Seminars for the Spring Term 2014
FRS 102 The Body Under Suspicion: Latin American Visual Culture and the 20th Century LA
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
The French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy argues that we do not have bodies, we are bodies. The subject is mere exteriority, infinite exposition: the body emptying itself outward. This exteriority, however, regularly metamorphorses itself, submerging within and taking on allegories; at other times it calls attention to itself as matter. This seminar explores the diverse representations of the body in Latin America from a visual culture perspective. To this end, it proposes examining different bodies, both canonical and marginalized, in direct relationship to their class, race, and sexuality. We will look at visual representations (films, performances, exhibitions), as well as literary texts. The goals of the course include: an interrogation of these bodies that does not take the binary opposition of sex as fixed; questioning their mobility and matter; and revealing the metaphors at work within them. Readings and films may be complemented by visits from artists, filmmakers, and cutting-edge scholars. Throughout the semester, students will have the opportunity to interact with artists working in different genres and to witness their working process.
FRS 104 From the Earth to the Moon QR
Richard L. Smith '70 Freshman Seminars
The dream that Jules Verne portrayed in 1865 became reality a century later when Project Apollo landed men on the moon in 1969 and returned them safely to Earth. In the 44 years that have passed since this stunning accomplishment, there has been no follow-up, giving the impression that this feat was an end in itself rather than the first chapter of a new human saga. There is renewed interest in lunar missions that involve humans, robotic devices, or an integration of both. Much lunar science remains to be investigated, and new engineering is required to develop the necessary heavy-lift launch vehicles and spacecraft. The goal of this seminar is to reveal the freedoms and limitations of technological development with a focus on space flight and the effects of technologies that have been developed since the last lunar landing in 1972. We will investigate the scientific, political, and economic factors that made Project Apollo possible and the new infrastructure that will be required for modern lunar flight.
The seminar will provide an introduction to orbital mechanics, launch, and re-entry, as well as to the basic principles of space vehicle design and rocket propulsion, using flight from the Earth to the moon and back as a focal point. We will study the space program as portrayed in history and fiction, and we will develop an understanding of the critical roles played by organizations, management principles, and budget. In the process, we will witness the interplay between technical capabilities, social goals, perception, and reality.
FRS 106 Art and Science of Motorcycle Design STL
Richard L. Smith '70 Freshman Seminars
This is a hands-on seminar and laboratory experience about the engineering design of motorcycles. Students will restore a 1965 Triumph motorcycle and will compare it to the same make and model of motorcycle from earlier years (1958, 1959, 1962, 1963, and 1964). No previous shop or laboratory experience is needed, and we welcome liberal arts students as well as engineering students. Littman will be assisted by Glenn Northey, Chris Zrada, and Jon Prevost, technical staff members of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
Students will examine, disassemble, model, test, and rebuild a vintage motorcycle. All subsystems will be considered with special focus on the power, structural, and control systems. Classic and modern engineering tools to used include computer-aided design (CAD) software for the documentation and prototyping of engine parts, engine simulation software for understanding factors affecting engine performance, and an engine brake dynamometer for determination of engine power and torque. Students will assess and restore all motorcycle components. Precise measurement, repair, and redesign (where appropriate) of key components will include the restoration of cylinder, piston, head, cam, valves, transmission, brakes, fork, oil system, clutch, and chain. Students will also inspect and restore all electrical system components as needed and disassemble, clean, repaint, and restore the frame and suspension system.
The class meets twice each week with a 90-minute precept followed by an 80-minute laboratory session.
FRS 108 Light, Camera, Action STN
How much of the world do we really see? In this seminar we will explore the capabilities and limits of our visual system while learning how to manipulate light to see a very different world.
The seminar will be organized around weekly discussions and a hands-on laboratory.
Discussions will offer students the opportunity, through class presentation and small-group activities, to explore the optics of everyday experiences and challenge students to think about the idea of "seeing is believing." Examples of discussion topics include: 3-D movies, airport security scanners, invisibility, the beauty of peacock feathers, when not to wear polarized sunglasses, and what the world would look like if we had X-ray vision. The labs are designed to give students practical experience using many methods of modern research including building with lenses, digital cameras, microscopes, and image analysis software. Throughout the course, students will compare measurements of their own visual system to the tools of modern optics. Students will keep a journal of procedures, observations, and results of all laboratory experiments. Weekly web lectures covering related course material will be presented through Blackboard. The final two-week lab will integrate various course concepts into an imaging project/video to be presented to the class.
This seminar is appropriate for both science and non-science majors and has no science or math prerequisite. Students will learn about modern research microscopes, how to build simple optical instruments, and how to carry out basic image processing. There will be two field trips where students explore light and the visual experience through art and theater.
When, where, why, and how did human language originate? There are no definite answers, but evidence from many different areas of investigation (including paleontology, archeology, animal communication, neurobiology, genetics, and statistics), when considered in conjunction, shed light on these old and fascinating questions.
FRS 112 God Forbid: Religion, Secularism, and Modernity in French Society and Culture LA
Secularism is one the most fundamental tenets of French modern social, political, and cultural identity. At the basis of the 1789 Revolution, anticlericalism, along with antimonarchism, had established the conditions for a godless, democratic culture. This apparently undeniable secular identity, however, has not disappeared, and still remains with contradictions. What this course aims to explore most intently is how the struggle between religion and secularism has been a factor for modernity.
Home to the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe, France has both pioneered and struggled with their integration. These tensions, we will see, play a role not only in the modernization of these religions, but also in the modernization of society and culture.
In the cultural productions of the modern period (literature, visual arts, cinema, etc.), ethical and aesthetic innovations often originated in new, ambivalent perspectives on religion. Some of the main contradictions relate to the search of new ethical grounds without God (from Don Juan's libertinage to Camus' existentialism). In the realm of aesthetics, from the Belle Époque's avant-garde experimentations to contemporary productions, new forms of expression often accompanied equivocal postures vis-à-vis religion.
This seminar aims to explore this fertile (albeit polemical) set of dynamics by drawing from cultural history, current events, literature, and culture — from the canonical corpus ("classic authors") to the popular domain (films and graphic novels), which offer prime material for looking at this topic through the broadest possible spectrum.
FRS 114 History and Cinema: Fascism in Film HA
Freshman Seminar in Human Values
In October 1922, when Benito Mussolini completed his semi-legal seizure of power in Italy, the Fascist era began in triumph and was cheered by the crowds. It ended two decades later in the Piazzale Loreto in Milan, where the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress were strung up by the heels by the partisans as silent evidence that the Fascist regime was indeed over. Between those two historical moments, Mussolini, the ex-socialist, had dominated the spotlight of Europe.
Produced from the post-World War II period to the present, the Italian, French, and German films we will study in this seminar establish a theoretical framework for the analysis of Fascism, its political ideology, and its ethical dynamics. Some of the films we will study are Bertolucci's The Conformist, De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Malle's Au Revoir Les Enfants, Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum, Wertmüller's Seven Beauties, Holland's Europa Europa, Rossellini's Open City, and Benigni's Life Is Beautiful.
FRS 116 Global Change and the Impact of Human Activities on the Biosphere: The Everglades Today and Tomorrow STN
Shelly and Michael Kassen '76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences
"The Everglades are a test. If we pass the test, we get to keep planet Earth." — Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, an American journalist and conservationist who devoted her life's work to the Everglades.
The Everglades are a powerful case study of how science can reveal current threats to the Earth's ecosystems, and are a remarkable example of how our understanding of and attitude toward nature have evolved over the last 100 years. In this course, we will use the Everglades to explore geology, chemistry, biology, and policy underlying environmental issues that affect ecosystems across the planet. You will design a water quality research project that we will carry out during a seven-day excursion to the Everglades over spring break. Back in Princeton, you will work in a laboratory setting to carry out the analyses required for your project. Your final report will contribute to our existing knowledge of the Everglades, and you will extend those results to explore implications for other ecosystems. Students must plan on devoting their spring break to the class trip and must be able to swim. This seminar is intended for both science and non-science majors. All costs of the field trip are covered by the University.
FRS 118 Life on Mars — or Maybe Not SA
Michael Lemonick and Edwin Turner
Stuart Family Freshman Seminar
A few years ago, the headlines screamed with the news that scientists had discovered evidence of fossilized bacteria in a rock that had come from Mars. Over the next several months, independent researchers examined the claims carefully and concluded that the evidence was poor at best. But that negative assessment, which remains the consensus among experts, was barely reported, with the result that most people still think the question of life on other planets has already been settled. A story in The New York Times in 2006 carried the headline "Cloning May Lead to Healthy Pork." But a careful reading of the story makes it clear that "may not" would probably have made for a more accurate, though obviously a less enticing, headline. And virtually everyone is familiar with the endless news stories that declare a particular vitamin, food or physical activity to be good for your health, inevitably followed a few years later by a story saying that the very same food or activity is, in fact, bad for you.
Most people learn most of what they know about science through the popular media. Yet as these examples make clear, media reports, even in respected national publications, are frequently confusing, incomplete, or even just plain wrong. Moreover, even when they are accurate, they convey an idea of science that Albert Einstein himself skewered a half century ago. From such episodes, he wrote, "the reader gets the [mistaken] impression that every five minutes there is a revolution in science, somewhat like the coups d'etat in some of the smaller unstable republics."
So how reliable is science news? In this seminar, we will investigate this question from the perspectives of both science and the media, led by one instructor from each camp. We will analyze several major news stories that have dominated the media at various times over the past few years: life on Mars, intelligent design, possible cancer cures, the "discovery" that some stars appear to be older than the universe, global warming, and more. We will also address science news as it arises, as it inevitably will, during the semester. In each case, we will work to understand the actual science that led to these reports. Then we will look in detail at the forces at play in shaping media coverage, and how they tend to distort the science. Garbling and oversimplification by reporters is one factor, but this, as we will see, is only part of the story. Other factors include the competition for funding among scientists, the politics that lead universities and government agencies to hype their successes and the competition between scientific journals — all flavored with plenty of ego on all sides.
Students will not only come to understand why you can't always trust what you read in the newspaper, but also will come to appreciate the satisfactions and pitfalls of communicating science, not only through readings and class discussion, but also by means of visits by and with science journalists, scientists, and public information officers. They will also get a taste of what science reporters are up against by producing several pieces of science journalism themselves, which will be critiqued by both instructors. Although we will focus primarily on the print media, we will also consider the treatment of science by the broadcast media. In the end, students will never be able to see the news in quite the same way.
FRS 120 Architects in Quest of the Ideal City LA
The visionary city has preoccupied architects throughout history and no less in our own time — from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City to Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse to Paolo Soleri’s community of tomorrow, Arcosanti. The growth of cities has been the one unchanging factor in the march (if not "progress") of civilization throughout the world. As people become more alert to environmental and ecological damage, these mega-cities appear to generate more problems than solutions, and, in fact, the new urban settlements now being built might no longer rightly be called cities.
This seminar will examine the architectural and urban principles behind several of the most famous models for the ideal city proposed over the past 1,000 years. By the second half of the semester, we should be able to draw up guidelines for a model city appropriate to our times. Students will be asked to confront questions such as: Can images of an ideal city still serve as a regulative model and inspiration? Can a city be regulated without being regimented? How much does communal living or urban environment depend upon good spatial planning, "inspired design," and how much upon enlightened personalities? What are the best ways to create enclosures and privacy, even as population density increases? With the advent of cyberspace and Internet communities, and the possible dispersal and isolation of the work force in individual homes, will the urban community of the future any longer require a concentration of people in the workspace, or are we face-to-face only with interface?
The course requires no prior training in the spatial or building arts. Each of the 12 weekly seminars will engage a major city-project or conceptual problem, and by the final weeks of the course, students will be able to discuss, in a spatially literate way, the prerequisites for sensibly organized and responsive urban settlement.
FRS 122 The Art of Deception LA
This seminar will examine America as a realm of deception. In particular, we will study portrayals of swindlers, impostors, and hustlers who exploit the fluidity and mobility that have long defined this freewheeling land of opportunity. Particular attention will be given to the "frontier" settings in which these shape-shifters so frequently operate. We will investigate, for example, the figure of the "confidence man" as an emanation of the technological and economic forces driving westward expansion and urbanization during the 19th century. Indeed, as one con artist observed, "it is good to be shifty in a new country."
Our study will begin with Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, which became a leading template of self-invention in the new world. The principal business of the seminar will then consist of close readings in American literature from all periods, including Hawthorne's My Kinsman, Major Molineux, Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson, Johnson's The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Guare's Six Degrees of Separation. We will also study films such as Sturges's The Lady Eve and Welles's F for Fake, as well as a documentary chronicling the exploits of an impostor who attended Princeton.
Our approach to these works will be interdisciplinary as we draw upon studies of advertising, cosmetic surgery, gambling, trompe l’oeil, counterfeiting and forgery, cyberfraud, and other topics related to the art and practice of deception.
FRS 124 Experiencing India through Bollywood LA
India produces more films than any other country in the world, and nothing captures the minds and imagination of the Indian people the way Bollywood does. Bollywood films have not only showcased various social and cultural aspects of Indian life, they have also arguably played a role in shaping these aspects. The films have both depicted the issues and presented a critical response to them.
This seminar will provide students with a window into Indian society and culture as depicted in some of the most popular and influential Bollywood films. Films will be chosen carefully to represent major cultural themes and trends over the past 65 years since independence. We will watch 10 to 12 films covering this vibrant era. These films will give students a sense of the changes and shifts that have taken place in Indian society as well as in the film industry itself.
Highlighted themes will include independence and partition; religious and political conflicts; portrayal of women; state authority and law; caste, class, and gender in Indian politics; urban life and crime; evolving depictions of metropolitan life; the central importance of weddings and marriage in Indian life; consumer culture; and globalization. Guiding questions will include: How do the films represent the social circumstances of the periods in which they were produced? How are changing social values evident in the depiction of various aspects of society? How do the films challenge or expand your understanding of Indian society and culture?
The format of the course will include one weekly film screening session and a post-screening discussion session. During the screening session we will watch the film with English subtitles. During the discussion session students will discuss various aspects of the film they have watched, and the instructor will give an introduction to the next film to help students contextualize the content of the film.
Scarcity is a fundamental problem that arises when needs or wants exceed available resources. This seminar will explore the notion of scarcity from various perspectives — including logical, computational, biological, economic, and ethical — with an emphasis on the psychological. The prototypical domain of scarcity is poverty. However, research on the poor raises more questions than it answers. Although their lives are full of shocks (jobs are lost, family members get sick, cars break down), the poor fail to save and often resort to expensive debt. They also persevere with will and farsightedness under adverse conditions, working double shifts and denying themselves simple pleasures in order to accomplish modest goals. Fruit vendors in India, for example, borrow day in and day out at 5 percent interest a day, but get up at 3 a.m. every day to go manage their market stall. How to explain this mix of shortsighted yet highly self-controlled behavior?
Scarcity in time produces similar patterns among the busy (or "time poor"). Successful professionals are perpetually overcommitted; they take on obligations they later regret and commit to deadlines that are frequently violated. Students at top universities pull all-nighters on projects assigned months in advance. Yet, as with the money-poor, myopia is too easy an explanation — these same students exercised forward planning and self-control in order to get where they are. The poor are poor in money, the busy are poor in time, the lonely are poor in social connections, dieters have an impoverished calorie budget, the uneducated are poor in knowledge, and we all feel excessive demands on our limited attention. Even organizations show related behaviors, having to "fight fires" after mismanaging time and talent before an impending deadline.
A central concept we will explore is the "packing problem" — an abstract representation of the challenges of scarcity. We have all struggled with packing a suitcase, trying to fit in items that vary in size and worth. Should you take the coat or just a small umbrella? Packing the most valuable item may not be the best idea since it may also be the more bulky. The packing problem arises when not everything fits. It forces us to decide which items to pack, a nontrivial problem involving forecasting, valuation, ingenuity, and planning. Packing is more complex with smaller suitcases. Scarcity generates complexity and requires cognitive effort. Whereas the rich need not bother with trade-offs, the poor must constantly ask themselves: "What will I need to forego in order to avail myself of this or that?" At the heart of scarcity is trade-off thinking, and a focus on the immediate problem at hand — from starving animals foraging for food to the financial analyst frantically working on a deadline. The anticipated wear and tear of complex packing leads to fatigue, distraction, and error. It implicates the psychobiology of stress; the physiology used to measure its markers; and the psychology of habit, decision, attention, and self-control.
In the context of thinking about scarcity, we will touch on theoretical computer science, animal behavior, evolutionary biology, physiology, sociology, and psychology, as well as questions of justice, fairness, and policy.
FRS 128 Human Rights and Human Dignity EM
Paul L. Miller '41 Freshman Seminar in Human Values
Are human rights based upon notions of human dignity? And is human dignity equally distributed among mankind? If so, all people should have equal rights. But how does one then account for situations in which the exercise of individual freedom is denied or restricted in the name of human dignity? Are prostitution, the refusal of life-sustaining medical treatment, the voluntary subjection to what others may consider to be undignified practices (religious, cultural, or other) contrary to human dignity? In many examples across jurisdictions, cases can be found where the argument of human dignity is used to oppose certain expressions of individual freedom. Can dignity be lost or damaged and, if so, later repaired or recovered? These are among the basic questions that lie at the foundations of human rights theory and this seminar. We will explore a variety of case studies and readings in comparative law, political theory (human rights theory), sociology, and philosophy of law. The overall goal of the seminar is to reflect on the many ways in which the principle of human dignity continues to appear in human rights discourse without settling on a stable and common meaning.
FRS 130 What Makes for a Meaningful Life? A Search EM
Peter T. Joseph '72 Freshman Seminar in Human Values
With the pressures and frenzied pace of contemporary American life, it might sometimes feel as if there is little time to contemplate the question of what makes for a meaningful life. How does each individual find deeper meaning for him/herself? What is the purpose of my life? What is the relationship of the meaning of my life to some kind of larger purpose? How do our lives fit into the larger world around us? Throughout the ages, writers, thinkers, and religious figures, as well as wise ordinary folks — the person next door, one's parents and grandparents — have grappled with these questions. This course explores, from a variety of perspectives, some of the responses to the "big questions" of life. The readings and films are taken from different cultures, different time periods, and different spheres of human endeavor and experience — for example, from Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov to Kurosawa's Ikiru (To Live); from The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi to Forrest Gump; from Marcus Aurelius' Meditations to A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh; from Taoism to Tolstoy; from Martin Luther King Jr. to Anna Karenina; from Pablo Casals to Casablanca; from Martin Buber's I and Thou to Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus to Albert Schweitzer's “reverence for life.” The goals of the seminar will be: (1) to investigate the thoughts that others have had; and (2) to examine the students' own questions and responses to the issues raised.
FRS 132 Science and Buddhism EC
University Center for Human Values Freshman Seminar
Are some spiritual traditions more compatible with modern science than others? Might some spiritual traditions even draw a kind of support — a measure of validation — from science?
Some people think Buddhism is a case in point. The Dalai Lama has said that Buddhism and science are deeply compatible and has encouraged Western scholars to critically examine both the meditative practice and Buddhist ideas about the human mind. A number of scientists and philosophers have taken up this challenge. There have been brain scans of meditators and philosophical examinations of Buddhist doctrines. There have even been discussions of Darwin and the Buddha: Do early Buddhist descriptions of the mind, and of the human condition, make particular sense in light of evolutionary psychology?
This seminar will examine how Buddhism is faring under this scrutiny. Are neuroscientists starting to understand how meditation "works"? And would such an understanding validate meditation — or might physical explanations of meditation undermine the spiritual significance attributed to it? And, leaving meditation aside, how are basic Buddhist doctrines holding up?
We'll pay special attention to two highly counterintuitive doctrines: that the self doesn’t exist and that reality is in some sense an illusion. Do these claims, radical as they sound, acquire a certain kind of plausibility in light of modern psychology?
And what are the implications of all this for how we should live our lives? Does science suggest that Buddhist practice offers a path to a happier life? Does it say anything about whether Buddhist doctrines point us toward a morally sound life?
Reading materials will range from Buddhist scriptures to recent scientific papers to classic writings in psychology and philosophy.
FRS 136 Capitalism, Utopia, and Social Justice SA
Kurt and Beatrice Gutmann Freshman Seminar in Human Values
Financial breakdown, social protests, climate threat, political revolutions — history has not ended and may even seem to accelerate. In this context, it is interesting, perhaps even a duty, for conscientious citizens to reflect on the basic tenets of social organization in the United States and elsewhere, as well as on the basic principles guiding those who want to preserve or to change “the system.” Is capitalism fundamentally just, or does social justice require another form of society? But what is social justice?
FRS 138 Moby-Dick Unbound LA
William H. Burchfield, Class of 1902, Freshman Seminar
Moby-Dick: Or, The Whale (1851) is Herman Melville's masterpiece, a work so far ahead of its time that few readers could comprehend it. An "ill-compounded mixture of romance and matter-of-fact," one critic wrote, and the book's failure threw the author into decades of depression and silence, as the doomed voyage of the Pequod all but vanished from American memory. Only with the Melville revival of the 1920s was Moby-Dick rediscovered and read afresh. Today it is acclaimed as America's greatest novel. Why was this tragic sea tale so neglected in its day, yet so celebrated by later generations? To map the book's twin lines of action — Ahab's drive to kill a whale, Ishmael's quest to know it — we will explore readings drawn from history, literature, art, religion, philosophy, and ecology. Of special interest are the ways Melville anticipates recent environmental thought, depicts a globalized culture, and dramatizes the national struggle to reconcile faith and fact, race and justice. As we pursue the great whale across the world with Ahab, Queequeg, Starbuck, and Ishmael, our watchword is close reading. We will track Melville's ideas as they surface and dive; we will also map the landscapes and seascapes of the whale ship's trek and how those places shape meaning. Throughout the book, Melville anticipates current debates on religion, sex, morality, and money. Most prescient of all: his idea of nature, challenging old biases and delivering new views of animal rights, species habitat, conservation ethics, and resource extraction. The petroleum of his day was whale oil, and his challenge to our appetite for energy remains striking, even shocking. One question abides: Why do we cherish the wild yet destroy it and also the wild within ourselves?
FRS 140 Reading Freud's Great Case Histories as Short Stories LA
What can we learn today from Freud's great case histories? These case histories read like detective stories in which Freud treats symptoms as clues. Freud himself wrote; "It still strikes me as strange that the case histories I write should read like short stories and that, as one might say, they lack the serious stamp of science." Indeed, Freud was never awarded the Nobel Prize but was given the Goethe Prize, a literary award. We will read Freud's five great case histories: Dora; the Rat Man; the Wolf Man; President Shreber, and Little Hans, exploring the literary aspects of language, structure, and verisimilitude as well as considering Freud's psychological discoveries of the human mind.
FRS 142 Into the Woods! What Disney Didn't Tell You About Fairy Tales LA
Class of 1975 Freshman Seminar
There is much more to fairy tales than the simplified and sanitized versions for children that we've all grown up with. This seminar will attempt to explore the complex history of the fairy tale genre and to address the many critical questions it raises: What exactly is a fairy tale? How does it differ from other types of folk tales and, more generally, from myth and legend? Who used to tell those enchanting stories, and to whom? When did they come to be written down and printed, and for what audience? How have their forms, meanings, and functions evolved over time and across cultures?
We will examine issues such as gender roles, family dynamics, social structure, and the relations between humans and animals. While we'll courageously confront the disturbing "darker side" of fairy tales — sadism and cannibalism, incest and infanticide — we won't neglect their humorous, playful, subversive, and utopian dimensions.
The readings for this seminar will revolve around the most famous "tale types" such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty, but also include slightly lesser-known but no less intriguing narratives such as Bluebeard, Rumpelstiltskin, and Puss-in-Boots. We will study the canonical texts by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault and discover a number of other versions, ranging from Ancient Rome to the Italian Renaissance and the French 18th century. We will also read a selection of diverse and often conflicting interpretations of these stories by historians, folklorists, psychoanalysts, and literary critics. Although the primary focus will be on the European fairy tale tradition, attention will also be paid to its counterparts in non-Western cultures.
The second half of the course will examine the literary fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde and conclude with contemporary Anglo-American retellings of the classical narratives (by Anne Sexton, Angela Carter, Robert Coover, and others). Throughout the semester, we will consider the ways fairy tales have been illustrated over the centuries as well as their presence in opera, ballet, and musicals, and watch various video clips and feature films such as Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête and Neil Jordan's Company of Wolves.
Participants in this seminar will be expected to read thoroughly and critically the texts assigned for each meeting (approximately 100 pages per week), to participate actively in class discussion, and to prepare one oral presentation followed by discussion. Written assignments will consist of weekly responses to the readings (online discussion board), a short midterm paper, and a longer (critical or creative) final paper. The seminar requires the willingness to engage with "strange," non-Disneyfied stories and to question one's notions about the nature and purpose of fairy tales.
FRS 144 Freud on the Psychology of Ordinary Mental Life EC
When we laugh at an incredibly funny joke, what, exactly, are we laughing at, and why is laughing what we do? How do we come to be engrossed in a novel? Given that the characters are nothing to us — they are neither relatives nor friends, and they are not real — why do we care what happens to them? How does it come about that perfectly rational people sometimes succumb to moments of magical thinking, and which aspects of our psychological makeup might explain both the pervasiveness and tenacity of religion in human society?
Although he is best known for his elucidation of the unusual in human mental life, Sigmund Freud also attempted to illuminate ordinary human experiences and values, such as people's susceptibility to humor, their capacity to become engrossed in fiction, and their susceptibility to superstition and religion. His insights into the everyday and his sense of where the productive questions lie reveal an incisiveness of argument that defy both earlier and subsequent thought on his topics. This seminar will consider both Freud's accounts of ordinary mental phenomena and his method of inquiry, with the goals of understanding some of his seminal thought, learning a powerful method of critical inquiry, and honing fresh ideas about the nature of ordinary mental life and human values.
Readings will include original works by Freud and a few brief selections by other authors whose work provides useful material for comparison. The seminar will be organized to allow for maximal play of students' own ideas and their development of Freud's technique of identifying and unpacking anomalies as a method for investigating human mental life.
FRS 148 Drug Discovery: From Snake Venoms to Medicines STN
Shelly and Michael Kassen '76 Freshman Seminar in the Life Sciences
Over the past few decades, we have seen the discovery of some amazing medicines with dramatic benefits to the quality of human life. To many, however, the firm belief that science will triumph over disease has been replaced by doubt, frustration, and fear. Where are the new medicines? HIV, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease are not yielding after years of work. Tuberculosis and malaria are coming back, long after we declared them solved problems. Frightening new strains of bacteria and viruses, resistant to old treatments, arrive every day. What are we to do?
This seminar will examine how medicines are created and tested. Students will gain an appreciation for the complexities and risks of drug discovery. Topics will include: Learning from Mother Nature, Unmet Medical Needs, Target Selection, Toxicity, Clinical Trials, Neglected Diseases, and Economic Models of Drug Discovery. We will also discuss how to address pandemics. This seminar is appropriate for both non-science and science concentrators who are interested in the future of health care. Each student will choose a disease and then identify a path toward a new way to treat it.
FRS 150 Visual Art and the Representation of Knowledge LA
Is a picture really worth a thousand words? Throughout history artists have created paintings, sculptures, tapestries, photographs, films, and other works of art with the goal of representing philosophical ideas and systems of knowledge. In this seminar we will explore how the visual arts have functioned to transmit knowledge across centuries and around the globe. We will study the language of Egyptian hieroglyphs, Greek and Roman busts of ancient philosophers, lavish medieval illuminated manuscripts of philosophical texts, and medieval and Renaissance encyclopedic fresco cycles, with particular focus on Raphael's celebrated frescoes in the Vatican that depict theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, and poetry. We will examine artists’ depictions of individual philosophers and texts, such as Rembrandt's painting Aristotle with a Bust of Homer, Hans Holbein's marginal cartoons in Erasmus' satire The Praise of Folly, and Jacques-Louis David's depiction of The Death of Socrates.
In our exploration of the interrelations between art and the representation of knowledge in more recent times, we will consider how the psychoanalytic writings of Sigmund Freud inspired Surrealist painting, photography, and film, and we will view the uses of art to explain philosophical systems in graphic novels and introductory pedagogical books. The end of the semester will focus on the impacts of philosophical writings from the ancient period to the postmodern on the work of contemporary artists including Adrian Piper, Anselm Kiefer, and Gerhard Richter. Classes will meet frequently at the Princeton University Art Museum and the Graphic Arts Collection of the Princeton University Library, and we will visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the Museum of Modern Art, in New York.
FRS 152 The Great Theorems of Mathematics QR
In this seminar we will examine a handful of the most beautiful results from the long history of mathematics. These are approached much as we would approach a great painting or great novel — by introducing the creator, describing the historical context, and then considering the work in close detail. There will thus be emphasis on biography and on history, but at the heart of the seminar lies a careful examination of some of the foremost mathematical landmarks of all time.
To encourage the widest possible audience, mathematical prerequisites will be kept to a minimum. Students should have had (and enjoyed!) high school algebra and geometry as well as trigonometry and pre-calculus. Knowledge of calculus is not assumed.
Einstein once wrote, "If Euclid failed to kindle your youthful enthusiasm, then you were not meant to be a scientific thinker." By examining the work of Euclid and his worthy successors, we aim to generate such an enthusiasm for the beauty of mathematics.
FRS 154 How Not to Go to Africa: Alternative Voices on the (East) African Narrative LA
In How to Write about Africa, Binyavanga Wainaina sums up the default view with which Africa is portrayed, especially through a Western-oriented critique: "Always use the word 'Africa' or 'Darkness' or 'Safari' in your title. Subtitles may include the words 'Zanzibar,' 'Masai,' 'Zulu,' 'Zambezi,' 'Congo,' 'Nile,' 'Big,' 'Sky,' 'Shadow,' 'Drum,' 'Sun,' or 'Bygone.' Also useful are words such as 'Guerrillas,' 'Timeless,' 'Primordial,' and 'Tribal.' Note that 'People' means Africans who are not black, while 'The People' means black Africans...'
As provocative as it is, this voice captures the 'default narrative' that continues to define what Africa means to a Western mediated reality. Rudyard Kipling's The White Man’s Burden still defines the North/South sociocultural relationship. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness theory still informs the discourse on the failure of the post-colonial state, bedeviled by corruption and deadly tribal clashes. This narrative also views African "native cultures" as a barrier to modern development, and is used to explain the intransigence of the HIV/AIDS tragedy when contextualized to African cultural practices, and so on.
This course does not dismiss this narrative; it provokes students to explore why the narrative remains not only popular in the discourse of Africa's past and present dispensation, but also why students themselves are likely to be shaped by its implications, especially if they are interested in dealing with Africa in the course of their studies and future careers. Selected readings on East Africa are used to explore burgeoning counter-narratives. Alternative voices are redefining how indigenous and locally inspired efforts are dealing with the myriad challenges in African cities and villages. This generates many challenging questions: Why are community theater-based outreaches proving to be a more effective tool for fighting against the spread of HIV/AIDS than well-equipped hospitals and voluntary counseling and testing clinics? Why is the American-influenced hip-hop revolution in East Africa a tool for youth empowerment rather than a gangster art form? Will an African technological revolution wait for Africans to afford computers when they are already doing M-Pesa (mobile banking) from their cellphones? Why is the learning of African (as foreign) languages in the United States becoming a "national security" project? These issues are explored in course topics, which each consist of a lecture/presentation by the course instructor (or guest speaker) on the core content and context of the topic, followed by a student-led class discussion on issues and questions on the topic; and a two-page written reflection/response paper by each student, giving his or her take/view on the readings and content discussed in class.
FRS 156 Exotic Quantum States of Matter STN
Richard L. Smith '70 Freshman Seminars
All around us, matter obeys the laws of quantum mechanics at the microscopic level, but such manifestations are difficult to detect at the macroscopic scale. This course is designed to introduce students to the exciting frontiers in quantum physics from study of electrons in solids to ultra-cold atomic gases and potential applications of these ideas for quantum computing.
We will start the seminar with a general introduction to the ideas of quantum mechanics, such as wave-particle duality and principal of superposition. After this introduction, we will begin a survey of topics starting from discussing macroscopic manifestation of quantum mechanics to phenomena such as superconductivity and superfluidity, and other exotic states of electrons in solids. We will discuss how the ever-decreasing size of electronic circuits makes quantum mechanics relevant for computation and the idea that quantum superposition may be useful for computation.
- The Goldilocks Puzzle: Why is Venus too hot and Mars too cold, while the Earth is at the “right” temperature? This question introduces concepts such as albedo, greenhouse gases, feedbacks, and the runaway greenhouse effect.
- What happened after the dinosaurs disappeared? Everybody knows that the Earth was hot and humid when dinosaurs flourished, and that a meteor caused their demise, but few know of the subsequent amazing journey from that era to the present. It’s a story about drifting continents, the rock cycle, the carbon cycle, and heated debates about plate tectonics and the age of the Earth.
- How do atmospheric and oceanic circulations, and their interactions, produce weather, climate changes, and phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña?
- Ice Ages. The recurrent Ice Agesof the past several million years, consequences of modest changes in the factors that cause the seasonal cycle, have brought us to a precarious moment in the eventful history of planet Earth. We are poised between the start of the next Ice Age and the onset of global warming.
Global warming. Why are there uncertainties about what will happen next? How should we respond?
Professor Whitney J. Oates '25 *31 Freshman Seminar in the Humanities
FRS 162 Pottery: Archaeology, Art, and Technology LA
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
Pottery sits at the intersection of art and technology, simultaneously part of aesthetic systems and complex tools requiring specialized knowledge of their production. This course explores archaeological approaches to pottery through a survey of different prehistoric pottery traditions, including some of the earliest pottery produced over 22,000 years ago, Attic pottery from ancient Greece, ceramic portrait heads from the Peruvian Andes, finely painted polychrome vases of the Classic period Maya, and highly burnished, coil-made pottery of the ancient Olmec. Part of the course will take place in the Princeton University Art Museum where students will get an opportunity to handle and closely examine some of the museum's ancient pottery collections. Another part of the course will involve replication and experimental studies of pottery production (e.g., clay preparation, ceramic forming, and open-pit firing) in which students will test their own questions about the social, artistic, and technological milieus of ancient cultures. In learning different stylistic, typological, modal, iconographic, experimental, mineral, and chemical approaches to pottery, students will investigate how technological studies of pottery illuminate new avenues for understanding aesthetic systems and how aesthetic systems emerge from the materiality of pottery.
In the early modern period, from roughly 1500 to 1800, thousands of sailing ships crisscrossed the world's oceans, carrying goods and people whose movement was essential to the great transformations of the time: New World silver, African slaves, Brazilian sugar, Virginian tobacco, spices and textiles from Southeast Asia, and so on. But why bother trading merchandise when you could simply seize it? Pirates and their semi-legal fellows — corsairs and privateers — lurked around the richest trade routes, waiting to fall on merchant ships. Some of these pirates were simply out for whatever they could get, but others were more or less acting in the interests of particular states, because this was a period of violently competitive trade. The history of piracy, then, is not simply the history of violent outlaws, but also of the underbelly of the growth of maritime trade and the rough edges of European international politics and imperial expansion.
In this class, we will trace the history of early modern piracy from the 16th to the 18th centuries, ranging from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean. Pirate crews and their victims were polyglot and ethnically diverse, so piracy serves as a useful lens for investigating cultural contact and exchange outside of "official" channels. Conflicts around the boundaries between privateering and piracy will allow us to track the development of state power and maritime law. Moreover, a close focus on the important trade routes of the time will give students a much clearer view of the "big picture" of the early modern international economy than is usually presented in the histories of individual nations. Pirates were also important for political thought: the miniature republics of pirate ships served as an enticing way for early modern writers to imagine other forms of political organization, and accounts of female pirates offered opportunities to explore gender relations.
Class meetings will be divided between the presentation and discussion of crucial historical context, and the close analysis and study of primary texts. An emphasis will be placed on learning the skills employed by historians: figuring out how to decipher manuscript legal records, collecting and analyzing information, and learning how to use the rich archives of relevant primary sources available online through the Princeton University library system.
FRS 166 The Politics of Seeing: The Films of the French New Wave LA
Class of 1976 Freshman Seminar in Human Values
Taking their cameras out of the studio and onto the street, creating irreverent films that engaged with — and prompted a reflection on — the politics of their time, a group of young film critics and soon-to-be directors emerged in the 1950s, and became known as the French New Wave. Drawing from the post-war Italian tradition of neo-realism, they broke down the boundary between fiction and documentary to better dialogue with the events and movements that shaped their era — from the Vietnam War, to the women's movement and post-colonial period, to the role of youth in social change. One of the key figures of this group, Jean-Luc Godard, summed up this intersection of art and politics, describing the New Wave as "perhaps the only generation which found itself in the middle of both the century and of cinema."
This course will focus on how to read films through the revolutionary cinema of French New Wave directors François Truffaut, Robert Bresson, Jacques Demy, and Jean-Luc Godard, and close contemporaries Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda. We will also look at the films that inspired them, their call to aesthetic irreverence, and the Auteur theory at the heart of their theory and practice of filmmaking, as well as their legacy in the works of contemporary American filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.
Lastly, we will examine the New Wave's belief that cinema should play an ethical and political role in today's world. Using real locations, improvised scripts, and breaking the "fourth wall" by addressing the audience, the New Wave made filmic innovation the path to a thinking art that served to bring aesthetics into dialogue with the social changes around them. In this light, filmmaking is driven by the imperative to find "not just an image, but a true image."
Around this central object of cinema and politics, students in this course will develop a mastery of technical and filmic vocabulary, as well as a historical culture of the moving image, through close readings of films and short writing exercises.
FRS 168 Divided We Stand: Economic Inequality and Its Discontents SA
The Stansky Family Freshman Seminar
Economic inequality is today a topic of vital debate in American political life, as exemplified by the Occupy movement. This course aims to help students better understand the causes, nature, and consequences of economic inequality. We take up six big questions: who is unequal; how does inequality change over time; what is unequal; what are the causes of inequality; what are the consequences of inequality; and how does inequality affect justice?
Who is unequal? Discussion of economic inequality conventionally focuses on income inequality among families or households within a nation. We also want to consider economic differences across nations, among families worldwide, and inside families — income inequality among siblings is surprisingly high. To whom we compare ourselves is not merely a definitional choice; it also embeds our view of the appropriate moral community.
How does inequality change over time? Inequality trends allow us to interrogate the relationship between inequality and economic growth, and to consider an important concomitant: income mobility.
What is unequal? The technical issue concerns how best to measure inequality. The conceptual issue concerns what is unequally distributed. Some alternatives, such as wealth, are even more unequally distributed than is income, while other measures, such as happiness, are less unequally distributed. Are all gaps with economic consequences — for example, the very unequal distribution of status, height, beauty, or life expectancy — morally significant, and if so, when should policy aim to shrink them?
What are the causes of inequality? We will investigate some leading accounts of the causes of growth in inequality: increased globalization, polarized politics, increasing returns to skilled labor, the rise of "superstar" labor markets, growth of the financial industry and its notoriously outsized compensation, and an aging and better-educated population.
What are the consequences of inequality? Some economic inequality is desirable: it spurs innovation, hard work, and investment in human capital, all of which create more wealth and the good things wealth affords. But greater economic inequality is also associated with adverse health outcomes, political capture, slower economic growth, and, if people want to keep up with the Joneses, increased inefficiency. How much inequality is too much inequality?
How does inequality affect justice? Is inequality intrinsically bad, or bad chiefly in its consequences? Is distributive justice solely a matter of the structure of a distribution or is it a matter of the process that leads to that distribution? Is Wall Street occupied because bankers are too rich or because bankers became rich unfairly, for example, by luck, fraud, or harm? And, do obligations to the poor cross national borders or stop at the water's edge?
FRS 170 The Dreamkeepers: Education Reform and the Urban Teaching Experience SA
L. Richardson Preyer '41 Freshman Seminar in Public Service
Currently, urban education reform is one of the most heated and divisive issues in the United States. Debates center on issues such as how to close the so-called racial achievement gap, the efficacy of neoliberal education reforms, the Common Core State Standards Initiative, and teacher evaluation. The debates also bring attention to urban poverty and social inequality and illuminate the impact of macro-structural forces on classroom life.
In the midst of the maelstrom of political rhetoric, we find the "Dreamkeepers" (borrowed from leading educational scholar Gloria Ladson-Billings) — hardworking urban public school teachers who are often left feeling discouraged and unsupported. Yet, some have provided inspiring examples of what works in the classroom. And still others have emerged as dynamic and innovative school leaders and beacons of hope.
With a critically analytical and empathetic eye on the dreamkeeper, or the urban teacher, this seminar will explore the daunting challenges and possibilities of urban teaching in the current policy context, placing the experience of the urban classroom teacher at the center of our inquiry into the problem of urban education. Some of the central questions students will explore are: What is it really like to work in an urban public school? How do the political economy and current educational policies shape those experiences? What key policy initiatives appear to be most promising, and what makes for a successful teacher in an urban school? Readings will include an overview of several of the most timely educational trends and debates within urban education; foundational studies exploring the tensions between teacher autonomy and social and institutional constraints; current research documenting the perspectives, attitudes, and experiences of teachers working in low-income urban schools; and research on effective urban teachers.
This seminar is designed for any student considering making a short- or long-term commitment to urban teaching and/or students interested in the study of urban inequality and urban schooling as a major contemporary social problem.