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Fall 2016 Courses

Smith College reserves the right to make changes to all announcements and course listings online, including changes in its course offerings, instructors, requirements for the majors and minors, and degree requirements.

Please consult the Smith College Course Catalog for the most up-to-date listings.

FYS 103 Geology in the Field

Clues to over 500 million years of earth history can be found in rocks and sediments near Smith College. Students in this course attempt to decipher this history by careful examination of field evidence. Class meetings take place principally outdoors at interesting geological localities around the Connecticut Valley. Participants prepare regular reports based on their observations and reading, building to a final paper on the geologic history of the area. The course normally includes a weekend field trip to Cape Cod. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {N}{WI} Credits: 4
John Brady

FYS 112 Doing Good in the World

What does it mean to do good in the world? We consult historical and contemporary readings that are representative of distinct approaches to moral philosophy: virtues ethics, utilitarianism, Kantianism and the ethics of care. We discuss applications of moral principles to contemporary issues such as our duties to the hungry, euthanasia, abortion and animal rights. And we consider how basic features of moral philosophy—such as moral responsibility, ideals of human excellence and death—ought to shape our attitudes and actions. Students are asked to critically engage the material in four short essays. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. (E){H}{S}{WI} Credits: 4
Joshua Wood

FYS 113 The World Water Crisis

Many say the next world war will be fought over water. For the nearly one billion people from Flint, Michigan to Mumbai, India who lack access to safe drinking water, water crisis is already very real. This course takes an inter-disciplinary approach to the crisis, exploring the current crisis in broad global terms, its manifestation in particular places, and the long history of contests over water. Our first case study will be the Quabbin Reservoir here in Western Massachusetts. Students engage with local water initiatives and research water issues in other areas. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. (E){WI} Credits: 4
Sarah Hines

FYS 119 Performance and Film Criticism

An introduction to the elements, history and functions of criticism. How do reviewers form their critical responses to theatre and dance performances as well as to films? The seminar explores different critical perspectives, such as psychoanalytic, feminist, political and intercultural approaches. The students attend live performances and film and video screenings, and write their own reviews and critical responses. Seminar discussions and student presentations are complemented by visits and conversations with invited critics and artists. This course counts toward the theatre major. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students {A}{L}{WI} Credits: 4
Kiki Gounaridou

FYS 127 Cuba and the U.S. Embargo

This course explores the conditions in Cuban society that led to the revolution in 1959, the evolution of revolutionary policy and performance after 1959, the turn in its relations with United States and the Soviet Union over the decades, and the impact that these relations had on Cuban society Students write three papers, each focusing on the dynamics of Cuban society and relations with the United States, covering three time periods: pre-1959, 1959-1988 and 1989-present. Enrollment limit of 16. {WI} Credits: 4
Andrew Zimbalist

FYS 128 Ghosts

This course explores what Toni Morrison in Beloved calls "the living activity of the dead:"e; their ambitions, their desires, their effects. Often returning as figures of memory or history, ghosts raise troubling questions as to what it is they, or we, have to learn. We shall survey a variety of phantasmagorical representations in poems, short stories, novels, films, spiritualist and scientific treatises and spirit photography. This course counts towards the English major. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Cornelia Pearsall

FYS 129 Tierra y Vida: Land and the Ecological Imagination in U.S. Latino/a Literature

Tierra y Vida explores the ecological imagination of U.S. Latinos/as as expressed in narratives from the early 20th to the 21st centuries. Expanding beyond dominant tropes of land/farm worker as the core of Latino/a ecological experience, students consider a range of texts that depict the land as a site of indigenous ecological knowledge, spiritual meaning, and ethnic, racial and gendered belonging. In dialogues between Latino/a writers and theorists students also explore the possibilities of ecological futures rooted in emancipation and liberation as alternatives to ecological imaginaries still fraught with colonial desires. Students in this course will participate in a digital atlas and story-mapping project. {L}{WI} Credits: 4
Michelle Joffroy

FYS 133 Reading the Landscape

A course in reading and writing about landscape, focusing on essays, poems, and personal narratives that raise questions about how we see or fail to see the natural world. Attention to issues of ecology, wilderness, preservation of habitat and animal species, farming, food, health and healing of all kinds. Analytical and creative writing in response to works by Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and Robert Frost along with modern poets like Mary Oliver, Gary Snyder, and Wendell Berry and essayists like Rachel Carson, Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey, Helen Macdonald, and others. Field trips will be included. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {H}{N}{WI} Credits: 4
Dean Flower

FYS 134 Bookmarks: Reading and Writing From Plato to the Digital Age

What kind of human practices are reading and writing? How have they changed over time and what are the implications of those changes? When and how did women writers begin to participate in the literary culture of Western Europe? How should we envision the reading and writing practices of the future as printed books mingle with digital files? Students in this course explore the history of reading, writing, books, bookstores and libraries from the classical era to the digital revolution and engage with the plans for renovating Smith's library. Counts toward the English major and the book studies concentration. Enrollment limited to 20 first-year students. {L}{WI} Credits: 4
Nancy Bradbury, Katherine Rowe

FYS 140 Literature and Medicine

How do stories heal? What can we learn about medicine from stories, novels, poems, plays and case studies? Comparing narratives from different cultures, students will also compose their own stories. The course also introduces broader issues in the medical humanities, such as medical ethics, healthcare disparities, and cross-cultural communication. Works (available in translation) from China, Taiwan, France, Russia, and North and Latin America. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Sabina Knight

FYS 141 Reading, Writing and Placemaking: Landscape Studies

Landscape studies is the interdisciplinary consideration of how we view, define and use the land, whether it be our backyard, a moonscape or a national park. How does land become a landscape? How does space become a place? Scientists study and manipulate landscapes as do politicians, builders, hunters, children, artists and writers, among others. In this course, we examine how writers, in particular, participate in placemaking, and how the landscape influences and inhabits literary texts. The course includes some landscape history and theory, visits by people who study landscape from nonliterary angles, and the discovery of how landscape works in texts in transforming and surprising ways. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Ann Leone

FYS 142 Reacting to the Past

In Reacting students learn by taking on role, in elaborate games set in the past; they learn skills—speaking, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, and teamwork—in order to prevail in complicated situations. Reacting roles do not have a fixed script and outcome. While students adhere to the intellectual beliefs of the historical figures they have been assigned, they must devise their own means of expressing those ideas in papers, speeches or public presentations. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors guide students and grade their oral and written work. It draws students into the past, promotes engagement with big ideas, and improves intellectual and academic skills. Enrollment limited to 24 first-year students. {H}{WI} Credits: 5
Joshua Birk

FYS 143 The Secret Worlds of Fiddler on the Roof

The Broadway musical and then Hollywood film Fiddler on the Roof launched the age of American ethnic revivals in the 1960's, and is still among the most widely performed and beloved musicals in the world. How did a series of Yiddish stories by Sholem Aleichem featuring a traditional father and his rebellious daughters become an international hit? The course introduces cultural studies by demonstrating how interdisciplinary approaches enlarge a key text. We explore Sholem Aleichem's original writings through the prism of gender, class, ethnicity, religion, language, radical politics, trauma and collective memory, and then chart their migrations from Eastern Europe to America through translation and performance. An excursion to the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst exposes students to material book culture and the imagining of lost worlds, while a trip to New York City offers sites of immigrant culture. {A}{L}{WI} Credits: 4
Justin Cammy

FYS 149 Leveling the Playing Field: History, Politics and Women's Education in the U.S.

In this seminar we explore the circumstances in which American women came to imagine new leadership roles in social and political life, and the particular role that sports and athletics have played in this process. We explore women's efforts to gain access to higher education, the professions, scientific training and political power and study women's past and present involvement with sport. Readings consist of autobiography, historical documents and articles about women's movements in American sport and political life. This seminar is intended to foster critical thinking skills and includes access to the Sophia Smith Collection. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Christine Shelton

FYS 150 Writing and Power in China

This course examines the many ways in which writing has been used to gain, maintain, and overturn power throughout Chinese history, from the prognosticating power of oracle bone script to the activist potential of social media. We examine writing as a tactic of agency, a force for social change, and an instrument of state power; analyze the changing role of literature; and consider the physical forms of writing and the millennia-long history of contemporary issues like censorship and writing reform. Finally, students work to make their own writing as powerful as possible. No knowledge of Chinese required. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Jessica Moyer

FYS 153 The Bollywood Matinee: Gender, Nation and Globalization Through the Lens of Popular Indian Cinema

This course engages the world of popular Indian cinema, Bollywood and beyond. We integrate scholarly articles on the subject, lectures, in-depth discussions, and of course, film screenings to explore the history and political economy of India and South Asia. Students analyze how this vital cultural form deals with the politics of gender, class, caste, religion and Indian nationalism. Our discussions simultaneously focus on the role of globalization, migration and the cultural significance of Indian characters on international media; for example, Raj in the popular American sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Students are expected to engage with the readings, bring their reflections and actively participate in class discussions. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {E}{WI} Credits: 4
Payal Banerjee

FYS 157 Syria Beyond the Headlines

Syria today is at the center of turmoil that is remaking the Middle East and challenging global security. Civil war, violent extremism, sectarian polarization and the globalization of terrorism have devastated the country, leading to mass population displacement and the most severe humanitarian crisis since WWII. By exploring the historical origins and the current trajectory of Syria's revolution in 2011 and its collapse into violent conflict, the seminar provides critical insight into the forces that are defining the future of Syria and the Middle East. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {E}{S}{WI} Credits: 4
Steven Heydemann

FYS 160 The End of the World as We Know It: The Post-Apocalyptic Novel

We will be exploring a wide range of literary scenarios that depict the collapse of civilization in the wake of plague-like disease and/or nuclear war. The motif of the post-Apocalyptic novel has become common, yet its roots go back as far (and farther than) Jack London's The Scarlet Plague and Mary Shelley's The Last Man. In the works we will be examining, we will witness the attempts of the few survivors of catastrophe to create a new world, or merely to live in a world in which the past casts a vast shadow over the present. The society that comes forth from these worlds can be anarchic, dystopic, utopian, or a combination of these. Some works we will explore include Alas, Babylon, On the Beach, Riddley Walker, The Postman, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Chrysalids, The Road, and others. Film adaptations will be shown as part of the course. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Gillian Kendall

FYS 166 Mammalian Reproduction: A Female Perspective

This seminar will explore the diversity of reproduction in mammals from genetics to environmental adaptations, but all from the perspective of female mammals. How does the female perspective change the way we think about reproduction? For instance, conception vs fertilization; embryo rejection vs miscarriage. We will cover basic concepts as well as the biases and assumptions present in the study of mammalian reproduction. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Virginia Hayssen

FYS 178 Energy, the Environment and Climate

Our planet's reliance on carbon-based, non-renewable energy sources comes at a severe environmental, economic and political cost. Are there alternatives? This seminar offers a hands-on exploration of renewable energy technologies with an emphasis on understanding the underlying scientific principles. Students will assess worldwide energy demand, study the limits to improved energy efficiency, explore the science and technology of solar, wind, and hydropower, understand the science behind global warming, investigate climate models, and evaluate strategies for a sustainable future. This writing-intensive course also includes in-class experiments and field trips. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {E}{WI} Credits: 4
Nathanael Fortune

FYS 179 Rebellious Women

This seminar introduces students to the trailblazing women who have changed the American social and political landscape through reform, mobilization, cultural interventions, and outright rebellion. We will use a variety of texts: No Turning Back by Estelle Freedman, primary sources from the archives and the SCMA, films, a walking tour, and local events. The intention of this seminar is threefold: 1) to provide an overview of feminist ideas and action throughout American history, 2) to introduce students to primary documents and research methods, and 3) to encourage reflection and discussion on current gender issues. Enrollment is limited to 16 first-year students. {E}{WI} Credits: 4
Kelly Anderson

FYS 185 Style Matters: The Power of the Aesthetic in Italian Cinema

Examining Italian cinema from neorealism to today, this course investigates how major directors have negotiated two apparently independent postwar traditions: the aesthetic of realism (which purports to show Italian society and landscape without embellishments) and that search for beauty and style which has historically characterized Italian civilization and become its trademark in today's global culture (Made in Italy). We study the Italian pinups of postwar cinema, the Latin lover figure, representations of Fascism, the Bel Paese myth, portraits of the lower classes and the immigrants. Directors include Amelio, Antonioni, Bertolucci, De Santis, De Sica, Germi, Moretti, Ozpetek, Pasolini, Sorrentino and Visconti. Conducted in English. Films with English subtitles. This course counts toward the film studies and Italian studies majors. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {A}{L}{WI} Credits: 4
Anna Botta

FYS 192 America in 1925

Readings, discussions, and student projects will explore the transformation of a "Victorian" America into a "modernist" one by focusing on forms of expression and sites of conflict in 1925—the year of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Bessie Smith's "St. Louis Blues," Alain Locke's The New Negro, Chaplin's The Gold Rush, the Scopes evolution trial, and the emergence of powerful new ideas in the social sciences—to cite just a few examples. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Richard Millington

FYS 194 Literary Machines: Interactive Narratives from the I Ching to the Internet

How does a narrative with forking paths change the role of its author and its reader? In this seminar, we'll read a ten-page chapbook that contains more than a billion (potential) poems, as well as early and recent examples of electronic literature and new media. We'll explore critical texts that suggest ways in which these sometimes radical experiments in narrative can speak to how we understand media and storytelling and contemporary digital culture as a whole. In addition to academic assignments, we'll create our own interactive texts, using old-fashioned techniques (scissors, glue) along with newfangled digital tools. {E} Credits: 4
Andrew Leland

FYS 195 Health and Wellness: Personal Perspectives

In this course, we will explore health and wellness topics relevant to the student group. Students will learn about a number of health-related topics, and explore them from both academic and personal perspectives, using scientific information to inform and understand personal experiences with health issues. Information about health is everywhere, and we will discuss how to evaluate the health information found in the media, including Internet and print sources. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Barbara Brehm-Curtis

FYS 197 On Display: Museums, Collections and Exhibitions

Why do people collect things and what do they collect? Members of this seminar explore these questions by focusing on local museums and exhibitions. From a behind-the-scenes look at the Smith College Museum of Art to an examination of hidden gems like the botanical sciences herbarium collection or that cabinet of curiosities which is Mount Holyoke's Skinner Museum we research the histories of these collections and analyze the rationale of varying systems for ordering objects. By learning the critical skills of visual analysis and by grappling with the interpretations of art historians, anthropologists and psychologists, we attempt to come to an understanding of how knowledge is constructed in the context of display and how visual juxtapositions can generate meaning. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {WI} Credits: 4
Barbara Kellum

FYS 199 Re-Membering Marie Antoinette

How can we re-imagine, reconstruct, understand a historical personage? How do we perceive and get to "know" such a figure, and through this knowledge, the historical moment and context in which the person lived? We examine Marie Antoinette from a variety of perspectives: archival sources, documents and letters; biographies, portraits—official and unofficial—caricatures, pornographic pamphlets, fictional works such as plays, novels and films in which she figures. The course incorporates a role-playing unit reenacting her trial, during which every member of the class plays the role of one of the important participants. Some film screenings. Enrollment limited to 16 first-year students. {H}{L}{WI} Credits: 4
Janie Vanpée