Seminars for the Spring Term 2015
FRS 102 The Many Lives of Mao Zedong HA
Who was Mao Zedong? Was he the founding father of the People's Republic of China, who led the Chinese people to "stand up" after a century of humiliation? Or was he a murderous psychopath, responsible for the deaths of millions, "worse than Hitler and Stalin?"
This seminar will explore the many controversial facets of Mao Zedong's life (1893-1976) and his posthumous reincarnation in Chinese society and politics. We will read extensively from Mao's own writings (in English translation), and we will examine his afterlife in biography, film, literature, and art. In the process, we will take a tour of China's recent history, and we will consider how contemporary concerns and popular culture inform historical writing and judgment. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 104 Rethinking Truth and Objectivity in History HA
Marc Domingo Gygax
Scholars trying to explain the human past are confronted with some major problems: To what degree can objectivity be achieved in the analysis of history? Is there anything such as "historical truth?" What "literary" constraints are imposed upon historiographic writings? Can narration on its own provide a real understanding of the past? Is a "scientific" history possible? Are there any fundamental differences between natural and historical sciences, and between historical and social sciences?
In this seminar we will study how the main historical schools of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries (historicism, positivism, the Annales school, Marxism, modernism, and postmodernism) have approached these questions and conceived the study of history. We will read texts written by representative scholars of these schools such as G. R. Elton, E. H. Carr, H. White, and R. J. Evans. The goal of the seminar is not only to learn about different possibilities for studying history but also to explore the reasons for this diversity of approach by analyzing the links between historical schools and the evolution of human sciences in the last two centuries and by studying works such as Thomas S. Kuhn's book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. We will pay attention both to the succession of scholarly paradigms as well as to the existence of different "national" traditions. Finally, we will deal with some case studies, i.e., the main historical debates on the role of Germans in the Holocaust (the "Historikerstreit" and intentionalists/functionalists controversy). (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 106 Art and Science of Motorcycle Design STL
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
This is a hands-on seminar and laboratory experience about the engineering design of motorcycles. Students will restore a 1961 Triumph motorcycle and will compare it to the same make and model of motorcycle from other years (1956, 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. Professor 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 motorcycle subsystems will be considered with special attention to the power, structural, and control subsystems. Classic and modern engineering tools to be 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 engine brake dynamometer for determination of engine power and torque. Students will assess and restore motorcycle components. Precise measurement, repair, and redesign (where appropriate) of key parts 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. Each session starts with a 90-minute precept followed by an 90-minute laboratory. Please note that only the precept time is listed on SCORE and Course Offerings. The 90-minute laboratory will follow immediately after each precept. (Tuesday, Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 108 Job, Suffering, and Modernity LA
This interdisciplinary course explores the modern reception of the Book of Job and the question of human suffering from the 17th century to the present. The ancient Book of Job asks some startlingly modern questions: Why do the good and blameless suffer? If there is divine justice, then where is the court of appeal? And if there is not, what is to motivate us to act righteously and justly? How are we to endure our suffering, and how are we to act in the face of another's suffering? And what is the role of reason in an unreasonable, disordered universe?
We'll investigate how modern thinkers received and revised a work that uncannily anticipates the central concerns of modernity: the claims of the subject, human rights, literary self-consciousness, skepticism, and the claims of the individual vs. those of the community.
We'll take our cue from the Book of Job, which is a series of debates framed by a dramatic prologue and an ambiguous resolution. Each week we'll focus on a specific topic: Job on trial; Job's comforters, the problem of Evil, God's answer to Job, etc. After a brief exposition of issues, each seminar will be structured as a debate, followed by reflection and discussion. We will read commentaries on Job by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians and philosophers from Kant to Negri; literary works by Shakespeare, Kafka, and Frost, among others; holocaust memoirs by Levi and Kulka; and we'll discuss films by Terence Malick and Joel and Ethan Coen. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 110 Personal Genomes, Medicine, and Algorithms STN
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
While the first draft of the DNA blueprint of humans took a decade to complete, recent technological advances have made genome sequencing routine. The rapidly declining cost of genome sequencing will lead to the widespread availability of individual genomic information and promises to change how medicine is practiced. For complex diseases, patient stratification and tailored medical treatments will become the norm. Much of this work will be driven by integrative computational analysis of genomic and patient data.
In this seminar, we will explore genome sequencing, natural variation and disease risk, cancer genomics, personalized drug response, and privacy and ethical issues, along with the computational questions underlying many of these topics. The seminar will consist of reading, presenting, and discussing recent papers from the scientific literature, and a final written paper on a related topic of interest. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 112 From the Earth to the Moon QR
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
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. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 116 The Far East in the Western Imagination LA
Christopher Columbus's vision of reaching Marco Polo's Cathay led him to accidently discover a whole new continent. But a willful man, he continued to search — even after it had become apparent to others that he had not been anywhere near Asia — for evidence that if he had not reached the land of the Great Khan, he had been very close to it. The Portuguese — led by Vasco da Gama — also set out to find a viable route to access the Far East, carrying letters from King Manuel of Portugal to Prester John, the mythical ruler of the Christians in the Orient. John and his people were nowhere to be seen. But Vasco da Gama, unlike Columbus, managed to reach Asia, and for the first time, opened the eastern sea-gates to the "marvels of the East" for the Europeans.
Unwilling to let the Portuguese monopolize the riches of the Far East, the Spanish Crown entrusted Ferdinand Magellan to find a passage that would open up a short, direct course to Southeast Asia by sailing west. What Magellan (and his crew) realized upon crossing what became known as the Pacific Ocean was that his vision had greatly underestimated the immensity of the waters that divided the Americas from Asia. It took Magellan and the surviving crew almost four months to reach land, when it was expected to take no more than three weeks. Magellan was killed in the Philippines by natives, for it appears that his vision had excluded the possibility that with bows and arrows they could overpower the Europeans' firearms. European visions of the Far East had again been betrayed by a much larger and more complex reality than could have been imagined. The Far East was indeed very far away, but for Europeans with dreams of material and/or spiritual conquest it had become more accessible.
The Far East is not so far away anymore. Innovations in transportation, communication, and the news media have allowed people from East and West to travel to each other's lands, meet with one another, and work together. Yet, in many ways, the Far East — especially China — has never stopped being perceived as an exotic, alluring, and at the same time, an incongruous place: a promised land of endless economic opportunities, on one extreme, and an amoral land ruled by authoritarians, on the other.
In this seminar, we will survey the multifarious Western perceptions of East Asia from the arrival of Magellan's crew in Europe in 1522 to the present time. Our approach will be cross-disciplinary. Sources of study will include historical and literary writings, paintings, cartoons, and films. Because this seminar is devoted to understanding how many of these images emerged and developed in the European and American imagination, we will emphasize sources that originate during Early Modern European-Chinese and Japanese encounters. We will explore how, in some cases, Western images of East Asia and its people that began as favorable and exemplary gave way to scornful and condescending representations in the 19th century. Our exploration will culminate in the last few weeks of the course with students investigating contemporary European, American (including Latin American and Canadian) perceptions of one of the regions of their choosing amongst China, Taiwan, Japan, and the Koreas. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 118 Life on Mars — Or Maybe Not SA
Stuart Family Freshman Seminar
A few years ago, 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. As a result, 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 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 an experienced professional science journalist. 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. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
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. (Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 122 Dionysus LA
Professor Whitney J. Oates '25 *31 Freshman Seminar
Today, the names of Greek and Roman gods seem little more than alluring ciphers of a distant world once thought to be firmly in the grip of their power. Deities and demons of every kind determined our fate; they spoke in oracles and omens, appeared in disguise or haunted dreams, answered prayers or denied them in unpredictable ways. That world with its ancient mysteries is irretrievably lost, yet some of its aspects continue to resonate strangely with undiminished power and fascination. Above all, there is Dionysus, the ancient god of wine and song, revelry and ecstasy, the harbinger of disorder and subversion. This oldest religious symbol of Western civilization refuses to sink into oblivion as he continues to be "worshipped," often unwittingly, in myriad ways both dangerous and innocuous. But who or what is Dionysus?
This seminar examines the ancient, medieval, and modern iconographies of Dionysus, offering profound insights into the significance of this pagan god for human nature and culture. The religious reflections of Dionysus from the earliest myths and images to his manifest presence in the youth culture of modernity pose an important question: What exactly do we see and recognize when we look into the mirror of Dionysus?
With a curious and open mind, we shall read and interpret a broad variety of influential texts, both literary and philosophical (such as Homer, Euripides, Nonnos, Plotinus, Nietzsche, and Lacan); examine ancient iconographies of Dionysus; and revel in some weird avant-garde movies and bizarre novels. Eheu! (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 124 The Everglades Today and Tomorrow: Global Change and the Impact of Human Activities on the Biosphere 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. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 126 Contact: The Archaeology of Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean HA
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
The Mediterranean in the Early Iron Age (11th to 7th centuries B.C.E.) was a dynamic setting for commerce, migration, exploration, and innovation. Traders plied the seas selling goods and spreading ideas, urban centers developed, colonies appeared, and emerging kingdoms waged wars. From Spain to Assyria, Carthage to Thrace, people encountered one another in a variety of political, social, and economic contexts.
The aim of this seminar is to use archaeological evidence to explore how people interacted in the ancient Mediterranean, and with what results. Our goal is to use objects and sites to assess the intensity, the quality, and the importance of contacts during this period of complex cultural development.
Students will learn how to detect, describe, and evaluate change and variation using archaeological evidence. The course serves as an introduction to a time period, to a problem, and to the discipline of archaeology. When and why did people and goods cross land and sea? What was the impact of war and conflict on cultural development? Why did some regions appropriate foreign products and technologies that their neighbors ignored? How were goods and knowledge deployed in their new contexts, and to whose advantage? What were the power dynamics between colonizer and colonized? In approaching these questions (and more), we will assess the strength of various explanatory models and consider applications to modern conceptions of identity, ethnicity, and cultural exchange.
Students will spend two seminars 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 128 Conquests and Heroes: A Comparative History of War HA
This course examines the experience of war in Europe, China, and Japan in order to ascertain the degree to which war constituted a culturally specific act. We will compare epics such as The Three Kingdoms, The Song of Roland, and The Tale of Heike, to other narratives, such as The Secret History of the Mongols and The Life of St. Louis, and a variety of documentary and visual sources. In addition to exploring narratives of battle, we shall investigate the "heroic" qualities associated with European, Chinese, and Japanese figures such as King (and Saint) Louis IX of France; Zhuge Liang (Chu-ke Liang), the "great strategist" of third-century China; and Minamoto Yoshitsune, a passionate general of 12th-century Japan. A secondary theme of this course constitutes an examination of the impact that the Mongols had on each of these military cultures. Why are none of those who resisted the Mongols in China, Japan, or Europe remembered as "heroes?" Likewise, how did the Mongol conquests of the 13th century influence military ideals in each of these regions? (Monday, Wednesday 1:30-2:50 p.m.)
Professor Roy Dickinson Welch Freshman Seminar
Does art imitate life? Or does life imitate art? Are they really so different from one another anyway? This seminar will explore the intriguing and sometimes elusive boundary between everyday experience and specialized artistic activity.
For our purposes, "art" refers not only to visual art but to a wide variety of creative undertakings that result in performances, objects, rituals, and even mischievous stunts. Anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake uses the term "making special" to distinguish functional and aesthetic effects, as when a utilitarian bowl is becomes an object to be put on display. Many artists in various disciplines, though, have smudged the boundary between art and life, as when Marcel Duchamp (in)famously placed a bicycle wheel on a pedestal in a museum in 1913. Forty years later, John Cage composed an equally controversial silent piano piece. In the 1960s, choreographer Yvonne Rainer explored "pedestrian movement," and Yoko Ono wrote numerous "scores" that instructed performers to "make special" the eating of a tuna sandwich or the utterance of a cough. More provocative even was the performance wherein she invited the audience to cut off her clothing as she sat unmoving on stage.
These days, technology plays an increasing role as artists make beats from old, discarded answering machine tapes (often without permission), and acoustic ecologists staff orchestras with mice and elephants. In our era of social media saturation, everyday life is made special by reality television, Twitter poetry and impersonations, flash mobs, and political satire — and even by the commodification and dramatization of weather reporting.
Seminar requirements will include experiential activities and experiments as well as reading, listening, and viewing assignments. We'll study a wide variety of cultural documents that interrogate or destabilize the distinction between art and the everyday. Issues such as race, class, gender, ethics, commodification, specialization, and spectatorship will be of import. We will consider how such puncturing of boundaries changes (or not) through history, and we will reflect on the element of danger in art-making. Experience in any artistic discipline is welcome but by no means required; more important is a spirit of exploration and inquiry. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 132 Creating Documentary Performance LA
Documentary theater has been called many things: Theater of Fact, Agit-prop, Theater of Testimony, Journalistic Theater, and more. In this seminar, we will examine how artists and activists have used theatrical techniques to investigate important events and issues past and present, with an eye toward creating work that addresses the questions of our time. We will begin by studying a range of contemporary documentary performance from award-winning masterpieces to works in process, with nationally recognized artists visiting the class. We will examine the dramatic elements of each play and explore multiple approaches to creating documentary work, incorporating elements of history, journalism, and performance in preparation for student-created projects. Over the course of the semester, students will be guided in the selection of topics and collection of source material, culminating in the creation of their own original documentary theater works.
Each week, students will read one to two plays (some published and some in manuscript form) and additional materials in the course packet, along with writing one- to two-page weekly response papers. As the semester progresses, the writing assignments will shift as students begin to conduct fieldwork and collect primary source material for their final projects. Students will be required to attend one or more professional productions in New York, New Jersey, or Philadelphia, subject to availability. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 134 Capitalism, Utopia, and Social Justice SA
Professor Amy 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?
The objective of the seminar is obviously not to hammer out answers to these questions, but instead to introduce students to a variety of readings, primarily in philosophy and economics (John Rawls, Amartya Sen, Robert Nozick, Milton Friedman, Thomas Pogge), so that they can begin to develop informed opinions about these questions and the basic structures of society. In particular, we will engage in ongoing debates about social justice and the remedies to societal problems; look beyond the implementation of their remedies to consider the underlying definitions of the objectives, which will raise important ethical debates and dilemmas; and finally examine normative theories and discourses about capitalism, old and new "utopias," and social justice. The seminar requires no prior background and will introduce basic concepts from the relevant disciplines.
The seminar will be related to the proceedings of an international panel on social progress, launched after the idea emerged during the 2012-13 session of this seminar. The connection to the panel will enable the students to follow the works of a large author team and to make contributions of various forms. (Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 136 Emerging Micro and Nano-Engineered Technologies STN
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
Research and development advances in microtechnology and nanotechnology have contributed to myriad high-tech products and electronic gadgets commonplace in our lives today, including laptops with advanced computing performance, e-readers and other hand-held devices, cameras, and ink-jet printers. So, what will be the next new scientific innovation or disruptive technology to have a major impact our lives? As the demand continues to grow for materials, devices, and processes that do more, are more convenient, cheaper, smaller, faster, more durable, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and can be more seamlessly integrated into everyday life, there is a constant push for improvements on state-of-the-art devices and processes, as well as for completely new innovations. It is anticipated that alongside the continued advancements to some of our favorite electronics, there will also be an emergence of novel, somewhat unconventional applications of micro/nanotechnology to meet our evolving needs. This seminar explores some of the emerging applications possible from recent advancements in micro/nanotechnology applied in areas such as health care, energy, surveillance, and "smart" textiles.
We will explore some of the basic science and engineering principles behind different technologies and incorporate simple practical exercises to study some of these principles. Using a discussion class format, we will also explore a series of diverse micro/nanotechnology applications and their potential impacts on our lives. (Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 138 Life in a Nuclear-Armed World SA
Bert G. Kerstetter ’66 Freshman Seminar
In August 1945, on hearing the news that America's new atom bomb had destroyed its first target, the Japanese city of Hiroshima, President Harry Truman declared, "This is the greatest thing in history." Six decades later, in April 2009, President Barack Obama declared "As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act . . . So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
This course will look at what it has meant to live with the bomb in America over these many years by exploring the science, technology, politics, economy, ecology, culture, and ethics of the bomb through the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the spread of nuclear weapons to other states, the fear of nuclear terrorism, and the prospects for the global struggle to ban the bomb. (Thursday 7:30-10:20 p.m.)
FRS 140 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 — rape and incest, mutilation and mass murder — 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. (Monday 7:30-10:20 p.m.)
FRS 142 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 it laughing 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 lay reveal an incisiveness of argument that defy both earlier and subsequent thought on his topics. The seminar will consider both Freud's accounts of ordinary mental phenomena and his method of inquiry, with the aims of coming to understand 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 include original works by Freud and a few brief selections by other authors whose work provides useful material for comparison. The seminar, which will meet in two 80-minute classes per week, is 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. (Tuesday, Thursday 11:00 a.m.-12:20 p.m.)
FRS 144 How the Tabby Cat Got her Stripes STN
Shirley M. Tilghman
Robert H. Rawson ’66 Freshman Seminar
If Gregor Mendel, the 19th-century father of modern genetics, were alive today, his head would be spinning. The simple rules of "Mendelian" inheritance, which he painstakingly worked out with garden peas, have had to be substantially expanded and revised in the last several decades to accommodate the fact that genes are not nearly as well behaved as he thought. A pristine gene, free of any debilitating mutations, may or may not be expressed, depending upon parental inheritance, environmental influences, and even pure chance. This phenomenon, in which external factors influence the decision of a gene to be expressed or remain silent, is called epigenetics. The existence of epigenetic effects is right before our eyes: the stripes of the tabby cat; the complex patterns of pigment in petunia petals; the variegated colors in the compound eyes of fruit flies.
The implications for human biology are also widespread. Epigenetics explains why it is only possible to inherit a fetal overgrowth syndrome called Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome from your mother, and Prader-Willi Syndrome, a disorder characterized by obsessive eating, from your father. It has also has forced us to revise our understanding of how cancers arise and is responsible for the low success rate of animal cloning. The future promise of stem cell therapy will only be realized when scientists can better control epigenetic changes that occur at fertilization. Altogether the underlying molecular epigenetic mechanisms are revealing a wacky new world of gene regulation, which this seminar will explore, along with the societal implications of epigenetics and its evolutionary benefits. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 146 Designing Life: The Ethics of Creation and Its Control EM
University Center for Human Values Freshman Seminar Anonymous
In this course, we will discuss the ethics of creation and its control. We will examine arguments by analyzing their logical form. The topics are accessible and exciting. The analysis of arguments is challenging but provides a great foundation for writing argumentative papers throughout your college career, regardless of your choice of major.
This course will examine the following questions:
Is genetic enhancement permissible? Is genetic selection permissible? Is genetic selection of desirable traits permissible? Is genetic selection of disabilities, such as deafness, permissible? Is selection against disability permissible?
Can creating someone harm her? Perhaps creating someone whose life is utterly miserable harms her. But can creating someone whose life is worth living harm her? How could it be that someone should create a non-disabled rather than a disabled child, if she has both options?
Is stem-cell research permissible? Do human embryos have moral status? If they do, do they have the same moral status as adult persons? If stem-cell research does not require the destruction of the embryo, is it permissible?
Is abortion permissible? If we assume the fetus has the moral status of an adult person, does it follow that abortion is permissible?
Is procreation permissible? Is all human life so bad (worse than we realize) that it is wrong to have children? (Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 148 The Politics of Seeing: The Films of the French New Wave LA
Peter T. Joseph ’72 Freshman Seminars 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 neorealism, 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, which can be seen in the works of 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, 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, this course will develop students' 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.
The class will take a field trip to New York City’s Film Forum, the leading movie house for independent film. (Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 150 Music and the Mathematical Mind LA
Ju Ri Seo
Professor Roy Dickinson Welch Freshman Seminar
The relationship between music and mathematics is storied and multifarious. Pythagoras found that strings whose lengths are related by simple ratios produce beautiful musical intervals. The mathematician Leonhard Euler developed the "tone net," a structure that can help us understand music from Schubert to rock. Galileo's revolutionary discoveries were inspired, in part, by the work of his music theorist-father, Vincenzo Galilei. Twentieth-century theorists have uncovered deep analogies between traditional African rhythmic patterns and the familiar major scale.
This seminar will provide a hands-on introduction to these ideas. Ratios, exponents, and logarithms will allow us to explore alternate tuning systems and the infinite number of microtones. Modular arithmetic and non-Euclidean geometry will enhance our understanding of how the 12 notes assemble and transform to produce music, and how the time element of music such as beats and meters operate in repetitive structures. Free software packages can make it easy to translate mathematics and algorithms into concrete sounds.
This course is designed to spark interest in the deep connections between music and mathematics. Students will have an opportunity to apply their knowledge in creating an original piece of music or producing a paper. Interest in both music and mathematics is assumed; however, the course does not require any knowledge about either fields beyond high school-level algebra and familiarity with music notation. All necessary tools, including the relevant mathematics, basic music theory, and software, will be introduced over the course of the semester. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 152 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. (Monday, Wednesday 3:00-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 154 The Fantasy of the Middle Ages: Stories and Storytelling LA
"This tale grew in the telling . . ." explains J.R.R. Tolkien in his foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings. As all fans know, Tolkien's tale came to include, as he wrote, "glimpses" of the "more ancient history" that preceded the Great War of the Ring. The entire cycle has circulated in our times in ways that perhaps Tolkien would not have favored — by means of film, online sites for wannabe Ring-masters, and the merchandising and branding of the narrative cycle, to cite but a few examples. Tolkien's words also expose some crucial problems about narrative: that stories grow and sprout and ramify, just as — paradoxically — some elements of these tales endure and remain recognizable through centuries of retelling, and that stories expand in these ways with or despite what their authors might have planned.
Tolkien's models for his subject matter and for the modes of his modern fantasy tales are found in the medieval literature of the West. There we read of the prototypes for his monsters and of the ethics of knightly brotherhood; there are the superlative ladies and the creepy encroachments of the dark side of magic. If Tolkien is one of the most successful rewriters of medieval plots and protagonists, he is not the only author who rehabilitates the stories told and retold in the long period from the fifth through the 15th centuries. Aspects of the Middle Ages pervade the high and the popular cultures of the English-speaking world, contributing key components to the fantastic worlds our stories create. Knightly combatants joust eternally in today's virtual tournaments, and King Arthur's court appears in comics, romance novels, and as a marketing gimmick for everything from restaurants to garage-door openers. Our new stories rest upon plots right out of medieval literature, and these stories are populated by roles derived from the medieval tales of Tristan, Arthur, Guinevere, and the Lady of the Lake. Our historical period, as well as previous ones, turns and returns to the fantasies of the Middle Ages, a time long past but imagined as recoverable through writing out our fantasies of it, through retelling its fantastic tales. Medieval stories, then, raise wonderful questions for us to ponder right now.
Why are we so fascinated by the Middle Ages? Why has this period so many after-lives? What do we see, or think we see, in these times past? In what ways do medievalizing fantasies offer ways for us to resist or reform what is modern? What does an "author" consist of when so much seems to be written by "anonymous"? What is the medieval "storage medium" for these stories? By examining such topics, we'll consider the properties of medieval literature and interrogate the sort of place we think we are escaping to when we slip back in time to the tales of the Middle Ages. In addition to robust weekly discussions, this seminar will include excursions to repositories of the Middle Ages on the University's campus — and maybe a field trip to the medieval world beyond the University's gates. (Monday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 156 The Mathematics of Magic Tricks and Games QR
Richard L. Smith ’70 Freshman Seminar
Some of the very best magic tricks and games invented over the years have involved an ingenious use of mathematics, including concepts from number theory, group theory, topology, coding theory, and cryptography. Examples include the magic tricks of Norman Gilbreath, Charles Jordan, and Bob Hummer; and the games and puzzles of Noyes Chapman, Erno Rubik, and Martin Gardner.
Conversely, and somewhat more surprisingly, a great deal of nontrivial and important mathematics has been discovered due to corresponding developments in the theory of magic and games, such as in the works of Persi Diaconis, Ron Graham, and John Conway.
In this seminar, we will explore some of these very beautiful mathematical ideas that underlie magic and games, with an emphasis on both theory and performance/play. (Monday 7:30-10:20 p.m.)
FRS 158 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 master painters 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 advantage of the proximity of New York City, and make two field trips to visit 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. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 160 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 since 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.)
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 164 Sources of Terror in American Literature and Culture LA
The premise of this course is that fear is most interesting when it is culturally specific. By emphasizing the specific ways in which Gothic traditions have been transformed in the United States, we will challenge the notion (put forth by American horror fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft and others) that the literature of terror taps into certain universal qualities that transcend time and place. While the British Gothic relied on castles and decadent aristocrats, American authors shifted the source of terror to the wilderness, often forging psychological and symbolic landscapes that reflected the new fears of an emerging democratic and commercial culture.
The course begins by exploring the formation of specifically American Gothic traditions in the works of Poe, Irving, Hawthorne, Spofford, and O’Brien. We then shift to an exploration of the realistic ghost stories of Henry James, Freeman, and Gilman and the development of a modern horror tradition in the tales of Crawford and Lovecraft. Our final segment focuses on contemporary developments in the American Gothic with an emphasis on the literary depiction of vampires and zombies in post-apocalyptic landscapes. (Wednesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 166 Why Global Warming is Controversial STN
Global warming is controversial both because it poses challenging scientific questions whose answers generate debates, and because it poses ethical dilemmas that are polarizing. This seminar addresses the core issue of global warming: that to deny that human activities are affecting the planet adversely is irresponsible, but to assure those living in abject poverty that the future will be worse is cruel. One solution is to focus not on imminent gloom and doom but on how remarkable the Earth is (the only planet known to be habitable) so that concern about global warming creates opportunities for education — the key to the alleviation of poverty. We will cover topics that explain why the Earth is habitable and illustrate how disputes and progress have always been hallmarks of science.
Some of the topics we will explore include:
• 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?
Participants in the seminar will exchange information, via Internet, etc., with a small group of South African high school seniors in Cape Town, concerning that region's very different seasonal cycles. The Princeton students will produce short videos that summarize the discussions of each of the topics outlined above and will exchange those with the South African students. A limited number of summer internships related to an educational project in South Africa are available to participants in the seminar. This seminar is open to scientists and non-scientists. (Tuesday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)
FRS 168 Ghosts, Vampires, and Zombies in Irish Literature and Theatre LA
Donna ’78 and Michael S. Pritula ’78 Freshman Seminar
From the spirits and banshees of oral tales to Bram Stoker's Dracula; from the classic works of Wilde, Yeats, Synge, and Beckett to the Preacher comics of Garth Ennis and the vampire chronicles of Anne Rice, Irish culture has been haunted by the Undead. Why has the Irish Gothic had such a long ghostly afterlife on page and stage? Can we learn something about Modernist works like those of Yeats and Beckett by seeing them through the perspective of popular factions of the supernatural? In this seminar we will take a walk into the liminal territory that lies between life and death and see how political upheaval, famine, and the tension between the Catholic and Protestant traditions brought forth strange and uncanny beings. (Thursday 1:30-4:20 p.m.)