Pitzer College First-Year Seminars, Fall 2013
Pitzer’s first-year seminar (FYS) program, launched in 1973, is designed to help students become more literate people who think, read, write, and speak both critically and competently. Each seminar topic and selected readings reflect the professor’s area of expertise and passion. All focus on close textual analysis, broadly conceived, and effective writing strategies.
First-year seminars are writing-intensive courses that fulfill the college’s Written Expression educational objective. During the course of the semester, students are expected to write at least 25 pages, including formal assignments and polished essays, in-class writing, and informal writing exercises outside of class. Drafting, peer review, and revising are central to the process-oriented view of writing that the seminars seek to foster. In response to feedback from the professor, other students in the class, and/or Writing Center tutors, students will have the opportunity to revise at least 10 pages of their written work.
Seminars meet Tuesday and Thursday, 2:45-4:00, unless otherwise indicated.
Please also note that some seminars are part of Pitzer’s global-local initiative, sponsored by the Institute for Global/Local Action & Study (IGLAS). These seminars are indicated with an asterisk (*) and include an additional hour of global-local programming each week.
A set is determined as much by what it contains as it is by what it doesn’t. As humans, we are always trying to learn more about the set of all things “knowable.” One way to learn more about this set is to determine those concepts that can never be in it. In this class we will focus on those things which we can be absolutely certain are NOT knowable. The class will spend approximately two weeks on each of the following themes: the Undoable; the Unprovable; the Unsolvable; the Uncomputable/Undecidable; the Unmeasurable; the Unpredictable; the Unfair [D. Bachman, Mathematics]. This course meets on MWF, 9-9:50am.
2. The Cold War and American Culture.* Political Scientists typically examine the Cold War (1945-1991), as a series of events and offer explanations for why these events occurred. For example, there are a number of explanations and theoretical frameworks explaining the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis or the reasons for America’s involvement in Vietnam. The course examines American politics and culture during the Cold War. Specifically, it will examine how Cold War politics was represented in film, architecture, literature, and in other areas of American popular culture. The aim is to go beyond discussing key events and demonstrate how Americans experienced the Cold War. In addition to reading academic works on American culture during the Cold War, students will watch several Hollywood films made during that era in order to analyze how popular culture incorporated and projected political events [A. Pantoja, Political Studies; Chicana/o Studies]. This course includes an additional hour of “global-local” programming every Tuesday, 4-5PM.
3. The American School System.*
This course will examine the American public school system. Through a sociological analysis of texts and films, we will investigate the impact of various school processes such as tracking, teacher expectations, curriculum, and standardized testing on students from diverse backgrounds [R. Espinoza, Sociology]. This course includes an additional hour of “global-local” programming every Tuesday, 4-5PM.
4. Art, Identity and Popular Culture.*
What is the relationship between ideas and experience of race, sexuality, and identity on the one hand, and of art and popular culture on the other? How are identities, our own and those of “others” in our imagination, produced in and consumed through art, film, television, advertising, music, etc.? Can making art and media change the world? Premised on the notion of art as political action, this course explores these questions through close readings of texts, films, and other art works. The course is organized around an exhibition and symposium about these issues to take place at Pitzer in September 2013 [R. Talmor, Media Studies]. This course includes an additional hour of “global-local” programming every Tuesday, 4-5PM.
5. Propaganda.* This first-year seminar will examine propaganda, past and present. We will look at everything from police state rhetoric to mass-market advertising, investigating the ways in which propaganda has been mobilized in different times and places [A. Wakefield, History]. This course includes an additional hour of “global-local” programming every Tuesday, 4-5PM.
6. Psychocinematics.* How do principles of human cognition inform our understanding of the film experience? The core text, Psychocinematics, is divided into four main sections: philosophical foundations; sensory and attentional feature of movies; knowledge, imagination, and narrative; and driving emotions with movies. The use of music to create meaning in film may also be developed as a fifth topic. Emphasis will be on the concepts and methods of cognitive science, and relating these to the experience of the film viewer. Activities include group discussion of assigned readings and films, and developing increasingly refined written responses to the material [T. Justus, Psychology]. This course includes an additional hour of “global-local” programming every Tuesday, 4-5PM.
7. Authoritarianism thru Film & Literature: A Look at Life, Politics & Society in Non-Democratic Regimes.*
In this course we will explore life, society, and politics in authoritarian regimes by analyzing fictional and real places around the globe, as portrayed in films and books. Artistic works will be supplemented by scholarly and news articles that reflect students’ research interests. We will experience writing and research as fundamentally creative and communal processes that require evidence, interpretation, and imagination. Students will write a series of essays, engage in peer review, and give in-class presentations [B. Junisbai, Assistant Dean of Faculty/Political Studies]. This course includes an additional hour of “global-local” programming every Tuesday, 4-5PM.
8. Environmental Documentaries: Controversy, Evidence, Persuasion & Critical Analysis.*
This course aims to introduce students to current national and international environmental controversies through the exploration of their documentation in film. We will often look at documentaries that take different perspectives on an environmental issue. The main themes in this course will be energy, food and water [M. Herrold-Menzies, Environmental Analysis]. This course includes an additional hour of “global-local” programming every Tuesday, 4-5PM.
9. The Politics of Breakfast.*
Have you ever considered what goes into your breakfast? This seminar will explore the politics and history of breakfast foods as they make their way from global markets to local breakfast tables. Students will explore the history and countries in Latin America that produce and export bananas, coffee, cacao, sugar among other export commodities. Students will engage in a cooking demonstration and tasting exercise for some of these commodities, establishing a connection between the global chain and their local consumption, right down to their breakfast table [S. Portillo, Chicana/o-Latina/o Transnational Studies]. This course includes an additional hour of “global-local” programming every Tuesday, 4-5PM.
10. In the News.
In this seminar, students will gain insight into major contemporary events by building and using core analytic and research skills. Our required reading is each day’s New York Times. This daily reading will be supplemented by other news sources, as well as relevant scholarship. In addition to following the news each day throughout the semester, each student will select one unfolding issue in the news to explore in depth. Students with the ability to read a language other than English will have the opportunity to use that language skill in this course. [D. Segal, Anthropology/History].
11. Environmental Toxicology.
This seminar will begin with an overview of the physiology and biochemistry of toxins. Why is a particular compound toxic? Are developing systems uniquely vulnerable to the impact of toxic compounds? After a thorough grounding in the mechanisms of action of toxins, we will then begin to explore how various toxic compounds are distributed in the environment. We will learn how to assay soil and paint samples for lead content. We will learn how to employ a powerful analytical tool, GIS, to begin to explore the relationships between toxic environments, race, and social class variables. As we move into the second half of the semester, the course will begin to explore the economic and political dimensions of environmental pollution. This seminar will include a “toxicology tour” of the Los Angeles area. [A. Jones, Psychology/Neuroscience]
12. Race, Gender & Health in Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.
This course will review some of the key sociological and epidemiological scholarship on institutionalized racism and sexism within U.S. healthcare. We begin the course with a discussion and evaluation of the main theoretical perspectives used to discuss social inequality in healthcare. We then explore the history of colonialism and its role in subjecting people of color and women to disparate forms of care. Next, we will move into a discussion of access to healthcare. Throughout the course, we will engage the following questions: a) How does the healthcare system reproduce structural inequality?; b) How does one’s race and sex impact how practitioners and policymakers treat them as patients?; and, c) How have social and public health interventions mediated health disparities in the U.S.? [A. Bonaparte, Sociology]
13. Youth Culture. This course presents an overview of youth culture from the development of the idea of the teenager in the post-war period to the present day. It will use a variety of case studies in areas such as music, movies, television, and comics to examine how youth-oriented subcultures influence social, cultural, and political change. This course will also be interested in the ways that youth culture influences media industries creative and industrial practices. [E. Affuso, Media Studies]
14. Heroic Deviance. This course will look at the positive, altruistic and heroic side of deviant behavior. We will explore the nature of conformity and non-conformity, and we will learn about various deviant heroes from various societies and cultures. Sometimes, going against the grain, violating the rules, breaking the law and rebelling against one’s culture can be a good thing—even heroic. [P. Zuckerman, Sociology].
15. The Haunted Imagination.
This course will explore the theme of the eerie, frightening, and uncanny in a broad range of British literature. What literary function do hauntings and the unseen play? What do these texts teach us about the limits of rationality and the power of the imagination? What cultural hopes and fears are brought into the light by the intrusion of the supernatural? What is the dividing line between insanity and being haunted? Why do we love to read literature that tries to scare us? Through encounters with some of the most famous and eerie specters stalking the pages of British literature, we explore the strange pleasures of feeling afraid and raise questions about the persistence of the past into the present. [S. Bhattacharya, English & World Literature]
16. Invasion of the Aliens.
We will examine the possibility of contact with aliens, extraterrestrial life and the consequences for us. Starting in antiquity, we will explore beliefs that people held about the possibility of life elsewhere in our Universe, including Hindu, Jewish, and Christian thinkers. With the rise of science in the Enlightenment, there were new ideas about extraterrestrial life. We will read some of the Enlightenment thinkers’ ideas about such life. Moving into modern times, we will read H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, and study the Roswell UFO incident. Examining UFO reports, we will not concentrate on the reality of such reports, but on the psychology of those making the claims and what they reveal about human nature. Part of the class will be devoted to modern scientific thought about this topic, and will include the Drake equation and the Fermi paradox. Finally, we will discuss the possibility of communications with any such aliens, incorporating Lem’s Solaris and Saussure’s The Course. [S. Naftilan, Physics]
17. The Price of Altruism.
Altruism, an act by one individual that benefits another, but at a cost to the one performing the act, has perplexed scientists for generations. Darwin referred to altruism as his “greatest single riddle.” In this seminar, we will consider various examples of altruism and the many ideas regarding the evolution of this puzzling phenomenon. This section is particularly suitable for students considering majoring in biology. [M. Preest, Biology]
18. American Culture in the 1980s.
Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, and Ronald Reagan—the 1980s are often remembered as a gilded age of self-made success, when the desire to belong to the establishment replaced the liberal counterculture of the 1960s. Yet the decade was also one of tremendous social turmoil—of “culture wars” over American values, growing economic inequality, and anxieties about new technologies like the internet. This writing-intensive seminar invites students to investigate how popular culture challenged and reproduced the decade’s prevalent ideologies. Students will learn to craft arguments that intervene in authentic intellectual debates and to stage writing as a process predicated on peer review and revision. [A.Scott, Writing]