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Northwestern University

Choosing a First-Year Seminar

Spring Quarter 2017 First-Year Seminars

The following seminars will be offered in Spring 2017.  Click on the ">" in front of a title to read the course description. When you have identified the ten seminars that interest you most, log in to your dossier and scroll down to First-Year Seminar Selections: Spring 2017. The Top 10 selection process will open at 8am on Wednesday, February 8th, and close Friday, February 10th at 7:59am.

TitleDayTime

Instructor(s): Bernard Dobroski
Music

Description:

This seminar is designed for Weinberg students only. Students with a dual degree in music are not permitted to register for this seminar.  The course is designed to provide opportunities for music aficionados to experience music and music theater events from the inside-out. The only prerequisite for the course is a love of the performing arts – you don’t have to read, perform, or understand music notation to succeed in this course. However, you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time attending rehearsals and concerts (minimally six to eight hours a week), outside of the two required class sessions. During and outside of classroom sessions, the instructor and invited guests will attempt to nurture a heightened awareness of the challenges that conductors, opera and music theater directors and musicians/actors face when preparing for a performance. Through a series of observations, presentations, interviews, and interactive discussions/seminars, you will be better prepared to listen, observe, and critically analyze performing arts events on and off campus – during this academic quarter, and hopefully for the rest of your life. After Week One’s introduction to the course and the music library, the Week Two class sessions will concentrate on conducting lessons and video observations of concerts and rehearsals. In these initial sessions, you will learn many of the techniques needed to lead the world’s greatest instrumental and choral ensembles (of course, with many additional years of practice). Course participants, using their required conductor’s baton and music CDs will learn a variety of conducting techniques – mastering beat patterns, the expressive use of the left hand, and using the conducting gesture to communicate interpretation, phrasing, dynamic shading. You may never conduct a major ensemble, but after meeting the requirements of the class you should have the knowledge and understanding to critically analyze conductors during your future career as a member of audiences for classical and popular music concerts.

A Journey From First Rehearsal to Final Performance
MW2:00-3:20

Instructor(s): Sabrina Jaromin
Comparative Literary Studies

Description:

Why look at animals? asks writer John Berger, and what happens in the moment when animals look back? Behind this encounter lies the larger question What is an animal?  which, as we’ll discover together, establishes the borders around humanity, but also around modernity itself. Do animals have language? Are animals like machines? Do they have a soul? What happens when human-animal hybrids or encounters appear in literature, film, art, and everyday life. Through field trips to parks, zoos, and museums, and an analysis of sources as diverse as Alexander McQueen's fashion shows, Kafka’s short stories, Shakespeare's Midsummer Night’s Dream, Georges Franju’s short film The Blood of the Beasts, and Leonardo DiCaprio in a bear hide in The Revenant, this class will explore the role of sense perception, language, and emotion, and more surprisingly the role of race, gender, and power in the relationship between humans and animals, asking how encounters with animals affect relations among humans themselves. During excursions to the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Field Museum, we will go on a scavenger hunt, experience animals and their representations at first hand, and discuss why the presence of animals in our culture is an essential part of how we understand ourselves. Texts and other materials may include:  a selection of short stories by Kafka; Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream; Georges Franju’s short film The Blood of the Beasts; art installations by Marc Dion; fashions by Alexander McQueen; and some brief theoretical passages from the works of Descartes and Foucault.

Animals in Modernity
MW11:00-12:20

Instructor(s): Henry Binford
History

Description:

This course is in part about poverty, but it is even more about the ways Americans have thought about poverty and tried to combat it.  We will explore two periods of U.S. history: 1890-1910 and 1960-1990.  In each period we will examine the forces that impoverished individuals and families, the issues raised in explanations of poverty, the range of remedies proposed, and the ways they were justified.  In both periods we will try to determine how Americans answered some lasting questions:  How is poverty defined?  Who among the poor deserves what kind of help?  Does helping the poor promote dependence?  What are the implications of poverty for the health of the nation as a whole? The primary purpose of the course is to give students experience in some of the techniques employed by historians: close and critical reading of documents; reconstruction of the thinking of past actors and evaluation of their assumptions, motives, and options; and the production of clear, fair, and inclusive analyses of what happened.  While the subject matter of the course has obvious relevance to present-day concerns, our primary goal is to think (and write) about the past.

Anti-Poverty Crusades
MW3:30-4:50

Instructor(s): Robin Bates
History

Description:

How have people tried to explain what their lives mean? How have historical actors come to understand more abstract features of their society – such as religion, nationalism, race, gender, and sexuality – in relation to themselves? How do new historical contexts create new understanding of the self? To address these questions, we will consider autobiographical primary sources ranging from medieval love letters to memoirs of the Holocaust; experiences of trench warfare, artistic creation, and spiritual awakening; lives changed by scientific discovery, fighting duels, and running away from home.

Autobiography and the Self in European History
TTH3:30-4:50

Instructor(s): Ashley Johnson-Bavery
History

Description:

This freshman seminar explores the ways in which ordinary women entered both the political arena and the workforce during the twentieth century.  Pushing beyond stereotypes of Rosie the Riveter and radical feminism, seminars will seek to answer how ordinary women, rich and poor, black and white, young and old, challenged the status quo. At times, these challenges could be categorized as political movements and other times women were simply living their lives, trying to make ends meet and survive as mothers, wives, and workers. Through speeches, memoirs, letters from the Newberry Collections, and excerpts from historical works, participants will discuss and analyze the ways ordinary women exercised rights and power through work and play, laying the groundwork for a movement of women who demanded not just the vote, but equal pay and recognition. Students will read and discuss the way women negotiated politics during the Temperance movement, how women entered the workforce, and the ways state benefits relegated many women to second-class citizenship. The class will investigate ideas about “welfare queens,” feminists, and women activists in 2017, questioning how women’s political work may shape policy in the future.

Beyond Rosie the Riveter: Women, Wages and Politics in 20th c. America
TTH3:30-4:50

Instructor(s): Juan Martinez
English

Description:

Someone wrote a whole book on Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” We’ll read it. We’ll also read a series of essays on Internet cats, all to investigate how our obsessions intersect with issues of taste (what we think of as “good” or “bad”). People can be obsessed with websites (like Facebook), celebrities, TV shows, hobbies, foods, pets, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a place—any number of things. In this seminar, we’ll look at the ways in which individual obsessions sometimes intersect with broader social or cultural concerns, and we’ll read excerpts from the writings of notorious and talented obsessives. We’ll also examine what obsessions can (or maybe cannot) tell us about other people and about ourselves: who we are, what we want, what we’re afraid of, what we’re drawn to, where we’ve been, where we’re going.

Obsessed: Taste and Pop Culture
MW9:30-10:50

Instructor(s): Francesca Tataranni
Classics

Description:

We walk by neoclassical buildings and are exposed to a variety of uses of classical imagery almost every day, which we completely take for granted. Where does this sense of familiarity come from? Although the ancient Greeks and Romans never made it to the new world, their legacy in America is reflected in literature, architecture, the visual arts, performing arts and sites devoted to recreation, education, politics, and business. The focus of this class is Chicago, the quintessential modern American city. By analyzing a wide variety of sources, from Eric Larson’s No. 1 New York Times bestseller The Devil in the White City to some of the city’s most significant skyscrapers, museums, theaters and stadiums, to Spike Lee’s controversial film Chi-Raq, we will map the way Chicago’s enduring, protean, at times antagonistic dialogue with classical antiquity has shaped the city’s look, reputation, and identity.

*Title change from Ancient Rome in Chicago, course is the same. 

Classicizing Chicago
TTH12:30-1:50

Instructor(s): Sean Ebels Duggan
Philosophy

Description:

This course is about love and desire, in the most un-sensual meanings of those words.  We'll begin with Augustine, who treats love and desire as basic and characteristic of moral thinking---thought about the right and the good.  We'll end with Confucius and his followers, who think that love is a skill---and so it can't be what Augustine thought it must be.  In between we'll read sources outside of the normal philosophical canon, from women writing in 17th c. Britain, to Tibetan Buddhists, and perhaps some more as well. Learning objectives: Think clearly about philosophical topics. Know how to clarify thought, both one's own and that of others. Know how to demonstrate these things in writing.

Desire and Mind
MW12:30-1:50

Instructor(s): David Taylor
Physics & Astronomy

Description:

We will study the major forms of scientific writing, including the competitive proposal, the research paper, and the journalistic article.  Particular emphasis will be placed on making your writing as clear and concise as possible.  The subject material we will write about will revolve around global warming and alternative forms of energy generation.  Students will likely be assigned four written papers, ranging from 2 to 15 pages (not counting notes and figures), and will make at least one oral presentation.

Energy & Global Warming
TTH2:00-3:20

Instructor(s): Mark Hauser
Anthropology

Description:

Did astronauts from another planet establish ancient civilizations on Earth? Were the Americas discovered by Columbus, a Ming dynasty fleet or by Vikings much earlier? Did the Maya Aztec build their pyramids to resemble those of dynastic Egypt? Television is replete with stories of ancient aliens and archaeological mysteries. The impact of such alternative realities on society and history cannot be discounted. They have been used to support nationalistic agendas, racial biases, and religious movements, all of which can have considerable influence on contemporary society. In this course, we will  study “fantastic” stories, puzzles, hoaxes, imaginative worlds and alternative theories. We will learn when, how and what kinds of evidence these alternative theories have used to fascinate the public and illustrate their hoaxes. We will question such theories by using critical thinking and analytical tools to diagnose what is fact and fiction. We will utilize the surviving evidence that archaeologists find to understand cultural contact and interactions.

Fantastic Archaeology: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology
TTH11:00-12:20

Instructor(s): Sarah Wilson
English

Description:

For HP Lovecraft, the well-known writer of horror fiction, "the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." In this seminar, we will explore the Gothic fascination with things unseen and unknown: ghosts, ghouls, and demons who lurk in crumbling castles, haunt overgrown forests, slink beneath suburban beds and hide in damp basements or under creaky stairwells. Occupying the threshold between life and death, ghosts and other gothic creatures threaten to overturn our cherished assumptions about the world; they undo the notion that the dead should stay dead; they upend the boundaries between sanity and madness, the holy and the demonic, the familiar and the uncanny. The fear generated by Gothic texts stems from the realization that what once seemed safe, such as the domestic sphere or church sanctuary, is actually dangerously unstable, while what was once thought to be real, may instead be a figment of the imagination. In looking beneath the surface of these spooky texts, we will discover that Gothic literature often conjures individual and collective anxieties about race, class, national identity, sexuality and desire. Readers and protagonists confront not only diabolical villains and vengeful spirits, but also the dark and repressed corners of their own psyches, and the ways in which past traumas haunt the historical present. Over the course of the quarter, we will consider classic examples of Gothic fiction by Edgar Allen Poe, Nathanial Hawthorne, Edith Wharton, Horace Walpole, and Flannery O'Connor, as well as critical studies on Gothic literature and the psychology of horror. Because the Gothic has never been solely a literary phenomenon, we will also examine gothic sensibilities in contemporary film, television series, music, fashion, architecture, and visual art, as well as the development of a gothic subculture from the late 1970s to the present day.

Giving up the Ghost: The Gothic Imagination
MW11:00-12:20

Instructor(s): Sidra Hamidi
Political Science

Description:

Nuclear politics dominates headlines in contemporary international relations. From the growing threat of nuclear proliferation to controversies over the safety and security of nuclear weapons stockpiles to the growth of local anti-nuclear activism around the world, the conflict over nuclear energy and weaponry continues to be a major site of contestation in global politics. How can we understand the development of nuclear technology and its international and domestic consequences? What is the relationship between this technological development and politics, both local and interstate? This course will explore both the historical development of and contemporary conflicts surrounding the growth of nuclear technology. The seminar will take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of nuclear politics by combining perspectives from history, sociology, and political science. We will start with an examination of nuclear technology, highlighting some technical and scientific details about nuclear energy and its potential weaponization. We will then discuss the historical origins of the development of nuclear technology in the politics of the Cold War. Here we will discuss the logic of deterrence and address other logics of nuclear desire, including the military and symbolic value of nuclear weaponry. We will then move onto the global nuclear regime that governs the growth of nuclear proliferation including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). From a discussion of international politics, we will then turn to the way that the growth of nuclear technology affects domestic politics through a discussion of nuclear safety and anti-nuclear activism around the world. The second half of the course will use the resources of the first half of the course explore nuclear proliferation in regional contexts including Latin America, South Asia, and the Middle East. And we will close with a discussion of contemporary crises in nuclear politics and discuss prospects for the future.

Global Nuclear Politics
TTH9:30-10:50

Instructor(s): Burt Weisbrod
Economics

Description:

Health care and higher education illustrate “mixed” industries, in which private for-profit firms coexist and compete with nonprofit and governmental providers. This seminar focuses on how an economist can help to understand such matters as why such “mixed” industries exist, why the debate over health care and its insurance has been so protracted and divisive, why the cost of college education, and of health care, are so great and increasing so rapidly, why private nonprofit organizations, now over 1.3 million, are growing so rapidly in number and as a share of the U.S. economy, and why they are subsidized and in particular ways.

Healthcare, Education and Non-Profts: An Economist's Perspective
MW2:00-3:20

Instructor(s): Robert Gundlach
Linguistics

Description:

In this seminar, we will explore the power and complexity of the human voice as we encounter it in both speech and writing. We will begin by examining the physical and cognitive aspects of speaking and listening. We will then consider how the human voice conveys cultural meanings, how voices interact in conversation, and how "voice" is expressed in written form. Each student will select a topic of individual interest for a final research project. Topics might include (but are not limited to) the role of intonation in linguistic communication, voice and technology (e.g., telephones), voice in social media, voice and music, voice in professional roles, voice and gender, voice and age, voice disorders, the forensic use of "voiceprints," voice in acting, voice in animal communication, human-machine vocal interaction, variations of voice across languages, accents and voice control in second language learning, the significance of voice in public speaking, and the representation of speech in literature. Throughout the quarter, students will also develop their ability and confidence as writers, and may use this seminar as an opportunity to experiment with their own written voices in a variety of forms.

Human Voice, Spoken and Written
TTH11:00-12:20

Instructor(s): Regina Schwartz
English

Description:

This course will examine ideas of justice in western cultural and literary traditions. Biblical prophecy, the trial of Jesus, Plato, and tragedy in Shakespeare will be included. Our exploration will be done in the context of theories of justice. But the literature offers elaborations of theories of justice, both within legal frameworks and beyond, as they shape communities and the private lives of people. We will ask how religious ideas of justice inform and depart from secular ideas of justice, how retributive and distributive ideas of justice are imagined and critiqued, and how the relation between justice and law has been conceived.

Ideas of Justice
TTH9:30-10:50

Instructor(s): Marcus Moseley
Jewish Studies

Description:

This seminar revolves around a question that can be easily formulated but cannot be easily answered:  why do the righteous suffer? This question has been at the center of Jewish thought and practice from its very earliest times to the most recent. Beginning with passages from the Book of Genesis, the seminar discusses the question of unjustifiable suffering by examining a range of biblical texts and figures, culminating in the exemplary figure of Job, whose story we will read in conjunction with classical rabbinic commentary and impressive illustrations of the romantic poet William Blake. The seminar then turns to texts written in response to the Khmielnitsky massacres in the seventeenth century and the surge of pogroms in early twentieth-century Russia, with special emphasis on H. N. Bialik’s poetic response to the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903 and Marc Chagall’s Jewish crucifixion series composed in the wake of the destruction of Jewish shtetls in the First World War. The final four weeks of the class are concerned with the Holocaust, as we read excerpts from diaries written in the Warsaw and Lodz ghettoes, analyze Elie Wiesel’s Night, and conclude with Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

Job's Tears: Jewish Response to Suffering
TTH2:00-3:20

Instructor(s): Stephen White
Philosophy

Description:

There are many different and incommensurable kinds of goods: consumer goods (like cars and computers and clothes), personal relationships (love and friendship), goods of status, bodily goods (health, freedom from pain), opportunities for meaningful work, leisure, and so on. We will explore the moral and political implications of the idea that the way in which a specific good should be allocated, promoted and engaged with depends on the type of good it is.  In particular, we’ll be interested in the contrast between marketable goods – commodities – and other sorts of goods. If there are things that should not be for sale, why is that, and what does it say about the nature of value? Learning Objectives: Learn to identify and reconstruct the main arguments and assumptions of the authors we read in class. Be able to write an essay that articulates a clear thesis and presents a thoughtful argument in support of that thesis. Understand how economic markets may affect the way in which things are valued. Understand the moral problems that can arise when certain types of goods are bought and sold.

Love and Money
TTH12:30-1:50

Instructor(s): Brad Zakarin
Writing Program

Description:

This course examines the framing of crises in history, the media, politics, and public opinion. What are the stakes? Who are the stakeholders? Why and how does a sense of urgency upset some prevailing sense of normalcy? We will interrogate presentations of discrete events (like the Cuban Missile Crisis) and broader trends (like the Crisis in the Humanities) as a crisis of some kind. Students will co-construct a typology of crises to inform ongoing coursework. In addition, they will focus on how to write analytically about crises, whether real, imagined, or fabricated. Finally, students will conduct research into a “crisis” of their own choosing and communicate the findings and their significance via oral and written communication.

Making Sense of Crises
TTH3:30-4:50

Instructor(s): Nitasha Sharma
African American Studies

Description:

This class will explore the complexity of the African American mixed race experience through the genre of memoir. Reading Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father and other memoirs, we will compare the experiences of multiracials representing a range of backgrounds. We read the memoirs in order to analyze changing (or unchanging) national discourses on (mixed) race, learn and apply theories of identity formation, and analyze how race intersects with gender, sexuality, family structure, and looks. As a freshman seminar, students will be asked to read critically, write reflection and analysis papers, and provide analyses of the readings by applying theories they have learned to passages in the books. Overall, this course views national debates about race, identity, and belonging through the lens of individual memoirs by multiracial African Americans.

Mixed Race Memoir
TTH11:00-12:20

Instructor(s): Jessica Winegar
Anthropology

Description:

This course will examine the connection between popular culture and politics in the Middle East and North Africa. Popular culture - including films, music, poetry, street art, the internet, and television - has been a critical means for expressing political viewpoints and indeed motivating political action. It has also been used by groups and governments seeking to maintain power and repress populist sentiment. This course will take a careful and critical view of different examples of popular culture from across the region, asking what kind of politics they embody and enable. We will concentrate on what popular culture tells us about social change and hierarchies of power related to nation-states, generations, social class, gender, race/ethnicity, and religion.

Popular Culture in the Middle East
TTH12:30-1:50

Instructor(s): Chad Infante
English

Description:

This class will critically read and explore the role of animation cartoons as a socializing and teaching tool for children in the 20th century. In particular, we will look at the role and function of cartoons in teaching the performance of race. In this class we will trace the development of animation from its roots in blackface minstrelsy at the turn of the 19th century to the decline of the "Saturday Morning Cartoon Line up" at the end of the 1990s. Using cartoons as our object, the aim of this course is to develop our skills as a readers, writers, and observers. Through a series of writing exercises we will think about how “uncritical” or popular objects such as animation cartoons hold important critical content for understanding race, childhood, and life.

The Race of Cartoons
TTH3:30-4:50

Instructor(s): Eric Mosser
Biological Sciences

Description:

Sleep is both mysterious and essential. Essentially all multicellular animals sleep. People can reject food and abstain from sex, but cannot help falling asleep. The vital need for, and strong evolutionary conservation of sleep indicates that it meets a fundamental need, but what functions sleep serves, and how it is regulated are still open questions. Sleep deprivation and circadian rhythm disruptions like jet lag and shift work have been demonstrated to affect immune function and may be linked to obesity. Sleep disorders have become so pervasive that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared that they constitute a public health epidemic. This course will examine the neurobiological basis and societal relevance of sleep and sleep disorders.

Sleep
TTH3:30-4:50

Instructor(s): Mayda Velasco
Physics & Astronomy

Description:

An introduction to the physics of doomsday scenarios, from natural disasters to human errors and terrorism.

Sources of Energy for the Future
TTH2:00-3:20

Instructor(s): Dan Horton
Earth & Planetary Sciences

Description:

The challenge of sustainability to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” has evolved over the past few decades. This course will introduce fundamental concepts of sustainability, consider the application of these concepts in diverse societal, economic, and cultural settings, and explore the potential of climate science and sustainable development to act as forces for environmental and social justice.

Sustainability and Social Justice
TTH2:00-3:20

Instructor(s): Ian Hurd
Political Science

Description:

From whales to nuclear weapons to genocide and beyond, much of what people and governments do is defined, regulated, shaped, or otherwise influenced by international law. International law consists of binding commitments made between governments. This seminar examines the key concepts of international law and looks at its relationship to politics. The class will cross over the line between political science and legal scholarship, drawing cases, readings, and debates from both.

Whales, Bombs, and Genocide: Politics of International Law
TTH2:00-3:20

Instructor(s): Christine Helmer
Religious Studies

Description:

This seminar will give first-year students the opportunity to reflect personally, critically, thoughtfully, and together with peers, on the question: why go to college? There are many expectations that parents and society place on the college experience. But now that we are in college, how shall we think about it? Is it an experience or is it an education? Is it a ticket to a job or is it the pursuit of knowledge? What do professors do anyway? How is contemporary culture reflected in the university? We address various facets of the college experience, from student life to the value of the humanities. We survey the history of the modern university and learn about the "crisis" of the contemporary university. The goal is to reflect more deeply at the beginning of college what the "experience" is all about.

Why College?
MW9:30-10:50
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