First-Year Preceptorial

Course Description Archive 02 - 03

First-Year Seminar Descriptions, 2002-2003

  1. Gender, Race, and Sexuality

    Are men "naturally" more violent than women? Is there any scientific basis for the idea of race? What happens to a child raised by gay parents? These questions and others like them occur when we try to draw the line between human behavior that is "natural" and that which is culturally acquired. In this class, we will track the ways in which ideas about what is "natural" have been used over the centuries to justify Western cultural beliefs and practices. As we explore the history of ideas about gender, race, and sexuality, we will be particularly interested in the influence of philosophical and scientific discourses about what is "natural" on the legal and social practices that regulate our behavior. Readings will include excerpts from texts by Aristotle, Thomas Kuhn, Simone de Beauvoir, Shakespeare, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Thomas Jefferson, and Stephen Jay Gould.

  2. The Matrix

    Once upon a time …. the Bible knew it all. Who we are, what we know, and what we are supposed to do - the Bible and its eloquent interpreters had the answer for us. Until the 'rebellion' of 18th-century Enlightenment and its favoring of rational investigation, the Bible attempted and insisted to be the sole provider of meaning for a world of obvious randomness, if not chaos. The certainty of the story of Creation linked to an infallible plan for its creatures (us, among others!) gave way to technological achievements and a new scientific certainty - a certainty ultimately linked to your beloved class on calculus. Together with scientific or philosophical sureness, however, rose the market value of doubt, fear and nihilism. We will investigate a series of philosophical and literary affirmations, critiques, and disparagements of the most essential document in the Western world. Texts such as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Voltaire's Candide, Kafka's The Trial and Beckett's Waiting for Godot will accompany a series of philosophical essays by philosophers like Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Whether we like it or not, one way or another the Bible and its motifs are still with us. Many of these readings will lead us to the film The Matrix.

  3. Travel Writing

    This section of FP explores ways of knowing through travel writing. Good travel writing is an old tradition (Marco Polo, Darwin, Josephus, Tacitus as examples), but more recently has become a growth industry of sorts. Adventurers are attracted by the personal challenge, and by the idea of conquest, whether a mountain, a desert, or other inhospitable geography; another kind of adventure writer is thrilled by war and its immediate dangers, but also fascinated by its truths, for the individual soldier as well as the larger political context, whether in Vietnam, Nicaragua, or Angola. But more often the travel writer explores a country, a culture, or a series of societies linked by some idea. The travel writer might actually be on a trip, interviewing, wandering, but mostly observing; or she/he might live in a place (not home) for a period of time, and his/her writing reflect observations and conclusions about this place, more or less like an amateur (unqualified?) anthropologist. What links all good travel writing is the connection between self and other. In leaving home, the travel writer is trying to comprehend the other, the foreign, the outside, to make sense of that place, those people; but at the same time, the travel writer is also in pursuit of his own place in the world, how his own home and its society compares, and how she/he stands, identifies, can be more fulfilled, whole, by knowing more about how other people live. Thus our FP will explore the process of knowing, its possibilities and limitations, its advantages and obstacles, and in so doing will learn more about ourselves and those not like ourselves. Our readings include those travel writers from the United States that look at our own society with fresh eyes, ears and mind, and a critical (although often humorous) spirit. Some of the writers who may be included are: Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux, Dervla Murphy, Andrea Barrett, Eric Newby, Freya Stark, V.S. Naipaul, Clifford Geertz, Riccardo Orizio, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Tiziano Terzani, John Steinbeck, etc.

  4. Nature and Culture

    The interaction of human beings and nature is as old as the origins of homo sapiens, and has assumed an endless variety of forms. We have often regarded nature as a mirror of ourselves - nature personified, idealized and gendered - or as the "other", to be feared, resisted and dominated. This course will examine these attitudes through texts ranging from the pastoral poetry of ancient Greece and Rome to twentieth century novels, history and environmental writing. We will consider where nature has been located: in the realm of the imaginary and the real, the historical and the contemporary, the literary and the scientific, and as a site for romantic escape or political action. Our investigation will include music. Union College music professor and composer Hilary Tann will discuss the role of nature in twentieth century music, and the class will attend the performance of one of her recent compositions. Readings will include Theocritus and Virgil (selections), the Song of Songs and St Francis' Canticle of the Sun, Shakespeare's The Tempest, Thoreau's Walden, stories by Horacio Quiroga, John McPhee's The Control of Nature, Jane Smiley's 1000 Acres, David Quammen's The Song of the Dodo, and Judith Shapiro's Mao's War Against Nature.

  5. The Self -Evident Truth of Inequality

    There has never been a society that was free of inequality between its citizens - political, economic, or social. In this seminar we will look at the ways that different people, in different times and places, have understood the causes and consequences of this inequality. Why does it persist? Can it be eliminated, and if so, how? Is a society of true equals possible, or are we destined always to live in a society where some people are more equal than others? Many different answers are possible; the Bible and the Baghavad Gita answer the question in religious terms, Plato and Freidrich Nietzche answer it in philosophical terms, and Karl Marx and Fredrick Douglass answer it in social/historical terms. We will look at the perspectives of those who have found themselves at the top of the structure and those who have found themselves at the bottom, those who have sought to justify it, those who have sought to overthrow it, and those who have sought simply to reconcile themselves to it.

  6. Vision and Re-vision: Race, Gender, Sexuality

    Amazons. Savages. Matriarchies. Harems. Witch-burnings. Gay-bashing. Secret societies. Abortion. Prostitution. What is at stake in the violent demarcation of racial, sexual and gender divisions, in varying historical times and regions of the world? We will explore not only the stakes in these "wars" of "nature" and "culture," but also what is at stake in studying and theorizing about them. Are characteristics of race, gender, and sexuality innate, learned, or constructed? Is it possible to decide? If we may not agree on answers, we may at least examine what is signified in a culture by the posing of questions and the ways that they are being and have been posed.

  7. Literature and Life (and how they correspond with each other)

    In this course we will look at the profound interdependence between artifice (literature) and reality (life). Literature, obviously, is a product of reality -- but it also continually forms and shapes the reality that engenders it. Is literature, in its multifaceted relationship with the objective reality of one's existence, a magnifying glass -- or a faithful mirror? Or perhaps -- neither of the two? The discussion on this, rather eternal and inexhaustive topic, will be facilitated by the work of a wide variety of writers that we'll be reading: Shakespeare and Tolstoy, Lao Tsu and Bulgakov, Tim O'Brien and Flannery O'Connor, Chekhov and Gordimer, among many others.

  8. Ways of Knowing and Understanding

    How does the world work? How is it ordered? Who's in charge? On what basis do we make decisions and live our lives? How do we respond when things go wrong? The Bhagavad-Gita, Hamlet, and the Tao Te Ching offer strikingly different answers to these questions. These works have a lot to say to students as they make decisions that affect their daily lives and their futures. Hinduism teaches the value of disciplining one's desires and conforming one's will to divine will in order to become truly free and content. Hamlet shows what happens when the individual is cut free from the past and must learn how to act in a "modern" world that provides neither moral nor religious support. Taoism challenges our cherished western belief that the more we know and the harder we work, the happier we will be. What do we do when life presents us with its unavoidable hardships? We will explore the religious and non-religious answers to this question found in the Book of Job and Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People as well as in Woody Allen's movie Crimes and Misdemeanors.

  9. Nature and Culture

    Typically, being "civilized" is regarded as having a positive connotation. However, a number of writers, philosophers, and artists have thought that civilization, particularly in its modern form, has a corrupting influence upon humanity. Indeed, many of them have argued that civilization erects formidable, if not insurmountable, barriers to achieving happiness. This course introduces the liberal arts curriculum by considering a number of works that explore the nature of civilization, the alleged ill effects of civilization upon humanity, and whether there are any means to remedying these effects. Readings may include: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe; Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud; The Immoralist by Andre Gide; The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx; Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche; "A Discourse on the Origins of Inequality" by Jean-Jacques Rousseau; Rabbit, Run by John Updike; and A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. Along with discussions of the readings, class meetings will also include discussions of artistic movements related to the course's themes, such as Primitivism, and screenings of films related to the course's themes, such as Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times".

  10. Culture and Human Nature

    Human Nature and Culture: Are gender differences natural or created by society? Why is ADD endemic in contemporary America but virtually unheard of in other societies and historical periods? Do individuals need strong social roles to give their lives meaning or does happiness result from liberation from social conventions? These are a few of the questions that will be addressed in a wide-ranging consideration of the relationship between individuals and cultural communities. We will start by considering various Western and non-Western theories about individuals and communities: are individuals constrained by communal conventions? Or do people rely on shared values and roles to give life meaning? We will explore these issues by considering the cases of suicide in colonial Africa and in turn-of-the-century France, and by reading Levi's personal account of life in a Nazi concentration camp. We will then look more specifically at the impact of cultural conventions and communal structures on individuals by examining the ways culture and society mold individual experience of biological illnesses, gender, and other social roles. A final section will look to the future by asking whether "cybercommunities" have replaced traditional "face-to-face" communities and exploring the possible impact of this change.

  11. Family and Society: Initiation and Taboo

    How do we come to know who we are and what we believe? How do our families affect our boundaries--what we will and will not do? What does "family" mean? What are the events, both subtle and ritualized, that initiate us into the many societies into which we are born or with which we eventually have significant contact?

    We will explore families as envisioned by dramatists Sophocles (Oedipus the King), Shakespeare (King Lear), and Sam Shepard (Buried Child). In poetry and fiction, we will encounter African, Native, Hispanic, and Caucasian American family groups, as well as a family from Antigua. We will explore different perceptions of familial relationships, as well as of relationships between the human and the divine, as seen in the Bible, the Koran, and sacred Native American texts. We will then discuss the roles of women in Islam, especially in the U.S., and discuss a Moroccan family's political imprisonment. Readings will include Toni Morrison, Kafka and parts of the Bible and the Koran.

  12. Innocence and Experience = The Storyteller's Art

    This course will explore the ways we come to understand the meaning of "innocence" and "experience" as they are revealed in the "storytelling" of selected fiction writers, personal essayists, poets and visual artists, singers, film makers. We will consider such subjects as how storytelling "truth" relates to "happening truth"; why stories are told; the relationship of story to ritual; the nature of ceremonies; stories as ways of expressing personal, family, and public histories; the ways visual art and illustration can change written art; the ways musical art can change written art; the role of tragedy in storytelling; the role of humor in storytelling; the role of lies in storytelling; the ways stories define and are defined by one's culture. Throughout, the themes that link the tales we'll explore will be the nature of innocence and experience, and the relationship of one to the other.

  13. Ways of Knowing: The Spirit, the Self, and Society

    If God is omnipotent and just, why is there evil in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Can there be moral order in a world with no God? This course begins by exploring these and other questions about the search for spiritual understanding as we read such works as the Book of Job and Voltaire's Candide and watch Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors. It then turns to the search for self among those whom society has historically considered outsiders. How do "outsiders" understand themselves and their relation to society? For this section we will read such works as Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon and watch Spike Lee's Malcolm X. Finally we will explore attempts to understand the principles upon which society is best organized. Should society be organized to maximize the individual pursuit of happiness? Or should it be organized along principles of justice? Selections from Milton and Rose Friedman's Free to Choose, Thomas More's Utopia, and Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia will guide us through a discussion of this issue.

  14. The Individual

    The course will focus on the individual. The first part, which is more personal in nature, will explore one's progress through life and its stages: the discovery of the self in childhood and through its memories, the family unit, relationships, love, sex, marriage, and finally death. The second will address the confrontation between the individual and the universe as manifested by the Big Bang, faith, reason, randomness, and freedom. These topics will be viewed from several points of reference. Readings include Annie Dillard, An American Childhood, James Baldwin, Go Tell it on the Mountain, Jane Smiley, The Age of Grief, as well as Freud, the Tao Te Ching, and the Koran.

  15. Identity and Crisis.

    An inscription at the famous Delphic shrine to the god Apollo admonished the visitor, "Know Thyself." For most of us--as for the ancient Greeks who visited Delphi--self-knowledge, however important a goal, proves challenging and elusive. This is particularly true given complex and changing ideas about what constitutes "the self" and what "knowledge" entails. In this course, we will consider different ways of understanding individual identity by thinking about the ways in which human beings come to know themselves. We will focus in particular on the ways in which moments of crisis-including spiritual, political, cultural, social and psychological crisis-sharpen the question of identity and help to reveal who we are. Readings include The Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, Plato's Apology, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Thomas Paine's The Crisis, Freud's Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria and The Future of an Illusion, Robert Wright's The Moral Animal: Why We are the Way We Are, Achebe's Things Fall Apart, and Rebecca Walker's Black, White and Jewish.

  16. Globalization, Culture and the Individual in Modern Society

    Globalization -- the spread and intensification of worldwide social, political and economic relationships -- has generated unprecedented interdependence among citizens, governments and economies throughout our world. The disparate impact of globalization's forces on whole cultures as well as individual citizens is the focus of this course. As Benjamin Barber writes in Jihad vs. McWorld, one of the books we will read in the course, a critical examination of how cultures and citizens outside capitalist markets view globalization as an intrusion into their way of life is crucial in understanding the violent resistance in some parts of the world we see today. Just as important is a critical look at how globalization has impacted the goals and priorities of western cultures as well as individual citizens within them in profoundly social and psychological ways. In exploring these issues, we will read the Barber book, John Tomlinson's Globalization and Culture, Thomas Friedman's The Olive and the Lexus Tree, Karen Armstrong's The Battle For God, George Ritzer's The McDonaldization of Society, Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, as well as a number of other readings that explore culture and the individual in a global world.

  17. Meanings of Life

    Taking for granted that we all live in a real world governed by universal natural laws, we can nonetheless agree that human beings have often differed over how to understand what our senses tell us about that world. Explanations for the way the world works and the meaning of life have differed over time and by place, depending on cultural values and technological abilities to extend our senses. This section of First Year Precept will explore a variety of perspectives that have been found useful in giving meaning to life, looking first at faith as a source of understanding. We will then examine "truths" to be gained from art and fiction via written, visual, and aural sources. The course will conclude with the insights of reason and science that have transformed the ways we think about life since c. 1600. Readings will include the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, Freud on religion, Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter House Five, Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Joseph Amato, Dust: a History of the Small & the Invisible, James Watson, The Double Helix, and Albert Camus, The Plague. We will also make use of visual and aural sources.

  18. Seminar on American Freedom

    This First-Year Preceptorial examines the concept of "freedom" as it has been understood during the history of European, African, and Asian incursion upon and settlement of North America. The tumultuous coexistence of peoples and the disparate trajectories of arrival and departure have challenged the notion of American "freedom" while giving it its ideological form, legal content, and experiential texture. In The Story of American Freedom, Eric Foner warns against understandings of American freedom that "give it a fixed definition." In fact, he recommends that "rather than seeing freedom as a fixed category or predetermined concept," we consider it "an 'essentially contested concept.'" This process-driven notion of the history of American freedom allows us to see that, rather than challenging a pristine and timeless vision of the founding fathers, dissent over the meaning, range, and experience of American freedom is the force by which it was produced and by which it is sustained and improved. The course will choose key moments in the history of this contested concept, American freedom, and use historical, cultural, and literary sources to piece together the stakes and texture of the conflict. We will highlight challenges to "freedom" related to the multicultural history of North America. At least one section of the course will look at how international forces have been important to what would appear to be domestic, that is, intra-national concerns. Course materials will include historical studies such as David Stannard's American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, Eric Foner's The Story of American Freedom, Ronald Takaki's A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, George Fredrickson's The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817 - 1914. In addition to the history, we'll read fiction and poems by North American writers such as Linda Hogan, Richard Hugo, Leslie Marmon Silko, Micheal Ondaatje, Susan Straight, Randall Keenan, and Ron Rash.

  19. Looking into the Belly of the Beast: Identity, Transformation, and Consequences- Sexuality, Gender, Ethnicity, Class and Nationality

    How do people become different from what they thought they were and from how others see them? When is identity change a conscious and participatory process, when is it an unconscious consequence of social shaping? What are the social, political , economic, and national supports for identity choices? What factors validate and foster some identities over others? What are the consequences of pursuing an identity that those around you see as "false," "deviant," or "immoral"? This course examines these and other questions about personal identity and transformation through a perspective that categorizes some identities as "dreams," some as "nightmares," and some as "awakenings." Under "dreams" we examine whether there is a revolutionary in us all or whether revolutionaries are only produced by certain kinds of social and political experiences? Focusing on "nightmares," we explore the experiences that lead some to brutalize others. Could any of us, under the right kinds of conditions, commit brutalities-is there a torturer and murderer in us all? Looking at "awakenings," we examine how people come to terms with great personal, social, and political transformation. In all three cases we explore the consequences of the identity choices for those who go through them. This course examines several kinds of personal and social transformation-becoming a social and political leader, revolutionary, an atrocity perpetrator, a lesbian, and healing from others' brutalities and awakening from political oppression. Many of these themes are inter-woven through the various readings and illustrated in the accompanying films. Students will discuss and write about identities and transformations from social, political, and personal perspectives. They will also decide whether Huggins' three-part classification of the readings best captures the identity themes. Readings include Agnes Smedley - Daughter of Earth, Chinua Achebe - Things Fall Apart, Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness, William Golding - Lord of the Flies,Robert Lewis Stevenson - Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, Radclyffe Hall - The Well of Loneliness, Alice Walker - The Color Purple, Ariel Dorfman - Death and the Maiden and includes films as well.

  20. Ways of Understanding: Visits by Strangers

    Our view of the world can be dramatically affected, both for good and for ill, by the arrival of strangers. Their differing ideas and customs can help us to re-evaluate and better understand our own, or their alienness can throw our world into confusion. At the same time, the visitors also are changed by their encounters with new persons or new cultures. We will investigate these reactions and the mechanisms that drive them through readings that explore the interrelationships between visitors and the people they visit. Our primary texts will include Chinua Achebe's "Things fall apart", Shakespeare's "The tempest", "Flatland" by E.A. Abbott, "Through the looking glass" by Lewis Carroll, Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre", "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rys, and Aldus Huxley's "Brave New World". These will be supplemented by shorter readings from a variety of other sources.

  21. Science, Nature and Culture

    The tools of modern science have had an impact on how we view ourselves, our attitudes towards one another and how we conduct our lives. This course will explore the ways we come to know. How do scientists understand? Is the ideal subject to distortion by culture? What misuses have we made of scientific conclusions? Are religion and science incompatible? We will also examine the ways in which technology affects our choices and some of the controversies that surround those choices. Readings will likely include, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Kuhn, The Mismeasure of Man, by Gould, Finding Darwin s God, by Miller, The Blind Watchmaker, by Dawkins, Genome, by Ridley, Things Fall Apart, by Achebe, Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Diamond, The Demon-Haunted World, by Sagan, and The Control of Nature, by McPhee.

  22. Ways of Knowing - and Challenges to Them

    From our earliest childhood on, we learn the norms of our society, to which we are supposed to conform. Some of us don't. This course will focus on how rebels and outsiders challenge the dominant ideas of their society, and how those societies have responded to rebellion. We will look at all kinds of rebels and outsiders - including both political and intellectual figures - over the past 3,000 or so years, and consider to what extent we should regard them positively or negatively. The texts we shall read range from the account of western literature's original rebels, Adam and Eve, in the book of Genesis to Sean O'Casey's version of modern Irish nationalist rebellion - touching on figures like Plato's Socrates and Milton's Satan along the way.

  23. The Ways of Knowing

    We will approach this theme by reading works that examine questions of self-perception, of self in relation to others and to society as whole. The groupings of the readings are artificial since most works approach more than one question and deal with complex issues. Nevertheless they will serve as a basis for class discussion. We will begin with the poem by Emily Dickenson: "Much Madness is Divinest Sense…" and the assigned summer reading by Chinua Achebe, "Things Fall Apart." This will be followed by a section on "Knowing Self", which explores how individuals assert or come to grips with their own identities. Readings include the play "A Man for All Seasons" (with excerpts from the movie), as well as Freud, Maugham and Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice" (with excerpts from the movie). The section entitled "Knowing Self in Relation to Others" examines how roles define people and people define roles with readings including Ibsen's "A Doll's House" and Shakespeare's "King Lear" (again with video excerpts). Finally, the section "Knowing Self in Relation to Society" views different relationships between individuals and society through reading Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex", Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" and Camus' "The Stranger".

  24. The Radical Challenge

    "Our age," said Immanuel Kant, "is an age of criticism, and to criticism everything must submit." That's as true now as it was in 1781; and so this course will survey some of the most powerful radical ideas put forth in recent years by scientists, philosophers, and social critics of every sort. In The spirit in the Gene Reg Morrison argues that humanity's proud illusions have turned it into the ultimate "plague species" that is now destroying the planet. In Writings on an Ethical Life Peter Singer calls for scrapping the "old commandments," animal liberation, rethinking life and death, and dismantling bourgeois consumerism. In Miriam Schneir's Feminism in Our Time the major feminist voices of the last half-century become a chorus condemning male oppression and affirming downtrodden female values. In How We Die Sherwin Nuland debunks the myth of "death with dignity" and shows how the processes of physical disintegration strongly suggest that the soul dies (forever) with the body. In Faded Mosaic Christopher Clausen claims that we are living in a "post-cultural" America, where most of the talk about "multiculturalism" and getting back to ethnic roots makes no sense. These readings will be supplemented by brief excerpts from other, earlier radical thinkers; and students will be encouraged to measure their own beliefs and assumptions against those of our determined troublemakers.

  25. Who Gets What and Why?

    Children go hungry in the wealthiest society ever known. The social, economic and physical distance between those who "have" and those who "have not" is growing (or is it?). Inequality is a feature of all human societies, but its shape and form varies over time and place. Why? To some, inequality is a necessary condition that motivates individuals. To others it is an injustice that limits potential. It is justified and vilified by religion, philosophy, science. We will look at the ideas and actions that reinforce and undermine inequality. Readings will range from Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics to The Bible and Bhagavad-Gita, from Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath to Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve and Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

  26. Metapatterns

    On the first day of this class, we will examine a metropolitan city, a bacterial colony, and a Shakespearean sonnet. With these as inspiration, we will introduce "metapatterns," which are similarities in form and function that appear across phenomena from the microscopic to the macroscopic. During the term, we will examine the metapatterns proposed by the most influential - and most radical - thinkers of our time. These scholars have variously compared blood circulation to traffic, the spread of culture to viral evolution, cellular organelles to economic markets, and atomic orbits to mother-child interactions. Are we on the verge of discovering life's true archetypes? Do the systems seen through a microscope really speak to the spirituality and drama of the human condition? Or are metapatterns just the new metaphors of science? Anticipate reading the non-fiction of E.O. Wilson, Lyn Margulis, Richard Dawkins, and Carl Jung and the fiction of Umberto Eco, Joseph Conrad, and Chinua Achebe.

  27. Difference: A Way of Making Sense of Self and Culture

    In a society that so values individuality, why do we feel such pressure to conform and to reject, even fear, those who are different? Although differences have the potential to enrich our understanding of ourselves and others, they all too frequently lead instead to misunderstanding and conflict. How does difference define us? How does it influence our decisions as a society and as individuals? What does our response to difference reveal to us about our values and myths? In this course, we will explore these questions by discussing and writing about readings that deal with the topic of difference among groups and individuals. Starting with selections from classic works of Western and non-Western philosophy as a frame of reference, we will then read more contemporary accounts of difference, including authors such as Frederick Douglass' Narrative of his own life, Andre Gide's "The Immoralist", and Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart".

  28. The Other: A Stranger Among Us?

    In this course we will discuss the concept of the "other" by examining several narratives centered upon the protagonist's search for identity. Invariably authors introduce these quests through the rhetorical device of the stranger. We will consider the image of the stranger in order to confront the estrangement inherent in family origins, gender and literary acceptance, and the author's unresolved feelings about him(her)self. Frequently the associations of a sense of place are bound together with memory, stasis and nostalgia. What gives a place a unique flavor is the fact that it is constructed out of a specific arrangement of social and physical relations that intersect at a particular point. The works selected center on the theme of alienation seen through the eyes of the stranger. We will discuss the function of this trope on three levels - the spatial, temporal and psychological. Of particular interest will be the disturbing 'falling away' from the family or group, and the movement from unity and acceptance to individuality and denial. Through a close reading of works including, but not limited to: Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Camus' The Stranger, Morrison's Song of Solomon and Petrushevskaia's The Time Night, we will seek to understand the way one is able to construct and manipulate his/her own sense of place.

  29. Visions and Revisions of the Enlightenment

    Sapere aude! "Dare to know!" - Kant's celebrated call in his 1784 essay "What is Enlightenment?" will define the spirit and subject of our course, in which we will explore the origins and development of Enlightenment thought from the dawn of the modern world to the present day. From Descartes' philosophy of mind ("I think therefore I am") to Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, from Hogarth's scandalous engravings to Rousseau's social theories, from Voltaire's devastating satires of Church and State to Wollstonecrafts' Vindication of the Rights of Women, we will examine the major features of this exultant intellectual movement as revealed in its literature, philosophy, music, and art. Turning to more modern thinkers such as Freud, Nietzsche, Marx, and Habermas, we will ask ourselves whether we still do -- or ever have -- lived in an enlightened age.

  30. Empiricism and Idealism

    This section of the First-Year Preceptorial will survey and explore some of the major philosophical traditions, starting with Plato and ending with contemporary poetry and literature. Following, defining and exploring traditions in Idealism and Empiricism we will look to such thinkers and writers as Plato, Descartes, Voltaire, Marx, Freud and Veblen. We will also explore issues of religious belief through such writers as Kierkegarrd, William James and contemporary poetry from Pattiann Rogers and Marianne Moore.