Seminars for the Fall Term 2013
FRS 103 The Art of Light: A Creative Exploration of the Role of Light in Artistic Expression LA
We relate to light from the moment we enter the world until the moment we leave it — but most of us don't give it much thought. In this seminar, we will be students and explorers of light in our daily lives and in the arts. We will conduct creative investigations into how light affects perception, emotion, and storytelling; we will use the Princeton campus as a lab for exploring light in our lives; and we'll consider how artists throughout the centuries have painted, written about, and manipulated light. We will investigate an eclectic mix of visual arts, performing arts, literature, architecture, and religion in order to explore the role of light in artistic expression. We will begin to develop a vocabulary for talking about the visual world and our perception of it.
Light is sneaky, so we have to come at it sideways, and from many directions — after all, we don’t see light until it strikes an object. In a series of practical investigations with lights, we will ask questions such as: How does light reveal an object in space? Can light engender emotion? How do we perceive color in light? Can light serve as a storytelling device? Through explorations on campus, we will investigate how light relates to our experiences of the buildings we inhabit daily.
Simultaneously, we will approach light through the eyes of other artists. Some of the most beautiful writing in the world attempts to capture the human experience of light — from the opening lines of the Bible to the poetry of Louise Glück. We'll read and write and talk about how the language of light is used symbolically to express emotion, atmosphere, and character. We'll look at the work of masters of light through the ages — going back to Caravaggio and Gentileschi, Vermeer and de Hooch, and moving on to contemporary artists such as James Turell, Robert Irwin, Olafur Eliasson, Dan Flavin, and Bill Viola.
We'll look at how light reveals space in architecture, inside and out — from light in prehistoric structures and religious architecture to the more contemporary work of Tadao Ando, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, and others, taking particular advantage of the modern architecture on campus. We will explore how light relates to stylistic choices in the performance arts. We’ll take two field trips to New York City to explore art, architecture, and theater.
As we wrestle with some very specific questions about light and perception, and how we might begin to talk about it all, we will have the opportunity to encounter a broad range of wonderful art, architecture, writing, and theater. Although we will read, write, sketch, take photos, and get our hands dirty with lights, no prior artistic skill is needed. This seminar will be most exciting with a mix of scientists, historians, engineers, and artists in the room. Whoever you think you are, bring your most imaginative, creative, and generous self with you. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 105 Philosophical Analysis Using Argument Maps EM
Richard L. Smith '70 Freshman Seminars
What, if anything, do we owe the global poor? Is abortion morally permissible? Is assisted suicide? What limits, if any, should be imposed on genetic manipulation of one's offspring? Is it ever permissible to destroy a human embryo for stem cell research? Is free will possible in a deterministic world, and if it is not, are we ever morally responsible for our actions? When, if ever, does ignorance reduce one's moral responsibility?
These are some of the toughest, most pressing questions in practical ethics and the theory of moral responsibility. Philosophers have addressed these questions by producing subtle, intricate, and often beautiful arguments. In this seminar, you will assess those arguments and produce your own. You will learn to think like a philosopher — to strip an argument presented in prose to its bare essentials and produce a visual "map" that displays its structure plainly.
FRS 107 Architecture and the American College Campus LA
As an incoming freshman, you likely have spent the better part of the last year visiting college campuses, learning about the academic opportunities of each, and envisioning the life you will create over the next four years. At each campus you may have experienced some unique elements that set each school apart from others, but you also may have noticed similarities in how institutions present themselves including the physical campus — the arrangement of buildings and the styles of architecture. You may have seen campus buildings that ranged from nondescript or "cookie cutter" to beautiful and inspiring.
In this seminar, we will explore the history of ideas and forces that have shaped the planning and architecture of college campuses — sometimes referred to as ideal communities. We will begin by considering questions that probe the very nature of college: What is it for? How did it come to be? What challenges and opportunities lie ahead for institutions of higher education? While the physical design of the Princeton campus will be the focus of the course, we will also consider the issues of economics, competition, sustainability, and ethical responsibilities that colleges and universities face. We will pay particular attention to the relationship between a university and its neighboring community, be it a town or city. We will explore such issues as: Should universities, as leaders of the knowledge economy, be expected to generate economic development and jobs? What responsibilities do universities have as real estate developers as they weigh the institution's needs against public needs, in particular when new construction impacts existing community neighborhoods or areas of urban renewal? Public and private universities can be lauded for their mission and public spaces yet criticized for creating what Davarian Baldwin, a social theorist and historian of urban America, has called "distrustful, colonial social order." These tensions play out in ways that are unique to each campus setting, whether it is New York, Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia, or Princeton.
As your primary course assignment you will work in teams to visit campuses, preparing case studies that analyze these ideal communities in the context of lessons learned through our readings and discussions. (Tuesday 7:30-10:20 p.m.)
FRS 109 Modern Cosmology: From the Big Bang to the Present QR
Richard L. Smith '70 Freshman Seminars
We live at a unique point in human history: for the first time, we have a detailed and quantitative scientific understanding of the structure and evolution of the Universe as a whole. We know that the Universe came into being 13.8 billion years ago in a Big Bang and has been expanding ever since. Observations of the distribution of galaxies, the Cosmic Microwave Background, distant supernovae, and other probes give us an amazingly precise and self-consistent cosmological model that is remarkable for its simplicity and elegance. Yet this model asks more questions than it answers, as it states that the vast majority of the mass and energy in the Universe is in forms whose nature we don't understand: dark matter and dark energy. This course will explore this story in detail, using no more than high-school algebra and physics. We will study the astronomical observations that have led scientists inexorably to the Big Bang model and explore theoretical ideas, starting with Einstein, of what is causing the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe. Princeton University scientists have been at the center of many of these discoveries; we will bring in guest speakers from the University community to give historical perspectives on the development of our modern cosmological model. (Tuesday, Thursday 1:30-2:50 p.m.)
FRS 111 Water: Keystone for Sustainable Development STN
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. In this course, we will explore issues related to water shortages in different regions of the world and their implications for food, disease, and energy. The stress that 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 113 Historic Gardens and Designed Landscapes LA
W. Barksdale Maynard
Henry David Thoreau Freshman Seminar in Environmental Studies
Gardens and parks are not only beautiful, they are rich with intellectual meanings. The modern environmental movement, one of the most important philosophical developments in history, can be traced back to 18th-century experiments in gardening. This course begins with English and American gardens of that early period — including those of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington — and then moves forward into the great era of horticulture in the 19th century, much of which was centered in Philadelphia. There is no better place to study designed landscapes than Princeton, which lies at the heart of the Garden State and where the word "campus" first debuted. Specific places will be studied in detail, including the great gardens and parks of the mid-Atlantic, such as Longwood Gardens — the preeminent display garden in the hemisphere — in the Brandywine Valley region of Pennsylvania, as well as Central Park in New York. We will take a field trip to see gardens in the Brandywine Valley, which, along with Philadelphia, has the greatest concentration of public gardens in the United States. This course is for the student with varied interests, since it combines art, literature, botany, and environmental thought — in true interdisciplinary spirit. The larger goal is to introduce you to the excitement of doing research in the humanities. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 115 Agriculture, Food, and the Environment STL
What are the many challenges farmers face to produce enough food for a growing world population in the context of global climate change? What are the controversies over the solutions being proposed to solve these challenges, and what works at what scale? This course will delve into these questions to gain perspectives on the roles of global climate change and environmental impacts on agriculture. We will focus on key issues such as sustainable approaches to land and water use that are helping farmers and other food producers mitigate or adapt to climate change, and implications of conventional and alternative food systems for the environment, health, and nutrition. Interactive class exercises and labs will investigate and analyze specific topics focused on the application of ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of systems and food production that can help us produce food more sustainably. Field and lab activities will include work on the Forbes Garden Project and field trips to local farms in New Jersey. These activities will provide students with hands-on opportunities to investigate whether and how farming can be done in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. (Tuesday, Thursday 11 a.m.-12:20 p.m.)
FRS 117 Colonial Rule and Decolonization in the Muslim World HA
L. Carl Brown
The Western impact on the rest of the world is one of the most important organizing themes in the history of the last two centuries. And there can be no more demonstrable example of Western influence, for better or worse, than colonial rule. No part of the non-West was as hard hit by Western colonial rule as was the Muslim world. Thirty of the 35 states with a Muslim majority population today experienced outright Western colonial rule, and two of those five (Turkey and Iran) experienced Western pressures as intrusive as colonialism.
Western colonialism, however, breaks down into a diversity that needs to be studied. We have not just British and French colonial rule, but Russian (later the Soviet Union), Dutch, Italian, and Spanish. Times of colonial rule varied from two centuries to only a decade. And the different parts of the Muslim world presented different levels of development or (a much disputed term) "modernization." We will first draw up a historical tableau of the many different varieties of colonizer and colonized. Then we will explore comparatively such issues as settler colonization, institutional changes in education, law and the military, the role of missionaries, changing gender roles, and the politics of decolonization. (Tuesday, Thursday 11 a.m.-12:20 p.m.)
FRS 119 Exploring Human Genomes and the Future of Human Beings STN
Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 Freshman Seminar
What does the future hold for Homo sapiens and its genome — our genome? Will our species go extinct like nearly all others that have ever existed; will it survive in essentially the same form as today; or will human descendants evolve into something completely different? This seminar will provide a comprehensive overview of the scientific principles and technological advances required for informed speculation along these lines.
How did the enormously complex systems of life — and human life in particular — come into existence? As our knowledge deepens, we realize more clearly that the answer flows from the mid-20th century aphorism, "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
Although Darwin depended on fossils to support his theory of natural selection, modern evolutionary research is focused at the level of DNA, where heritable differences are actually encoded. The final stage of human genome evolution is recorded most thoroughly in a comparison with the genome of the chimp, our closest living relative. But the recovery and sequencing of Neanderthal DNA provides an evocative picture of similarities and differences to a recently extinct species that was much closer to our own. In fact, scientists have recently discovered that a few Neanderthal genes entered and remain ensconced in the ancestral lines of some members of this class.
Remarkably, most genetic variations that exist among people across the globe are confined to a limited number of chromosomal positions where one of two letters in the DNA alphabet can occur. These variable positions in the human genome are called SNPs. With analysis of genomic SNPs in thousands of living people, it becomes possible to trace the ancient movements of human populations from an African birthplace across all other inhabitable continents.
Modern biotechnology provides the capacity not only to interpret genomes, but to modify them as well. In the near future, genome modification methodology combined with advances in genetic understanding could provide potential parents with the ability to enhance the genomes of their children, who could augment and pass enhancements down to their own children, generation after generation. The end result could be a self-evolved species that supersedes its own creators. The ultimate question — more philosophical than scientific during our lifetimes — is whether a post-human species will emerge that is as different from us as we are from Neanderthals, chimpanzees, or even worms, in ways that our current minds are incapable of imagining. (Monday 7:30-10:20 p.m.)
FRS 123 Ancient Egypt and Its Hieroglyphs LA
Agnew Family Freshman Seminar
How do you — and how did the Egyptians — read hieroglyphs? If you have ever stood before brightly decorated sarcophagi from millennia ago, staring in respectful awe at row after row of amazing symbols without ever imagining that you, too, could read and write like an Egyptian, this interactive, hands-on seminar will get you started. In our exploration of ancient Egyptian society and its orthographic systems (especially hieroglyphic, but others as well) we will take both an internal and an external approach: on the one hand we will learn about the gods, mortals, pharaohs, and sphinxes about whom the Egyptians wrote; on the other we will think about the cognitive and artistic similarities and differences between the ways in which we and the Egyptians express ourselves in written form.
Most class meetings will consist of two halves: a friendly but rigorous introduction to Classical Egyptian, the language behind the hieroglyphs, followed by a discussion of some particular cultural phenomenon. Topics include Egyptian history, literature, and art; interactions between Egyptians and other ancient peoples; "Egyptomania" from ancient times to the present; the origins of writing; the excitement of decipherment; and the political hot potato of whether Western civilization owes more to the Egyptians than racist classicists have been willing to admit. We will meet, among others, Atum, who single-handedly engendered the Egyptian pantheon; Atum's great-granddaughter Isis and her brother-husband Osiris, whom Mozart immortalizes in The Magic Flute; Cheops, the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza; the sun-worshiping heretic Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti; Akhenaten's successor Tutankhamun, whose "cursed" tomb was discovered only 90 years ago; Herodotus, the Greek "Father of History," whose second book of Histories is about Egypt; the Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII, whose relationships with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony are more than the stuff of legend; and Napoleon, whose soldiers found the so-called Rosetta Stone, which allowed Jean-François Champollion and others finally to start actually reading hieroglyphs rather than regarding their interpretation as some sort of black art.
Students will be encouraged to become scholars in interests old and new by regularly exploring the resources available at Princeton and by sharing their discoveries with one another throughout the semester. In addition to weekly homework assignments, all are required to give an oral report and to write two papers that show evidence of both creativity and research: one on some aspect of ancient Egyptian language or culture and another on the use, or misuse, to which Egypt is put in an example of high or low culture from the modern period (e.g., "mummy movies"). There will be a strong visual component to the course, and we will visit the Princeton University Art Museum and Firestone Library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, as well as take a trip to a major Egyptological collection in New York or Philadelphia. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
Eric Wood and Justin Sheffield
Frank E. Richardson ’61 Freshman Seminar in Public Policy
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 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? 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, health); and technology and policy issues relating to mitigation and adaptation (renewable energy, carbon trading, carbon storage, geo-engineering, water resource engineering, agricultural development).
This is a multidisciplinary seminar in which students will explore current and future global environmental change issues from the standpoints of science, technology, and policy. Students will lead in-class presentations and discussions on various aspects of global environmental change based on weekly readings, in-class exercises, films, and talks by guest speakers. We expect to have a field trip to Costa Rica during fall break that will provide on-the-ground context to the topics discussed in class. Students must plan on devoting their fall break to the class trip and have a valid passport. All costs of the fall break trip are covered by the University. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 127 Making Sense of the Civil War HA
"Historical sense and poetic sense should not, in the end, be contradictory," claimed poet, novelist, and erstwhile Civil War historian Robert Penn Warren, "for if poetry is the little myth we make, history is the big myth we live, and in our living, constantly remake." This seminar will explore the big and little myths about the Civil War — what Warren once dubbed the "emotional furniture" in American life, a fixture of national consciousness. We will seek out the poetic sense not only in poetry, but also in paintings and photographs, symphonies and songs, and on stage and screen. To represent the Civil War in the arts, writ large, is to put that highly charged and contested event before us as something to think about as well as to feel. Ultimately at issue are the ways in which history is represented and the past imagined. How is history told in the present as a way to make sense of what has happened outside the bounds of our own experience? And how does the work of art perform that cultural work?
Through music, films, visual arts, dance, and literature, we will examine many forms of representing the Civil War, including battlefield photography and the Gettysburg Address; the idealization of Lincoln in such works as Walt Whitman's When Lilacs Last in Door-yard Bloom'd, Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait, and Spielberg's recent film Lincoln; the enduring image of the Old South in Gone with the Wind and its grotesque parody in Tarantino's Django Unchained; the sound and sight of slavery in photography and music as well as debates surrounding the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C.; blackface minstrelsy and concert spirituals. Major themes will include freedom and citizenship; national identity in conflict with regional affiliations; the ideals of American Exceptionalism and the original sin of slavery; and the political conscription of historical memory. (Wednesday 7:30-10:20 p.m.)
FRS 145 CANCELLED 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.)
FRS 129 Contact: The Archaeology of Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean HA
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
The Mediterranean in the Early Iron Age (10th to the 7th century B.C.E.) witnessed increasing commerce, migration, exploration, and innovation. Traders plied the seas selling goods and spreading ideas, urban centers developed, and colonies appeared. Peoples around the Mediterranean — from Spain to Assyria, Libya to Thrace — encountered one another in a variety of political, social, and economic contexts.
The aim of this seminar is to use archaeological evidence (the material remains of the past) to explore how people interacted in the ancient Mediterranean and with what results. Our goal is to assess the intensity, the quality, and the importance of contacts during this period of complex cultural development. We will examine in particular the encounter of Greeks with the Near East.
Students will learn how to detect, describe, and explain change and variation in cultural contact. When and why did people and goods cross land and sea? Why did some regions appropriate foreign products and technologies that their neighbors ignored? How were such goods and knowledge deployed in their new contexts and to whose advantage? In what ways did the foundation of foreign settlements affect local populations, and vice-versa? In approaching these questions (and more), we will assess the strength of various explanatory models, such as diffusion, acculturation, world systems theory, and middle ground approaches.
The course is organized into three parts. In the first, Objects, we will look at ancient artifacts and analyze how they reflected and mediated contact. In the second, People, we will attempt to work from these objects and later texts (such as Homer) to discover the agents engaged in interaction and to understand their activity. In the third, Sites, we will study a range of archaeological contexts, such as cemeteries and trading ports, to identify arenas of cultural contact and to assess how people both produced and consumed foreign material culture. Students will spend two sessions working hands-on with objects in the Princeton University Art Museum, and take a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 131 Discovering Don Quixote de la Mancha: Then and Now LA
“All prose fiction is a variation on the theme of Don Quixote,” said the American critic Lionel Trilling in an attempt to articulate the pervasive universality contained in this book. From the time Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra published his masterpiece (Part I in 1605, Part II in 1615), Don Quixote de la Mancha has remained one of the most widely read and referenced books in the world. With the exception of the Bible, no other book has been translated as often and in so many languages. Most literate people, at the least, recognize the figure of the disheveled old man wearing a knight's garb — along with his unseemly squire — and the stubborn idealism he represents. Why has Don Quixote been so appealing to such wide range of cultures? It is commonplace to call it the first "modern novel," but what do we mean by that phrase? And what do readers find in this book that goes beyond what might be put in a movie version or Wikipedia?
This seminar is fundamentally dedicated to tackling these questions. For this purpose, we will briefly survey critical views on the novel. More specifically, we will explore the interpretations of Don Quixote as a "funny book," a narrative of a morally and artistically superior protagonist who is tragically doomed by a callous society, a philosophical treatment of the individual searching for selfhood, and as a de-centered rewriting of Spain’s multicultural “history.” Among other themes that will reverberate throughout the course are social issues relating to class, race, and gender in the context of early modern Spain.
The relevance of Cervantes' novel to our "now" will become relevant as we consider his treatment of universal issues — such as friendship, love, good vs. evil, and idealism vs. pragmatism — that have defined modern Western societies. In the last few weeks of the semester, furthermore, we will explore more explicitly how so many of the themes of the novel emerge in contemporary cultural productions. More specifically, students will be asked to watch one or two films of their choice that deal with "Quixotic" motifs. Possible films are Taxi Driver, Pan's Labyrinth, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Pleasantville, Stranger than Fiction, and The Mosquito Coast. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 133 Materials World STN
Donald P. Wilson '33 and Edna M. Wilson Freshman Seminar
Materials surround and compose us. Materials produced by natural geological and biological processes find common use in our daily activities. We produce ever more by synthesizing materials not usually found in nature. Entire civilizations have evolved with advances in materials throughout history, and materials have identified the ages of humankind: stone, bronze, iron, and, most recently, silicon. Materials: what are they, how are they made, and how are they used? What materials are in our future? This seminar will address these questions in class and in the laboratory.
Aggregates of atoms, through specific atomic or molecular interactions that define their structure, evolve into materials of the various forms we know as metals, polymers, and ceramics. A material's properties are determined by the nature of these atomic interactions and structural features. We will begin by examining this interplay among the nature of the atomic interactions, the structures that form as a consequence, and the properties of materials. We will continue with a study of the processes used in the synthesis and processing of materials, as different methods are used depending on the type of material, and contrast human and natural syntheses. Man-made materials are typically produced by high-temperature methods whereas biologically produced ones follow a low-temperature approach. Synthetic materials are designed to satisfy only one or two functions, but biologically produced ones are typically multifunctional and have properties (e.g., self-replicating, self-healing) that have yet to be introduced into man-made ones.
The overall objective of this course is to provide an understanding of the important processes for controlling materials properties through nano- and microstructural design and processing. A specific objective of the course will be to evaluate the possibility of utilizing bio-inspired methods in technological applications. The course provides a hands-on laboratory experience on the topics covered in discussion. The course is specifically designed for students who have had no background in materials science and engineering. (Tuesday 1:30-2:50 p.m.)
FRS 137 Silence, Sound, Noise, Music: Everyday Life And/As Art 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 train 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 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. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 143 Stalin's Gulag SA
Agnew Family Freshman Seminar
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. We will also 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. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 149 Coeducation HA
For many years, coeducation has been the norm for American higher education. But that is not the world you would have experienced if you had enrolled in college during the 1960s, when there were almost 250 all-male colleges and more than 200 women's colleges. Beginning in 1969, so much of that changed. Institutions that had been single-sex since their founding embraced coeducation. That was true of almost every all-male institution, including Princeton and its Ivy peers; it was also true of a wide range of women's colleges.
This seminar focuses on the advent of coeducation in the late 1960s and 1970s. Why did it happen? Why then? Why was the opposition so fierce? What was the experience of men and women in newly coeducational institutions? How did it compare with the experience of students in institutions that had always been coeducational?
We'll begin by studying the early experience of coeducation at such institutions as Oberlin, Michigan, and Cornell. We'll read about some of the institutions that participated in the wave of coeducation that swept over American colleges and universities: Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, Georgetown, Rutgers, and the University of Virginia, for example. We'll also read about liberal arts colleges that coeducated, including Amherst and Vassar, and those that decided against coeducation, notably Barnard, Mills, Smith, and Wellesley. Drawing on a rich array of primary sources, we'll focus especially on Princeton and Yale: Why and how did these universities decide to admit women? What happened when women arrived? Has coeducation been successful? What have been the results? And we will address the critical question that President Shirley M. Tilghman put to Princeton's Steering Committee on Undergraduate Women's Leadership: "whether women undergraduates are realizing their academic potential and seeking opportunities for leadership at the same rate and in the same manner as their male colleagues." Through original research, students will illuminate aspects of coeducation at Princeton or at other colleges and universities. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 151 Ethics in Financial Markets SA
Jean-Christophe de Swaan
John H. Laporte Jr. '67 Freshman Seminar
Examples of ethical transgressions in financial markets continue to abound, despite the slew of high-profile scandals exposed 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. Our approach will be grounded on an understanding of the role of a financial system in an economy and society. We will frame the discussion by reviewing the economic development, utilitarian, and egalitarian arguments in favor of markets and considering their limits. We will address the seminar's topic from various angles, drawing on financial theory and concepts of behavioral ethics, corporate governance, economic development, and public policy.
In addressing ethical issues, several themes will be particularly emphasized throughout the semester:
- An attempt to distinguish ethical issues that are systemic in nature from those that relate to individual decision-making and character.
- For the systemic issues, a comparison of corporate governance across national financial markets, with particular emphasis on the United States, China, Japan, and India, and how each of these countries' typical corporate governance failings might be linked to the nature of their financial systems.
- For the issues related to individual decision-making, case studies will illustrate various patterns observed in markets, from outright deceit, fraud, and manipulation to more nuanced mishandling of conflicts of interest. For the latter, we will pay particular attention to the concept of "bounded ethicality" and the gray areas in which financial actors have to balance a complex web of duties and incentives. Many of these discussions will center on the conflicts that arise from agent-principal relations such as corporate executives acting on behalf of shareholders and investment managers acting on behalf of clients.
- An exploration of the economic and social value of investments and which types of investments might create the most positive impact beyond financial returns.
- A discussion of role models — for example, financial market professionals who act in ways that benefit society. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
Shelly and Michael Kassen '76 Freshman Seminar
According to urbandictionary.com, the word "ghetto" used to refer to the part of European cities in which Jews were restricted. Since then, it has come to refer to "yelling at your boo in the middle of the street," "replacing a broken window with a trash bag and duct tape," and the "tendency to eat every free sample." How did we get here?
We will begin with the first Jewish residential zone in a European city, the Jewish quarter of pre-Christian Rome, and end with discussions of gay ghettos, Chinatowns, barrios, and Gaza. Along the way, we will explore medieval Jewish quarters, early modern Jewish ghettos of Europe, the Nazi ghettos in Poland, the Jewish immigrant ghettos of early 20th century America, and the black ghettos in Northern U.S. cities from after World War II to the present. As we trace the spread and evolution of the ghetto as a socio-historical concept, we will explore how the social form emerged in different historical moments and what people inside and outside have made of the experience.
This sense-making aspect of ghetto life establishes a central theme of the class: the ghetto as site for struggle over human values. Although ghetto dwellers are thought to be held together by external prejudice, they have also historically been spaces populated by disparate groups that brought distinct customs and beliefs to their new locations. This presents particular problems for residents, namely those that arise when people with little in common are forced to live side by side in cramped quarters. Examining this dimension of everyday life, we will see the ghetto as an interactional space with significant conflicts over moral values and standards of behavior. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 155 Story: Drama from the Greek Stage to the Modern Screen LA
Louise S. Sams, Class of 1979, Freshman Seminar
It is a truism held by critics and book agents alike that the secret of a good movie, novel, or play lies in its plot, in having a story that hangs together and compels an audience to stay engaged to the end. And yet many critics complain that the ancient art of storytelling has fallen into neglect. Both popular cinema and the contemporary stage suggest that the complexity of the world cannot be captured in neat narratives, and our increasing awareness of the variety of human experience militates against the assumption that good stories can be reduced to a few neat kinds.
This seminar will test the proposition that there are principles of good storytelling that are valid across different times and places. It will be an experiment in breaking through the ancient/modern divide. We will read the classics of Greek tragedy as if they were screenplays, and, conversely, will read and view later plays and movies so see how they appear in the light of a critical tradition going back 2,500 years. We will draw our critical principles from two works that are widely separated in time but nonetheless suggestively convergent: one is Story by Robert McKee, a 1997 award-winning manual for aspiring screenwriters that is required reading in film courses at many major universities; the other is a book McKee avows as the source of most of his ideas, Poetics, a brief but brilliant set of lectures written by Aristotle around 350 B.C.E. McKee is trying to formulate rules for writing a script that will succeed as popular entertainment in contemporary America, while Aristotle was trying to understand why some tragedies worked while others got laughed off the ancient Athenian stage. But together they offer a powerful perspective, at once pragmatic and theoretically deep, that can help us understand the fundamentals of narrative art.
The work of this course will be to master these perspectives and use them in analyzing a number of dramatic works in order to decide how much of what Aristotle says about drama (and what McKee endorses) is still valid, and why this should be so. Discussions will address a number of fundamental questions, both technical, e.g., What makes a good plot and compelling characters? and larger ones, e.g., What do stories do for us? To what human needs does drama seem to respond? We will study texts and videos including plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Seneca, Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard, and David Mamet, along with Hollywood's major fall releases. Background readings will range from Aristotle's Ethics to David Mamet's Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 157 Philanthropy SA
Bert G. Kerstetter '66 Freshman Seminar
Our seminar has been granted $25,000 by a philanthropic foundation established by a Princeton graduate who is interested in encouraging college students to become philanthropists by enabling them to act as philanthropists. The goal of the seminar will be to donate these funds to one or more beneficiaries in a thoughtful, well-informed manner. So we will study the historical development of the modern idea of philanthropy, especially in relation to its near-cousin, charity. We will examine the historical origins of the private philanthropic foundation, and the development of philanthropic giving in the 20th century. We will examine the relationship between private philanthropy and state-provided welfare, both in the United States and elsewhere in the world, where this relationship is frequently quite different than in the United States. We will examine how philanthropists decide to whom they will give, how much they will give, and what their expectations should be of their donees (those who receive gifts). All of these considerations will inform your decisions, as philanthropists, as to how to distribute your $25,000. This will be a daunting, and fascinating task for freshmen, and I look forward to engaging in it with you! (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 161 When Adolescence Goes Wrong: What They Didn't Tell You SA
Have you ever taken the time to examine the complex variables that make up the period between ages 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 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, which will focus on many of the psychopathologies from which adolescents suffer. These may include (based on student interest but not limited to) anxiety, depression, sexuality, bullying, eating disorders, substance abuse, gender identity, several personality disorders, bipolarity, attention deficit disorder (ADD), Asperger's syndrome, adolescent suicide, compulsions, and phobias. Students will be encouraged to research one particular area of interest augmented by texts, journal articles, movies, and DVD segments and will present their findings to the class during the course of the semester.
The third prong of the course will be class presentations and discussions of how adolescence differs in North America, South America, Asia, parts of Northern (predominantly Muslim) Africa as well as in sub-Saharan Africa, and why these differences exist. Students may opt to apply to participate in a social skills program with an adolescent who has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. 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 163 Science, Technology, and Public Policy SA
Harold T. Shapiro
Brian W. H. Berghuis '81 Freshman Seminar
The overall objective of this seminar is to understand and assess how American scientists and U.S. science policy have served the interests of the nation, the U.S. government, and the scientific community. The seminar will begin with a lecture/discussion that considers the broad relationship between science, technology, and economic growth. In order to focus on the potential link between science and policy, we will consider the specific example of the use of science and technology to achieve political aims (i.e., victory) in World War II. Moreover, this initial exploration will help us sketch out just how the formative experience in World War II reshaped U.S. government attitudes both for the support of science and technology ("policy for the support of science and technology") and the reliance of governments on science and technology to achieve particular public policy objectives ("science and technology for policy").
Starting with our second meeting, sessions will revert to a more purely seminar format where students share the responsibility for both leading and participating in the discussions. We will begin with a case study of an important national issue that involves the intersection of science, technology, and public policy. In particular we will discuss either the set of policy and scientific issues surrounding global warming or the various controversies currently surrounding energy policy in the United States and their relationship to existing and emerging technologies. The choice of energy versus climate as an initial topic will be made by the seminar participants. In either case the focus will be on the technological options available and the respective role of science, scientists, and public policy in addressing global warming or the national security, environmental, and economic issues that swirl around the energy sector. With this as background the seminar will consider the relationship of science and technology to economic growth and improving living standards. In this context we will turn to a fuller discussion of the evolving role of the U.S. government in stimulating/directing the growth of science and technology as the government itself becomes more dependent on new achievements on the scientific frontier.
We will also focus on a series of examples of areas in which developments on the scientific frontier raise important issues for U.S. public policy such as: global warming; energy policy; cloning and stem cell research; high energy physics; eugenics; assisted reproductive technologies; and public policies surrounding vaccines, agriculture, and supplies of food and water. If time permits, the seminar will conclude by considering a few additional issues on the frontiers of science and technology policy such as: globalization; the brain, the environment, the science and technology workforce, etc. Through the course of our discussions, we will come to see the many inherent and potential conflicts of interest that may arise when scientists serve as advocates and advisers in heated policy debates where egos, money, and power are at stake. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 165 Work SA
Donna ’78 and Michael S. Pritula '78 Freshman Seminar
Is work the curse of Adam that all humans have suffered since expulsion from Eden, condemning them to enduring the continuous pains of labor if they are to survive from day to day? Perhaps work is the necessary but benign white line down the middle of the road that brings discipline and order to our lives, even though we may be resentful at times. Some think that work is a divine calling that offers the only true path to divine salvation and so gives meaning to our earthly strivings and endeavors.
Which of the above or other routes are you following — or slave to — whether you know it or not? Here is your chance to explore the meanings of work and your own relation to its disciplines, rigors, and satisfactions through close examination of some classic texts from political economy, sociology, English literature, and film.
You will be asked to understand and take sides in raging contemporary debates: whether automation and globalization are bringing an end to work as we know it in the West; whether forms of "digitally distributed working" are ushering in welcome new and creative ways of working from home or new forms of exploitation and/or further domestic entrapment for whole swathes of the population; whether the gigantic powers of corporations are "branding" not only products but workers, dragging everything into the money-making circuit of the all-consuming capitalist economy; and last but not least: why do Princeton students generally work so hard? (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 167 Religion and Politics: Conflicts of Public and Private Values EM
Professor Amy Gutmann Freshman Seminar in Human Values
The distinction between public and private spheres of life is foundational to the politics of modern diverse liberal democracies. Religious questions are nowadays regarded as paradigmatically private in liberal societies — left up to individual consciences, churches, and other free associations, per Thomas Jefferson's famous metaphor of a "wall of separation" between church and state.
But what happens when the law requires things at odds with some people's religious beliefs? If religious parents object to aspects of a public school curriculum, do they have a basic right to withdraw their children from offending classes? Can religious considerations be brought to bear on deciding political questions such as the permissibility of abortion, or is it always illegitimate to invoke religious reasons in deliberations about the law? May marriage be limited to two people by law, or should we extend greater respect to polygamous religious traditions and individual preferences? In general, must the law be designed so as to accommodate the consciences of believers, or do special exemptions undermine equal treatment and respect for law and democratic authority?
The relationships among public and private values, practices, associations, and institutions have for centuries been a fertile source of conflict. This course examines such conflicts in the context of political theory, ethics, law, and public policy. We will focus on problems arising at the tense interface between public values and religious conscience and practice. How broad are the claims of private liberty and what is the nature and extent of legitimate public authority when it comes to activities claimed to be private?
This course aims to deepen students' ability to reflect critically on, and write and speak clearly about, their own deepest values and the values that should shape our law. The first half of each week's seminar will be organized as a debate format, with teams of students presenting different sides of a core question in light of our readings. Students will write two short papers and one longer one, laying out their own thinking on the questions before us. A reading guide and questions will be provided each week for the following week's material. (Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 169 Dante's Inferno: A Guide to Hell (and Back) LA
Agnew Family Freshman Seminar
What do Machiavelli, T.S. Eliot, and Hannibal the Cannibal all have in common? They were all passionate readers of The Divine Comedy. Captured by the compelling force of Dante's imagined world, actual readers of his masterpiece and their Hollywood counterparts have been led to look at reality with new and penetrating eyes. Their reading of the poem was the beginning of a journey: whether in their politics, their poetry, or the peculiar aestheticism of cinematic cannibalism, the poem taught them how to read. In this course, we will use Dante's The Divine Comedy as an invitation and a starting point to become better readers of literary texts.
A three-part poetic report of a visionary journey through the realm of the dead, The Divine Comedy takes its readers on a ride through a gruesome hell, in which impenitent sinners are eternally chastised by the most imaginative torments; the more serene airs of purgatory, where souls of the repented purify and ready themselves for paradise; and a final vertiginous, poetically exhilarating, ascent through the heavens toward the direct beatific vision of God. Along the way, Dante — both author and protagonist — encounters souls from all ages of mankind and from the most diverse walks of life: from the most ancient ones, like Adam (in heaven), to the most recently deceased, like the last popes from Dante's own day (surprisingly confined to hell). These meetings not only punctuate and propel the poem's plot, but they also present its readers with larger cultural questions: Where should we draw the line between advancing religious convictions and struggling for power in politics? How should we choose from among competing philosophies of life? What is the nature of art? And more fundamentally, how do we read a poetic text? By presenting us with these questions, the poem will challenge and enrich our perception and understanding of religious, ethical, and aesthetical issues.
The seminar will consist of a collaborative, close reading of the Inferno, and it will expand into the analysis of selected cantos of Purgatorio and Paradiso. Short introductory lectures will alternate with student-led class discussions, film screenings, and presentations on Dante's reception in modern poetry and art. We will use bilingual editions, which will allow us to access the text easily, while providing us opportunities to observe nuances of meaning or style preserved in the original language. We will also take advantage of the wide array of resources available to Dante students at Princeton. The remarkable collection of illustrated editions of The Divine Comedy in Firestone Library, as well as the incredible wealth of information contained in the Web-based Princeton Dante Project, will help to familiarize us with the culture of Dante's time and the scholarly activity that has surrounded the poem over the last seven centuries.
In addition to having become acquainted with Dante's poem, at the end of the seminar we will have acquired a wealth of techniques of interpretation that will prepare us, if not to play the latest Inferno video game, at least to perceive and decode meaning in other literary texts. A great reader of classical and biblical poetry himself, Dante will be our first guide in this interpretive journey and help us develop and train our sensibilities for other poetry beyond his own. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 171 Scientists Against Time HA
This seminar will explore some of the critical contributions of (mostly Allied) scientists, engineers, and mathematicians during World War II, and briefly some of the critical post-war legacies of the war's scientific advances. Topics will include radar and the Battle of Britain; cryptography and the breaking of the German Enigma code; 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. The course will also explore the evolution of World War II cryptography to modern cryptographic systems, and of rockets and the Manhattan Project to the nuclear arms race, nuclear power, and nuclear proliferations. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
William H. Burchfield, Class of 1902, Freshman Seminar
FRS 175 Shifting Alignments: Film Music, Ideology, Cultural Politics LA
What is the role of music in film? Is it mere background accompaniment serving to establish pacing and enhance mood, or can it comment upon and interpret, even contradict and subvert, what we see?
This course will explore these questions against the backdrop of three tumultuous decades, roughly 1925-55, during which film emerged as one of the principal vehicles of commercial entertainment and political ideology, and film music came of age as an art form in its own right.
In this four-part course we will develop a critical and technical vocabulary to describe how film music functions and analyze the critical debates about its aesthetic purpose.
The first part of the course is devoted to the early history of film music. In the first two decades of silent film, music was an afterthought, most often a hodgepodge of diverse sources that fit, more or less, the mood and content of successive scenes. The final flowering of the silent film coincided with the emergence of dedicated film scores by composers such as Edmund Meisel (Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein, 1926) and Gottfried Huppertz (Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, 1927) that served to codify an emerging film music language. With the advent of sound film in 1927 and the technological refinements of sound mixing in the 1930s, music became an integral element of film design.
The second and third parts of this course are dedicated to parallel developments in three very different cultural environments. In Germany and the Soviet Union, where politics and ideology were of paramount importance, music played a critical role in such films as Leni Riefensthal's Triumph of the Will of 1935 (music by Herbert Windt) and Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky of 1938 (music by Sergei Prokofiev). During the same period, Europe's émigrés fleeing those same ideological forces helped create the classic Hollywood film score within the commercial context of the studio system. We will examine scores by Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold for King Kong, 1933, The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935, and The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938).
Finally, we will examine the work of a second generation of film composers who challenged the aesthetic assumptions of their predecessors. We will begin with Hanns Eisler, a composer who co-authored (together with Theodor W. Adorno) one of most provocative studies of film music, whose conclusions he himself put into effect with his score for Alain Resnais' controversial Holocaust documentary Night and Fog (1955). Eisler's work opens new perspectives for an examination of such composers as David Raksin (Laura, 1944), Miklós Rózsa (Spellbound, 1945), and Leonard Rosenman (Rebel Without a Cause, 1955) who introduce novel instrumental and musical resources, including electronic instruments, jazz idioms, and dissonant atonality into new film genres such as film noir and social realism.
Taken together, these scores from three decades of film history established parameters within which film music still functions today. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 177 Roads Not Taken: Critics of Modern America 1880-1940 SA
Dean Eva Grossman Freshman Seminar in Human Values
With the explosive growth of the American economy after the Civil War, there arrived a host of new social problems and ideas about their causes and remedies. This seminar tackles some of the more radical of these analyses and proposals for change: the utopian socialism of Edward Bellamy and the revolutionary socialism of Eugene Debs; the argument between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois over the road to racial equality; the anarchism of Emma Goldman and the community building of Jane Addams; the alliance between progressives such as Herbert Croly and pragmatists such as John Dewey. Skeptics such as Walter Lippmann and critics with a strong sense of original sin such as Reinhold Niebuhr deserve scrutiny, too, as do radical novelists such as Jack London and Upton Sinclair. In the background is Louis Hartz's contention that America is so deeply committed to "Lockean" liberalism that neither conservative radicals nor their socialist opponents have ever had a real chance of gaining national political power. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 181 Medieval Globalism: International Commerce 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 established, spanning 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 route known as the Silk Road. 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.
Through general readings and classroom lectures and discussions we will fill in the basic political, economic, and cultural development of the Old World in the period 500 to 1500. There will be class sessions held in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in Firestone Library to examine manuscripts, printed books, maps, and coins relevant to the subject of the seminar and a visit to the Princeton University Art Museum to view objects associated with medieval trade. 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 the period. (Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 183 The Fantasy of the Middle Ages: Stories and Storytelling LA
Professor Whitney J. Oates '25 *31 Freshman Seminar in the Humanities
"This tale grew in the telling…" writes J.R.R. Tolkien in his foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien is one of the most successful modern re-writers of medieval plots and protagonists, but he is not the only author who revises and rehabilitates medieval stories that enjoyed a considerable readership before 1500. Aspects of the Middle Ages in the West pervade both the high and the popular cultures of the English-speaking world, forming a considerable part of the fantastic world our modern stories inhabit. Knightly combatants joust eternally in today's computer-generated tournaments, and King Arthur's court appears in comics, romance novels, and as a marketing gimmick for everything from restaurants to garage-door openers. The literature of modern fantasy writing in particular often recurs to an imagined medieval time period for its themes and images. Our new stories rest upon narrative frames right out of medieval literature, and these stories are populated by characters and roles derived from medieval texts such as those that tell tales of Arthur.
Why are we so fascinated by the Middle Ages? Why has its texts so many after-lives? What material does this period offer us out of which to imagine alternative worlds and marvelous characters that critique and challenge us? What do we see, or think we see, in this age, and what does it mean to us to fashion fabulous stories in a medieval mode? In examining these topics, we'll also consider the properties of medieval and modern fantasy literature and discuss what sort of place we're escaping to when we slip back into a re-envisioned Middle Ages. (Tuesday 7:30-10:20 p.m.)
FRS 185 Bodies in Cultural Landscapes LA
This seminar explores the intricate history of Western fascination with non-white bodies in motion, from representations recorded in early ethnographic films to contemporary portrayals of the moving body in Hollywood films, videos, documentaries, and concerts. We will examine how expectations projected onto these bodies have shaped contemporary discourses on gender, race, and culture. Finally, the seminar will expose students, with or without prior experience, to the joy of watching, analyzing, creating, and presenting their own performances.
Our approach to a wide variety of cultural materials and readings will be divided into three units. 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 musicals featuring Brazilian performer Carmen Miranda as well as other Hollywood musicals. The final unit, Body as Art, will explore the rich New York dance field from the early days of modern dance to trends of contemporary dance and performance today.
We will also travel to New York City to visit galleries and dance studios and to see evening performances. During these trips students will interact with artists working in the field and observe their creative process. A guest artist who was involved with the beginning of “voguing” will visit our class to discuss his experiences as a voguer and his days at the Harlem Balls. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 187 Earth's Environments and Ancient Civilizations (in Cyprus) STL
Adam Maloof and Frederik Simons
Richard L. Smith '70 Freshman Seminars
Taught by the Department of Geosciences in conjunction with Joanna Smith, the Cypriot Iron-Age Scholar, Art and Archaeology, this seminar will allow students to combine field observations of the natural world with quantitative modeling and interpretation in order to answer questions such as: How does environmental change alter the course of civilization, and how do civilizations modify their environment? How have Earth and human histories been recorded in the geology and archaeology of Cyprus, and what experiments can we do to query such archives of the past?
In the classroom, through problem sets, and on-campus excursions, you will gain practical experience collecting geological and geophysical data in geographic context, and analyzing these data using software and programming languages like ArcGIS and Matlab. During the required week-long fall break trip to Cyprus, students will engage in independent research projects that focus on the interplay between geological history, active tectonic landscapes, changing climate, and ancient civilizations, and then turn what they learn into three progressively more elaborate research papers prepared in LaTeX.
This is a science class: students should come prepared with an aptitude for, and a willingness to learn, the quantitative aspects of scientific inquiry. Scientific writing, data analysis, and independent work are integral parts of this seminar and its assessment. While split into classroom and laboratory components, the course should be treated as a mandatory Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m. commitment, complemented by two or three campus homework exercises. Students must plan on devoting their fall break to the class trip and have a valid passport and visa. All costs of the fall break trip are covered by the University. (Thursday 1:30-2:50 p.m.)
FRS 189 Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Wisdom of Crowds LA
In this seminar we will study the history and nature of urban myths, particularly in regard to the role that they perform in both identifying and deflecting the concerns and fears of society. We will examine the ways in which myths differ from folk tales, fairy tales, superstition, and legend, and the means by which entire communities, hardened with certainty, sometimes for generations, disseminate and fortify them. The collective unconscious is often manifested in metaphor, particularly in literature, film, and painting, and the legitimate fears and guilt that it reflects will be the subject of our study.
We will discuss urban myths through history (witchcraft, alchemy and the philosopher’s stone, doomsday predictions) as well as more contemporary myths (Ponzi schemes, alien abductions), and the technological, religious, and cultural shifts that cause them. We will examine why urban myths are invariably terrifying, and why they play a part in appeasing anxiety with their vivid and sometimes humorous imaginative force (The Hook, The Kidney Thieves, and The Chihuahua in the Microwave), and why it is that myths are so effective in conveying rational warnings and lessons. If urban myth springs from the need to convert the sources of terror and guilt into warnings full of irony, wit, and horror, they also serve the practical purposes of entertainment, instruction, warning, and catharsis. Thanks to the Internet, urban myths based on real fears are now spread very quickly, often taking the form of alarms (false emails bearing the logo of the Los Angeles County Fire Department warned that acid rain from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant was approaching the west coast of America, where it would cause "burns, alopecia, and even skin cancer"). Students will read from Grimm’s fairy tales, Charles MacKay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, works by Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, as well as the books Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, White Noise, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and Cat's Cradle, as well as view the films Contagion, Battleship Galactica, The Birth of a Nation, M, Dr. Strangelove, and E.T the Extra-Terrestrial. Students will also create their own urban myths and cautionary tales. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 191 Listening In: Sonic Culture in American History HA
This course will explore the meaning and significance of sound, music, and noise in American history. We will consider not just what people heard, but also how they listened, and will additionally attune ourselves to the role of sound in our own lives today.
The course will combine readings on historical aspects of sonic history with texts and exercises that will enable students to comprehend their own aural culture. Historical subjects will include: the sonic characterization of Native Americans by European colonists, the meaning of sound on slave plantations, noise and the modern urban environment, the role of the phonograph in musical culture, the transformation of silent film to sound movies, the meaning of "Muzak," the rise of "the mix," and the cultural significance of the iPod.
How can we reconstruct and understand the sounds of the distant past when they have long vanished into thin air? What does this understanding add to our knowledge about American history? Can recordings from the past function as sonic time machines? How can we perceive and analyze our current sonic environment in order better to understand American culture today? Students will attempt to answer these questions through reading, discussion, listening exercises, and writing assignments. (Tuesday, Thursday 11 a.m.-12:20 p.m.)
FRS 193 Difficult Art LA
Have you stood before an artwork, read a novel or a poem and felt you could not enter into it, or wondered what the fuss was all about? In this seminar we will analyze what it means when we call a piece of art "difficult." Artworks might appear too abstract, not abstract enough, too emotionally wrenching, too allusive, historically or culturally distant, alienating, offensive, or just plain boring. We will consider all of these difficulties over the course of the semester and arrive at an understanding of our own reactions to art and literary works. How does the medium of the artwork condition what the artwork can do? Are there some things that art cannot or should not represent? We will assume an interdisciplinary perspective, and coursework will include art of all kinds: novels, poems, musical compositions, installations, paintings, video art, film from around the world.
The course will include regular visits to the Princeton University Art Museum where we will also have a chance to see works that are not on display, and also a visit to the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Students will be required to keep a weekly art journal, write two analytical essays, and complete a creative project for the final. (Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)