstruse (James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov). We—ideally a wide-ranging group of adventurers interested in such fields as comparative literature, linguistics, and mathematics, as well as anthropology, computer science, history, psychology, and religion—will spend the semester considering the formal features, aesthetic pleasures, and societal roles of wordplay from as wide a temporal and geographical perspective as possible. Building on my own areas of expertise and the linguistic competence and passions of the participants, which I hope will be broad, we will read lipogrammatic poetry both ancient and modern, think about linguistic games with non-Western scripts, and regularly try to produce decent examples of “constrained writing” ourselves. We will start with David Crystal’s fine introductory book Language Play (1998), move on to authors you’ve heard of (Lewis Carroll) and others you probably haven’t (Christian Bök), and arrive in the end at a better understanding of how language works and how these workings can be bent in unusual ways to produce striking effects. Along the way we will watch some movies, challenge one another to games of Scrabble and Boggle, and enjoy the “Princeton dimension” of the whole enterprise. After all (to take just three cases), Paul Muldoon’s poems are legendary for their linguistic virtuosity, French professor David Bellos is the leading authority on Perec, and biophysicist William Bialek has applied the concept of maximal entropy to the spelling of four-letter words.
Students will be encouraged to become scholars in interests old and new by seeking out the many resources (both animate and inanimate) on campus, by collaborating with one other, and by sharing their own personal discoveries. All are required to give an oral report and to submit two projects that show evidence of creativity and research: one a (fairly conventional) academic paper, the other an (ideally unconventional) example of ludic verbal art. (Monday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 117 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. (Thursday 7:30–10:30 p.m.)
FRS 119 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 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 will 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 11:00 a.m.–12:20 p.m.)
FRS 121 Can Virtue Be Taught? An Introduction to the Liberal Arts LA
Sponsored by the University Center for Human Values
Can people be made better by education? Can moral improvement by education lead you to a good life? Is the good life for you a life of social and economic advancement? Would you rather take Socrates’s advice to shun social recognition and financial success and care only for the improvement of your soul? Is teaching a professional activity under the laws of the market? Is higher learning a luxury available only for the elite? Is patriotism a cardinal value of education? Can philosophy make you virtuous? Can the arts improve your character? What is the moral significance of the new art of film? Through these and other related questions, we will explore the broad themes of the philosophy of education. Careful, close reading of Plato’s Protagoras and the second and seventh books of The Republic will enable us to identify three characteristic educational theories: the sophist, the Socratic, and the Platonic. We then follow these three theories throughout the history of ideas in various philosophical, literary, and cinematic presentations of moral arguments about education. The sophist educators claim to provide you with an instrument that enables you to achieve the good life of social and economic success. (We will recognize this position most clearly in the 20th-century American philosopher John Dewey’s work.) Socrates, however, defines the good life as one that shuns social and economic advancement for a relentless examination of the self. (This position appears in the philosophy of Dewey’s British contemporary, Michael Oakeshott.) Plato’s educational ideal is the cultivation of common ancestral values (of an elite) in order to nurture a sense of national or ethnic belonging that becomes vital in wartime for the survival of the community. In his Platonic educational theory, Allan Bloom identifies the common ancestral values of the United States as the love of freedom and democracy, which can be best inculcated by Western literature and philosophy. We will investigate this provincial claim for universalism and its possible consequences in the context of our University that incorporates teachers and students from a broad variety of cultural heritages. An important portion of our intellectual work in this seminar will be dedicated to the viewing and the discussion of films. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 123 Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island: Severe Accidents and Nuclear Power SA
William H. Burchfield 1902 Freshman Seminar
The March 2011 accidents at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactors provided a painful reminder that nuclear accidents can have a long-lasting local, regional, and global impact. An estimated 200,000 people living within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima reactors were evacuated; some may never return to their homes. Compensation claims may be more than $100 billion. Food and water were found to be contaminated with radioactivity at distances of up to 250 kilometers. Traces of radiation traveled more than 8,000 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean to reach the U.S. mainland.
Policy makers in different countries have been varied in their responses to the accident. German Chancellor Angela Merkel observed that “when...the apparently impossible becomes possible and the absolutely unlikely reality, then the situation changes.” She decided to shut down half of Germany’s reactors and accelerate the phase out of nuclear power, a process that first gained momentum with the accident at Chernobyl in 1986. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that his country had to start from scratch with its energy plans following the disaster. In contrast, U.S. President Barack Obama released a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that called for “expanding cleaner sources of energy, including...nuclear power.”
This course will explore the complexities of nuclear technology and the causes and consequences of nuclear accidents. It will examine the implications of the potential for severe accidents for the future of nuclear power and energy policy in general. The course will be composed of four parts. The first will offer a basic introduction to nuclear energy, its current status and various challenges it faces to expansion, reactor safety, and the health impacts of radiation exposure. The second part will examine what happened at the three major nuclear power reactor accidents so far: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and, now, Fukushima. The third part will look at what we have learned from these accidents, how analysts think about nuclear safety, how planners seek to deal with potential accidents, and how accidents and nuclear power have been portrayed in popular culture and perceived by members of the public. The final part will try to assess what role nuclear power might play in the future. In addition to classroom discussions, the course will include some in-class viewings of documentaries and movies on nuclear power, as well as a possible field trip to a nuclear power plant. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 127 New Eyes for the World: Photonics Solutions for Today’s Challenges STL
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
Much of what we experience or learn about the world around us we first perceive through our sense of sight; we see and view objects near and far and infer their properties. We also use visual objects to express ourselves; we write, paint, and create moving art. Yet, the visible portion of light where all of these activities are happening is only a minute part of the electromagnetic spectrum. We can use photonics—the science and engineering of light—across many wavelength ranges to unravel the mysteries of nature and to guide our modern information society.
This seminar has at its core a hands-on optical engineering lab that teaches the fundamentals of several optical technologies that have changed and continue to change modern society. When discussing the impact of optical communications on modern information technology and infrastructure, the students will build a computer-to-computer instant messaging system “from scratch” that uses free-space optical wireless communication, programming the user interface, soldering the electronics boards, and aligning the lasers that perform the long distance communication. We will use nanotechnology as a case study to explore the power of optical characterization and optical sensing of chemical and structural signatures. Optical data storage is explored via hands-on holography. Finally, we explore the role of photonics in medical applications, from imaging to breath sensing, and in the fields of environment, energy, and security.
The major component of this seminar is the hands-on laboratory work, which is complemented by brief lectures on the various technologies, as well as group discussions. Some projects are conducted in small teams, and others individually. Students will be graded on active participation, lab reports, and a semester-long independent research project involving photonics in a general field of interest to the student. Successful research projects may lead to peer-reviewed publications and/or conference presentations. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 129 Forgiveness EM
Olga Peters Hasty
Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion
How to respond to wrongdoing is a complex issue, and one on which human coexistence depends. For millennia, forgiveness has been the domain of religious and philosophical thinkers, but recently it has also attracted the attention of sociologists, historians, political scientists, legal scholars, psychologists, and even medical professionals who are interested in reactive attitudes that foster individual and collective well-being. In this seminar we will explore how creative artists and thinkers from a broad variety of cultures struggle with translating the ideal of forgiveness into real-life settings. The narratives of forgiveness around which the seminar is structured serve as points of departure for discussing how forgiveness works (or doesn’t) in diverse contexts, including personal relations, want of due process, social injustice, retributive justice, and restorative justice in the aftermath of historical wrongs (e.g., war and colonialism). As we study narratives of other times and places that offer different perspectives on forgiveness, we will reflect on the pertinence of the questions they raise to our own world: How is “forgiveness” variously defined? What generates the need for forgiveness? Are there wrongs that cannot be forgiven? What consequences does forgiveness have for the forgiver and the forgiven? Is forgiveness contingent on repentance and atonement, or can it be unconditional? Who can rightfully extend forgiveness? What motivates someone to seek forgiveness? What constitutes apology? What sort of moral or ethical obligation is placed on those of whom forgiveness is asked? These and many other questions that a study of forgiveness opens have no single, unequivocal answer and must be revisited time and time again in the course of working out a good and just course of action that can help to rectify past wrongs and forestall new ones. (Wednesday 1:30 – 4:20 p.m.)
FRS 133 Silence, Noise, Sound, and Music: Art and/as Everyday Experience LA
Professor Roy Dickinson Welch Freshman Seminar in Music
We are surrounded by sounds, many not of our choosing, but how often do we stop to listen closely to the songs of birds or cell phone rings, or to consider how the clash of car stereos in the street or the horn from Princeton’s Dinky inflect our experience? This seminar considers the varied, intriguing—and, sometimes, perplexing—ways that we receive, digest, and reshape our sonic landscape. We’ll consider a broad spectrum of sounds, ranging from the relatively spontaneous sensations of silence, noise, and other everyday sounds, to the more formalized experiences we call music. Course requirements include experiential activities and experiments as well as reading and listening assignments. Participants in the seminar will be invited to “hunt for” silence as well as sound, to invent sonic landscapes to share in class, and to collaborate in blurring the boundary between everyday life and the specialized realm of art. We’ll study a wide variety of cultural documents, including films that use “unpolished” sounds, experimental musical works that embrace silence as a legitimate sonic experience, and conceptual art that questions the distinction between art and the everyday. Experience in any artistic discipline is welcome but is not required; more important is a spirit of exploration and inquiry into the sounds that surround us. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 135 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 137 Children and War EM
Agnew Family Freshman Seminar
The seminar will analyze the impact of wars on civilians, especially on children. We will make use of three ways of looking at that experience: historical, ethical, and artistic. At the level of historical inquiry, we will be most concerned with World War II in Europe. We will pay special attention to Jewish children, but we will also look at the fate of other children of Europe (German, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and Spanish). At the end of the semester, we will look beyond Europe and World War II to the present. The historical inquiry will be accompanied by the study of the ethics of war, the place of war and cruelty in culture, and myths about war. At the third level of inquiry we will be concerned with how to read testimonies, novels, and films about war, asking how the war narration is framed, what kind of war story is permitted and encouraged. We will ask ourselves: What is literary in eyewitness testimony? And what is real in fiction about war? (Tuesday, Thursday 11 a.m.–12:20 p.m.)
FRS 139 Ethics in Financial Markets SA
Jean-Christophe de Swaan
Professor Burton G. Malkiel *64 Freshman Seminar
Examples of ethical transgressions in financial markets continue to abound, despite the slew of high-profile scandals witnessed over the past two decades. The global financial crisis arguably highlighted the extent to which we seem to have made little progress in stamping out unethical behavior in markets. This seminar will explore ethics in financial markets using a case-based method. We will discuss and debate case studies illustrating various patterns observed in markets, from outright deceit, fraud, and manipulation, to more nuanced conflicts of interest. We will pay particular attention to the “grey areas” in which financial actors have to balance a complex web of duties and incentives. In this respect, we will discuss the conflicts that arise from agent-principal relations such as institutional and retail investment managers acting on behalf of clients, and corporate executives acting on behalf of shareholders.
The seminar will address the topic from various angles, including that of financial theory, behavioral finance, corporate governance, economic development, and public policy. In order to frame the discussion, we will review the underlying wealth maximization assumptions of financial theory and concepts of corporate governance. We will also draw on more recent research in behavioral finance and concepts of “bounded ethicality.” An important focus of the course will also be on comparing patterns of transgression across national financial markets, with a particular focus on the United States, China, Japan, and India. (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 141 Health Concerns in the 21st Century SA
Frank E. Richardson ’61 Freshman Seminar in Public Policy Sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School
Despite unprecedented increases in life expectancy for most of the world over the previous century, health concerns remain prominent today. The AIDS epidemic has led some countries to revert to mortality levels not seen in rich countries since the 1800s or earlier, and Russia and several other Eastern European societies have experienced significant downturns in health, particularly among men. The United States, despite its wealth and enormous health expenditures, fares more poorly than virtually all other wealthy countries in terms of infant death rates, and the health of middle-aged and older Americans—especially women—is falling behind that of their peers. At the same time, inequalities in health between the rich and the poor have widened in the United States and elsewhere. Additional health disparities persist: for example, in the United States, whites live considerably longer than African Americans, married people live longer than the non-married, and women live longer than men.
What can we expect to happen in the next few decades as most countries experience the rapid aging of their populations? Will overall health and social service expenditures skyrocket? Will health screening procedures become increasingly costly but ineffective? Are we reaching the limits of human life expectancy, or will genetic and other scientific advances result in further huge gains? Perhaps people will live longer but spend more time sick or disabled. Or, perhaps the epidemic of obesity—currently higher in the United States than anywhere else—will counteract medical advances and lead to shorter lives, as many experts predict. This seminar will examine how and why these diverse patterns of health and survival have emerged, and what current research suggests will transpire over the ensuing decades. (Monday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 143 The Literature of Place and Travel LA
Henry David Thoreau Freshman Seminar in Environmental Studies
In this era of global change, many writers have found new ways to express ideas about place and travel. Our seminar examines recent works of literary nonfiction that recount journeys in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Americas. The authors range from Peter Matthiessen and Joan Didion to Che Guevara and Jill Ker Conway; themes include cultural perceptions of wilderness, habitat preservation, endangered species, war and nature, environmental sustainability, development versus the indigenous, and the social ecology of cities and schools. Maps, images, music, and films supplement our understanding of distant places and cultures. (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 145 When Adolescence Goes Wrong: What They Didn’t Tell You SA
Shelly and Michael Kassen ’76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences
Have you ever taken the time to examine the complex variables that make up the period between the ages of 11 and 20? Why is it that adolescence can be so traumatic for some and a relatively smooth period for others? How do we transition from childhood to adulthood? Why is that period of time so often filled with “storm and stress” and why do so many teenagers suffer from emotional meltdowns and personal trauma? In essence, what goes wrong?
What happens to our bodies, our brains, and our environments that can result in serious psychopathologies? Is it nature? Is it nurture? Adolescence can be so unpredictable, filled with frustrations, rebelliousness, personal failures, and inconsistencies. This course will take a three-pronged approach to the study of normal and abnormal human behavior between the ages of 11 and 20. First we will spend some time each week discussing and examining what most might term “normal” adolescent behavior from biological, emotional, and sociological perspectives.
From there we will proceed to the most significant part of the course that will focus on many of the psychopathologies from which adolescents suffer. Based on student interest, these may include, but are not limited to: anxiety, depression, sexuality, bullying, eating disorders, substance abuse, gender identity, several personality disorders, bipolarity, attention deficit, Asperger’s Syndrome, adolescent suicide, compulsions, and phobias. Students will be encouraged to pursue in-depth study on particular areas of interest augmented by text, journal articles, movies, and DVD segments that demonstrate certain psychopathologies, class discussions, and individual presentations.
The third prong of the course will be a crosscultural study of how adolescence differs in North America, South America, Asia, parts of Northern (predominantly Muslim) and sub-Saharan Africa, and why there are so many differences. As the world “shrinks,” do we see significant changes in these differences, and what can we predict for the next generation of adolescents? This seminar will offer students an opportunity to gain insight into their own adolescence and to compare and contrast it with other students in the course, in the nation, and around the world. (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 147 How the Tabby Cat Got Her Stripes STN
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. This seminar will be very challenging for students who had not taken AP Biology, or its equivalent. (Monday 7:30–10:20 p.m.)
POSTPONED TO SPRING FRS Live at the Village Vanguard LA
Professor Roy Dickinson Welch Freshman Seminar in Music
Experiencing live music is essential to the jazz tradition. Musicians improvise, composing in real time on the bandstand in response to dynamic musical and social conditions. No two performances are ever the same. By contrast, recordings—whether they assume the form of vinyl LPs, CDs, or digital files—can only offer listeners the residue of spontaneous creation.
This course will use venues—spaces where jazz is performed, including nightclubs, concert halls, dance halls, lofts, parks, festival grounds, and cafés—as a means by which to examine the live jazz experience. Rather than studying a tidy succession of styles, we will use an interdisciplinary approach to explore the complex and shifting conditions that enable the music’s public presentation: cultural geography, architecture and acoustics, performance practices, technology, audiences, and economics, asking how key musical developments have occurred through the combination of innovative musicians and particular scenes.
The central example for the course and the subject of our own original research will be the iconic Village Vanguard. Opened in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1935, it is one of the oldest and most prestigious jazz clubs in the world. In addition to a number of in-person visits, we will have further access to performances through our participation in monthly webcasts produced by National Public Radio in collaboration with WBGO (88.3 FM in Newark, NJ). The NPR Music website hosts streaming audio, video, and an interactive chat, resources that will allow students to consider the virtual scenes and imaginary spaces into which live jazz is expanding. No prior musical experience is required for this course. (Monday, Wednesday 3–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 151 Narratives of Identity in the Other Europe: Reading Culture in the Balkans LA
William H. Burchfield 1902 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 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 153 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 155 Roads Not Taken: Critics of Modern America, 1880–1960 EM
Class of 1976 Freshman Seminar in Human Values
Like all modern industrial societies, the United States wrestles with questions of social justice: who is entitled to the benefits of the enormously productive machine that is the American economy, on what terms, and to how much; what should we each contribute to keeping that machine functioning; how should we decide the answers to such questions? These questions are the stock in trade of philosophers and political theorists, but they have been hotly debated in legislatures, on the streets, in magazines and newspapers, and in works of fiction. If it was not for what goes on outside the academy, there’d be little to discuss inside the academy. This seminar explores the ideas of writers outside what today appears to be the political and economic mainstream, but which did not always appear so. Starting with the upsurge in political activism and political thinking provoked by the industrial expansion of the last quarter of the 19th century, the seminar explores some “roads not taken:” anarchist, socialist, social-democratic, progressive, liberal, and conservative.
The United States was late to establish the kind of welfare state familiar in other modern industrial societies in Western Europe and elsewhere. Socialist ideas have made less headway than in most countries at the same stage of social and economic development. But the United States has been equally inhospitable to forms of conservatism familiar in Europe and elsewhere. This has been a source of puzzlement and despair on right and left alike. Two sorts of thinking about social justice have made almost no headway–socialist ideas about the need for public ownership, workers’ control, and the extension of democracy into novel areas, and conservative ideas of a paternalist, “everyone in his proper station” kind, or the more authoritarian conservatism of European Fascism. But, many less politically radical ideas, whose authors were utterly opposed to violent and sweeping change for their implementation, have fared badly: the liberalism of Herbert Croly, Walter Lippmann, and John Dewey for instance, and the community-centered hopes of Jane Addams. It is an open question whether W.E.B. DuBois’s hopes for a more racially equal society have been more realized than frustrated.
We shall proceed chronologically, starting with the Utopian nationalism of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward—extraordinarily popular in its day—and the anti-revolutionary road to utopia; then we shall go on to the revolutionary socialism of Eugene Debs and the anarchism of Emma Goldman. Croly’s Promise of American Life provides a chance to look at “big government” nationalist liberalism, while Addams’s settlement-based route to social harmony and Dewey’s early writings on democracy and education provide a communitarian alternative. Justice to the truly excluded demands a reading of DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk and his attempts to create a more assertive black consciousness, and another glimpse of the extraordinary violence of pre-1914 labor relations can be gained from Jack London’s The Iron Heel.
The post-WW I landscape was intellectually continuous with the pre-war intellectual landscape; but many radicals became more conservative, and others rethought their earlier optimism. So, we shall look at Lippmann’s increasing skepticism about the workings of democracy, at Dewey’s response to Lippmann, at Reinhold Niebuhr’s call for greater realism on the part of liberals and radicals, and at the mood of cultural disgust that seized social conservatives such as Irving Babbitt. We must occasionally reach outside our writers for theoretical insights into the nature of liberalism and socialism, the coherence or incoherence of anarchism, and the nature of justice and democracy; but our focus will be on understanding what some interesting and imaginative writers said, why they said it, and how much sense it made, then or later.
Some of these ideas about a fairer, freer, more cohesive, and happier America came close to entering the mainstream a century ago; some did so later in the New Deal and after; we may be grateful that others never came close. However, the primary goal of the seminar is for us to learn something from each other, not to reach any particular destination; you will encounter some interesting and imaginative writers, who may provoke you to interesting and imaginative ideas of your own about the subjects they wrestled with. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 159 The Face: The Forces that Shape How We Perceive Others SA
Shelly and Michael Kassen ’76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences
Faces are special. Our brains are wired to perceive faces. Newborns with practically no visual experience prefer to attend to faces than to other objects. We possess neurons that respond to faces, and these neurons are concentrated in a few small regions of the brain. Damage to these regions leads to impairments in face perception. We can differentiate and store memories of practically an unlimited number of faces, and recognize faces after more than 50 years. Decades of computer science research have yet to produce computer models that come close to human performance. Not only can we differentiate among different faces, but we are also sensitive to extremely subtle changes in expressions of the same face. We rapidly make inferences from such changes about mental (e.g., bored) and emotional states (e.g., anxious).
Yet, this incredible fluency in face perception leads to some egregious and costly errors. The most common error in wrongful sentencing decisions is mistaken eyewitness testimony. People wrongfully convicted based on a false face identification have spent many years in prison, and some have been executed. Not only do we make recognition errors, but we also read in the face more than meets the eye. For example, we readily infer various personality characteristics from facial appearance, and these inferences, while often not registered consciously, nevertheless influence our decisions. Politicians who look more competent are more likely to be elected to office. African Americans who look more stereotypically “black” are more likely to be sentenced to death. Many baseball scouts believe that there is a “good face” that distinguishes good players from bad, and college players with “good” faces are more likely to be drafted by professional teams.
This seminar is about the bright and dark sides of face perception. The main idea is that the same set of perceptual biases leads to both our amazing abilities to perceive faces and our misperceptions and resulting errors. The first part of the seminar is about the development of face representations in the mind. Developmental, neuroscience, and computational studies provide the basic framework for understanding face perception. Our face expertise starts with a simple, innately specified face template that evolves into a rich “representational face space” shaped by both our long-term and short-term experience with other people. This representational space is complex and makes us experts in face perception. But it also generates predictable errors. The ideas presented in the first part of the seminar provide the foundation for understanding social perception of faces. Our experience with faces shapes not only what faces are easier to recognize, but also what faces we find attractive and trustworthy. The second part of the seminar is about this social perception. How do we perceive emotions in others? Are those perceptions universal or shaped by our culture and experience? What makes some faces look attractive? What properties of the face lead to positive or negative first impressions? How do first impressions bias decisions? Why is it not a good idea to trust our first impressions?
An important objective of the seminar is to reveal the fascinating side of the interdisciplinary science of face perception. For example, how do you find out about the visual preferences of sheep, monkeys, and human newborns? How do you know that a stimulus is perceived unconsciously? How do you know that a neuron is selectively responding to such complex stimuli as faces?
Finally, the seminar links basic scientific research to popular topics. Some of these topics include the art of caricaturing, the history of mug shots, the art of retouching images, “facial profiling” by casting agencies in Hollywood, and the creation of 3-D animated characters. (Monday, Wednesday 11 a.m.–12:20 p.m.)
FRS 161 Republican Liberty and Religion: 1300–1900 SA
Sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions
The purpose of the seminar is to 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 163 Bodies in Cultural Landscapes LA
This is a seminar/studio course that explores the intricate history of the Western fascination with non-white bodies in motion, from representations recorded in early ethnographic films to contemporary versions of the moving body framed in Hollywood films, dance videos, and urban dance documentaries. The aim of the course is to examine how the expectations projected onto those bodies have been crucial to the construction of contemporary discourses on gender, race, and culture, while shaping a Western sense of identity that defines itself by designating bodies of color to a landscape of “otherness.”
Students will be offered an interactive seminar atmosphere where they will view and discuss class material, and a studio component where they will engage physically with composition exercises to generate performance work inspired by and drawn from the course’s syllabus and consequent discussions. The course is designed for performers and non-performers interested in movement, performance, and theater, and is organized in three different units including early ethnographic documentaries, slapstick films, Hollywood musicals, urban dance documentaries, ballet and modern dance videos, and critical theory texts.
The first unit, Body as Culture, will focus on representations of “otherness” as recorded by European ethnographers in the late 1890s. The second, Body as Commerce, will focus on the implementation of FDR’s Good Neighbor Policy in Hollywood films featuring Brazilian performer Carmen Miranda. The final unit, Body as Art, will explore the relationship between current trends in modern and postmodern dance and concepts about identity politics generated by the multicultural movement.
This course will also include two or three field trips to New York City where students will spend the day in a combination of gallery/museum visits, rehearsal/studio visits, and evening performances. During these trips students will have a chance to interact with a number of different artists working in different genres of performance and witness their working process, as well as attending evening performances of dance, theater, and performance art depending on the offerings of the upcoming performance season. (Tuesday 1:30 - 4:20 P.M.)
FRS 165 American Families in Comparative Perspective SA
Ana Maria Goldani
There is much to be learned from looking at the diversity of families in the United States, and especially in the context of the world variety of family systems. American families have undergone dramatic changes produced by high rates of divorce, cohabitation, unwed motherhood, the new visibility of same-sex relationships, the (re)emergence of step families and working mothers, and a sharp rise in the number of single-person households, where once married-couple households were the norm.
The discussions of how all these changes have impacted family life and what the future holds for the younger generation of Americans have also been informed by social and economic changes marked by the increase of social class divisions. Thus, to some authors, family diversity is a sign of cultural deviance or collapsing values, while others maintain that “deviant” family forms are not dysfunctional at all but are adaptive and flexible arrangements responding to social structural changes.
This seminar will address several of these issues by focusing mostly on the diversity of American families and the collapse of universal and lifelong marriage. A comparison with families in other contexts will help to put this in perspective. (Wednesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 167 The Examined Life: Philosophy and Religion on the Art of Living EM
William H. Burchfield 1902 Freshman Seminar
What kind of life is worthy of a human being? How do you examine what W. B. Yeats called “the dark corners of your own soul” with the same scrutiny you give the world around you? To live a noble life is the most critical challenge we face as individuals, the courage to confront ourselves and our most cherished assumptions, and to face the world in turn as a conscious steward. To live an examined life is, as Socrates implored more than 2,400 years ago, to be actively engaged in the world and to take ownership of our choices. It is to live in the sacred space between thought and action, truth and justice, philosophy and life.
Both philosophy and religion, for all their differences, ask the same perennial questions of humanity: how do you create a flourishing human life? Philosophy is not the possession of wisdom but the love of wisdom, an orientation to truth and justice constantly in the making, demanding renewed devotion to conscious living. Diverse religious traditions, in turn, define the religious life as the striving for sanctity and human wisdom, in short, a way of life in harmony with the deepest truths of existence. In this seminar, we will explore classics of Western philosophy and religious thought as complementary responses to the deepest questions of humanity and the quest for a noble life. We begin at the beginning, with Socrates’s challenge that the unexamined life is not fit for a human being, and explore how this challenge was put into practice in medieval and modern times. We will conclude with contemporary philosophers, both religious and secular, who challenge us anew to live up to the ancient Socratic ideal. (Monday, Wednesday 11 a.m.–12:20 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. 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 students with the intelligence, national security, and constitutional background necessary 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 United States? 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. What will change in terms of intelligence and our roles and relationships in Pakistan and Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden dead? Is there an heir apparent and retribution to follow?
Our readings will include current news articles, basic statutes, testimony, and both sides of contentious debates, along with key commission reports, 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 Earth’s Environments and Ancient Civilizations STN
Adam Maloof and Frederik Simons
In this seminar, you will combine field observations of the natural world with mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science in order to answer questions like: Why are mountains high? Why are some landscapes wetter, drier, smoother, or more jagged than others? How does environmental change alter the course of civilization, and how do civilizations modify their environment? In the classroom, through problem sets, and on campus excursions, you will gain practical experience collecting geological and geophysical data in a geographical context, and analyzing these data using software and programming languages like ArcGIS and Matlab. During the required week-long fall break trip to Cyprus, you will engage in research projects that focus on the interplay between active tectonic landscapes, changing climate, and ancient civilizations. We will help you turn what you learn into three research papers. Scientific writing is an integral part of this course and its assessment. All costs of the fall break trip are covered by the University. (Thursday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 173 Global Environmental Change: Science, Technology, and Policy STN
Donald P. Wilson ’33 and Edna M. Wilson Freshman Seminar
Humans have always played a role in shaping Earth’s environment. However, since the start of the Industrial Revolution the human imprint has expanded to global scope and is accelerating to levels at which a sustainable future is uncertain. The human impact is now clearly seen in increasing global temperatures, ocean acidification, shrinking ice sheets, retreating glaciers, deforestation, freshwater scarcity, and loss of species. At the same time, a burgeoning and increasingly urban population requires more food and water, and is competing with the environment for finite resources, usually at the expense of environmental quality. At the start of a new millennium, these issues are coming to the fore of science and government policy in an increasingly connected world, where regional changes may have global ramifications. This freshman seminar will explore the science, technology, and policy issues behind global environmental change. We will ask searching questions about how humans impact and react to environmental change, such as: What are the environmental consequences of a global transition to a meat-based diet? To what extent have humans modified the land cover over the last 200 years, and what are its implications for change in climate? Who will be the winners and losers at the end of this century as a result of climate change? We will cover the science behind global change (climate variability and change; natural weather disasters such as floods and droughts; environmental degradation), human aspects of change (water crises and conflict; agriculture and food security; energy sustainability; climate and health) and technology and policy issues relating to mitigation and adaptation (renewable energy; carbon trading; carbon storage; geo-engineering; water resource engineering; agricultural development). (Monday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 175 Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Wisdom of Crowds LA
This seminar explores the history and nature of urban myths, particularly in regard to the way that they reflect the concerns and fears of society through literature. We will examine the ways in which myths differ from folk tales, fairy tales and superstition, and the means by which entire communities, seized with conviction, disseminate and fortify a myth. We will discuss urban myths through history (witchcraft; alchemy and the philosopher’s stone; prophecies of the end of the world) as well as contemporary manifestations (Ponzi schemes; alien abductions; the conviction, popular on college campuses, that students’ e-mails and cell phone messages are monitored), and the technological, religious, and moral shifts that cause them. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)
FRS 177 Borges for Beginners LA
What is an author? As Samuel Becket once wondered, does it matter who's speaking? What does it mean to study a particular oeuvre? What kind of meaning can we find interweaving the individual texts of a writer or a poet? This seminar grapples with the question of authorship and the attribution of meaning in the literature of Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), the legendary Argentine writer whose convoluted philosophical fictions have fascinated and puzzled readers from all over the world for decades. His influence has been so decisive that, according to the Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes, there would not be a modern Latin American novel, and therefore no "magical realism," without the prose of Jorge Luis Borges. Writers such as Humberto Eco, Paul Auster, and Roberto Bolaño, and theoreticians such as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault found in Borges' literature answers for a wide range of questions. He created a unique world of labyrinthic fictions and poems that explore the aporias of time and space, the paradoxes of identity, as well as the ambiguous frontier between reality and fiction. His stories and essays are magical, curious pieces of prose that often mimic standard genres such as the detective story, the scholarly essay, or science fiction, but that also include subtle and unexpected twists that suddenly leave the reader spinning in a philosophical conundrum about the nature of language, the self, and the universe. This seminar offers an introduction to Borges's literature and its themes from a variety of perspectives, from philosophy and aesthetics to politics and cultural analysis. As we pursue the question of who is "Jorge Luis Borges" through the reading of some of his most famous fictions, essays, and poems, we will discuss four of the philosophical and literary questions that preoccupied him the most. First, challenging short stories such as "Funes, the Memorious" and "The Immortal" will allow us to study how Borges approached the concept of time and memory, and how in his view forgetting could be a productive way of remembering. Second, by closely reading texts such as "The Babel Library" and "Pierre Menard, author of Don Quijote," we will explore the metaphysical consequences brought about by the existence of a book that includes all books, and the scandalous creativity of a man who "re-writes" the famous Spanish masterpiece by literally transcribing it. Thirdly, we will consider Borges's selective re-writing of Argentine local traditions such as tango music and the culture of the gauchos, as well as his appropriation and transformation of the detective story as a literary genre. Finally, we will conclude with a discussion of Borges's disturbing meditations on the notion of identity, the role of the state, and the figure of the traitor. The course will be taught in Spanish, while readings will be in Spanish and English. This course is addressed to students who are interested in literature, philosophy, art and Latin American modernity, and who would like to strengthen and polish their reading, writing, and speaking skills in Spanish. (Tuesday 1:30–4:20 p.m.)