Spring 2014 Seminar Descriptions

ASTR 103 - The Story of Mars: The Red Planet in the Scientific and Literary Imagination (FYS) (1.0)
Wesley Andres Watters
Students will learn about Mars through the history of the science that mapped its surface and revealed its remote watery past.  We'll consider the early debate about a doomed Martian civilization, and the state of knowledge about Mars at the dawn of the space age.  Then we'll examine the picture of the red planet that emerged through the golden era of space exploration (1960s-1970s), through to the recent findings by rovers Opportunity, Spirit, and Curiosity.  In parallel, we'll read and discuss popular notions of Mars in science fiction literature, from the fantasy stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs to the hard science fiction of Kim Stanley-Robinson.  Students will learn about how science works from exploring how the modern portrait of Mars was pieced together. Mandatory credit/noncredit. 
Prerequisite: None
Distribution: NPS

CHEM 106 - Think like a Scientist, Act like an Artist: How to Appreciate and Communicate Science (1.0)
Didem Vardar Ulu
Even though curiosity, creativity, and the desire to benefit the society lie at the heart of scientific research, scientists are rarely recognized as “creative” people, who can connect to their communities.  That characterization is typically reserved for the “artists”.   The goal for this course will be to create an opportunity for any first year student to experience how a scientist approaches real world problems using the scientific process and effectively communicate their understanding to general public through the power of artistic representation.    The students will compare and contrast the scientists and artists approach problems and discuss effective strategies scientists can borrow from artists to better communicate their data driven understanding of the world around them to the general public while show casing their inherent creativity. Mandatory credit/noncredit. 
Prerequisite: none
Distribution: NPS

EDUC 110 - First-year Seminar: Play, Literacy, and Democracy (1.0)
Play and literacy are central to academic achievement, socialization, and citizenship. With mandated testing of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and proposals for national education standards, longstanding tensions between play and early literacy have intensified. We will examine the origins of and modern trade-offs between play and literacy, paying attention to the influence of social class, race, and gender on the construction of changing societal norms for young children. What is driving panics about the disappearance of play? Has Kindergarten become the new First Grade? Are there conflicts in parents', teachers', and experts' expectations about what children should do in preschool and the early grades? What roles have play and early literacy played in how American children are taught and learn to participate in a democratic society? Includes some field observations.  Mandatory credit/noncredit.
Prerequisite: None.  
Distribution: SBA

ENG 103 - First-year Seminar: Reading/Writing Short Fiction (1.0)
A very popular contemporary form of the short story is the short short story (includes flash fiction and microfiction). Our work together will move back and forth between reading examples of this form of short short fiction from around the world and writing our own short short fiction. Reading in a writerly fashion means reading for craft: How does an author shape a scene? What can you do and not do with a first-person narrator? What are the different expectations a reader has of realistic fiction as opposed to historical fiction or science fiction? Writing with a rich fund of this kind of craft knowledge will help us advance quickly as we draft and revise our own stories. Overview of current print and online opportunities for publishing short fiction.  Mandatory credit/noncredit.
Prerequisite: Open to first-year students only 
Distribution: LL

FREN 150 - First-year Seminar: 1913: A Year in the Life of the World (in English) (1.0)
James Petterson
Three novels anchor our in-depth exploration of the year 1913: Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, and Andrei Bely’s Petersburg. Around these three works we will examine not only the multiple artistic paths or venues that arise as of 1913, but also the canals (of Panama and Venice), the channels (of the Freudian subconscious), and the trenches and ditches (of the Balkan Wars and the impending World War I) that begin to redraw the bewildering aesthetic, geographical, mental, and sociopolitical landscape of the year 1913. Throughout the course, we will examine how, in the crucial year of 1913, the arts, sciences, and politics of the time are entwined to produce a new landscape in which the vision of Europe as the radiant center of the twentieth-century global structure begins to be profoundly altered. The course is primarily discussion-based, with students presenting independent research in class, and writing frequent short writing assignments.  Mandatory credit/noncredit.
Prerequisite: None
Distribution: LL

GEOS 103 - FYS: Geological Processes in Eastern California with Laboratory (1.25)
Elizabeth Pierce
This course serves as an introduction to the field of Geosciences with a one-week field excursion to the Death Valley and Mono Basin areas in Eastern California.  In this course students will investigate how Earth processes such as plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, rock formation, weathering and erosion, and global climate all interact with one another and influence our daily lives. Students will explore the different earth processes in a studio-style class that integrates lab and lecture, with emphasis on group work, in-class exercises, data interpretation and group discussion. A week-long field trip over Spring Break to Eastern California will allow students to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned to specific field sites, ranging from lake sediments to volcanic craters to glacially-sculpted landscapes. The trip is mandatory and requires payment of additional fees.  Mandatory credit/noncredit.
Prerequisite: None. Open only to first year students who have not taken GEOS 102 or 104.
Distribution: NPS

GER 130 - First-year Seminar: Fairy Tales and Children's Literature: The Cultural Legacy of the Brothers Grimm (1.0)
Anjeana Hans
This seminar focuses on fairy tales, their history, and their continued impact on contemporary culture. We begin by studying the tales themselves, trying to uncover their original meanings and purposes. Out of what historical moments and psychological needs did the tales arise? Why did the Brothers Grimm collect and compile them in the first place? We then consider the ways in which they have been re-scripted and re-purposed in everything from poetry to popular film, examining how cultural production appropriates these fairy tale structures, even while radically straying from them. We read these texts against the backdrop of a range of theoretical approaches to childhood and to literary and cultural criticism, in order to uncover their significance in the past and today.  Mandatory credit/noncredit.
Prerequisite: None 
Distribution: LL

JWST 111 - First-year Seminar: Society in Motion: Israel on Film (1.0)
Anna Grinfeld
In this seminar, we will look into the evolution of Israeli society and of its self-understanding through their representations on the screen.  A wide-ranging selection of films as well as discussions of a variety of readings, visual arts, and popular music will introduce students to the central issues in Israeli social and cultural history--immigration, the presence of the military in everyday life, center and periphery--and the complexities of the debate surrounding them.  Students will get a chance to become familiar with a unique and thriving cinema, and ain insight into film as document and social commentary.  Mandatory credit/noncredit.
Prerequisite: None 
Distribution: ARS

NEUR 120 - First Year Seminar: Color (1.0)
Bevil Conway
Color is used to recognize and remember objects. But perhaps equally important to the human experience, color gives us pleasure. The desire for color drives the lucrative digital-display industry, permeates fashion and inspires artists.   In this first-year seminar we will study color from several vantage points, including social, chemical, neuroscientific, psychological and philosophical points of view. We will explore the nature of color pigments and categorization systems, the neural mechanisms for encoding color, the genetics of color vision, and the relationship between color and language. Instruction will be both through discussions of primary literature and through student-directed problem-based learning involving hands-on discovery inside and outside of class time.  The course will involve learning some programming in the computer language MATLAB. This course does not substitute for NEUR 100.
Prerequisite: None 

Distribution: EC; NPS
PHYS 118 - First-year Seminar: Physics of Music and Musical Acoustics (1.0)
Theodore Ducas, Music Faculty
The connection between music and physics is both deep and wide. It extends from the mathematics underlying scales and musical structure to the physical basis of instrument design, our perception of sound, concert hall acoustics, and the digital production of music. This first-year seminar will provide opportunities for students to explore these connections in a variety of ways. In addition to seminar discussions there will be laboratory sessions with acoustic measurements and characterization of musical instruments, demonstrations and performances by the music faculty and staff, projects involving the construction of musical instruments, and a field trip to the Fisk Organ Company to learn how Wellesley College's own Opus 72 Fisk organ was designed and built.
Prerequisite: Fulfillment of the basic skills component of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. 
Distribution: NPS; MM