First-Year Seminar Courses, Fall 2018

All first-year seminars meet Tuesday and Thursday, 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

First-year seminars (FYS) are writing-intensive courses of 14-15 students each, as well as forums to introduce students to the academic life of Pitzer College. Students will discuss and write about engaging topics that the faculty have selected. The courses are not part of any major and are not necessarily “introductions” to any given field or major. They are designed to be accessible to all students, regardless of background.

Incoming students will be asked to indicate their preferences for their first-year seminar. The professor teaching a given first-year seminar will also serve as their students’ faculty adviser for the first three or four semesters, until a student declares a major. Students develop strong mentoring relationships with faculty and gain a broad understanding of how the curriculum intersects with their individual educational goals.

In addition, mentorship goes beyond the first semester by providing diverse venues for students to participate early on in community engagement, study abroad, as well as the broader intellectual life of the campus; all hallmarks of a Pitzer education. As part of this, there may also be additional required programming outside of scheduled class time (TBA).


William Barndt, Assistant Professor of Political Studies

FYS 1
Barndt, Will – “The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time”
How can one think and write well about social and political theory–and about the “real-world” consequences of that theory? In pursuit of answers to this question, we will explore a classic of political science and economic history: Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. Through careful reading and discussion of this book – and of responses by its critics – we will evaluate the kinds of political, economic, and social change brought about by the “great transformations” of untempered market capitalism, both historically and today. Such analysis will allow us to ask: What is our political future? What is to be done?

FYS 2
Ferree, Patrick – “Practice of Science: Pursuit of Knowledge with an Imperfect Tool by Imperfect Users”
The practice of science has provided innumerable discoveries with great impact on humans and, more broadly, it has given us detailed knowledge about the natural world. However, the scientific method is an imperfect tool used by imperfect operators. In this course, we will discuss both strengths and some substantial pitfalls of the scientific method through case studies of hallmark scientific endeavors. We will attempt to understand how human tendencies and motives have influenced both positive and negative outcomes in these examples, and will envision how science may play a role in current human challenges at the societal level. These discussions will provide a platform for assignments that develop analytical, argumentative writing skills.

Carmen Fought, Professor of Linguistics

FYS 3
Fought, Carmen – “Deconstructing Disney: A social science view of children’s films”
In this seminar, we will look at some social science research that has been done on Disney and Pixar and other children’s films. How do these filmmakers represent social categories such as gender, ethnicity, social class, and even body type? How can we use the tools of sociology, psychology, and linguistics, to get a “big picture” perspective on the messages these films are sending? Are there filmmakers out there who are doing it “right”? And are these films just entertainment or is there evidence that they have a real effect on children and their view of the world?

FYS 4
Anderson, Ellie – “Speculative Feminisms and Sustainable Futures”
The future is female, proclaims a well-worn feminist adage.  Emerging from a circle of radical lesbian intellectuals in 1970s New York City, the statement operates simultaneously as incantation and prediction, synthesizing the voices of all who utter it into something generative, rather than simply descriptive. Yet, it reverberates somewhat dissonantly in our contemporary moment; even the term “female” can evoke the same essentializing tendencies that queer and intersectional feminisms today actively unsettle. Drawing on a range of recent fictional, critical, and localized knowledges, this seminar invites additional speculative futures, exploring interdisciplinary thinking and writing as generative practices.

Sarah Gilman

FY5
Gilman, Sarah – “Science in the Public Imagination”
From “Frankenfood” to “Intelligent Design,” we are bombarded in our daily lives with scientific (and pseudoscientific) information. The goal of this seminar is to explore how science is presented, discussed, and critiqued in the public sphere. We will focus on three central questions: How do people assess and assimilate scientific information in the context of daily decision-making? How accurately are scientific controversies presented in the media? How do the portrayals of science and scientists in fiction and film affect public understanding of science? No prior science experience necessary.

Steffanie Guillermo

FYS 6
Guillermo, Steffanie – “Stereotype Threat!”
In this course, we will examine stereotypes and social identity, with a particular focus on stereotype threat. In social psychology, stereotype threat is defined as the risk, or threat, of confirming a negative stereotype about one’s group (e.g., race, gender). We will examine stereotype threat as it relates to diverse forms of identity, and the consequences of stereotype threat in a variety of domains, such as education, athletic performance, and memory. We will learn about stereotype threat through various texts and assess how stereotype threat applies to our own experiences. Finally, we will discuss strategies to overcome stereotype threat.

Jessica Kizer

FYS 7
Kizer, Jessica – “Being ____: Stories of Race & Power”
“There’s an old saying that you never really know your own language until you study another. It’s the same with race and class. In fact, race and class are nothing more than a set of stories we tell ourselves to get through the world, to organize our reality.” -Dalton Conley  —— In this course, we will explore race, ethnicity and class through the stories people tell in film and literature. In doing so, students will reflect upon their race and class background and contextualize their own experiences in U.S. society. Students will engage in their learning in a variety of ways including student-led discussions and presentations, in-class writing, research papers, and peer-review.

Amanda Lagji

FYS 8
Lagji, Amanda – “Unruly Women of World Literature”
Troublemakers. Witches. Nasty women. Mad-women. Deviants. This course will explore representations of “unruly women” in world literature and pop culture—women who in their unruliness illuminate the politics of gender and behavior, race, sexuality, and class, and around whom discourses of madness, discipline, punishment, and morality dovetail. Our texts will include short stories, novels, films, and essays. Questions we’ll discuss include: How do the texts address, critique, and expose notions of femininity and appropriate womanhood? How do characters limn the demarcation between good girl and dangerous woman? Under what circumstances can the attribution of “unruly” be embraced, defied, and/or declaimed?

Jemma Lorenat, Assistant Professor of Mathematics

FYS 9
Lorenat, Jemma – “Futures Past”
This course will explore visions of the future made in the distant and recent past. From speculative fiction to policy reports, these conjectures are as terrifying as nuclear holocaust and as seemingly benign as video calls. In the present, we can evaluate what predictions have materialized. Perhaps more intriguingly, historical hopes and fears serve as a window into the values and voices of the past. By comparing predictions across a variety of times and cultures, we may ask, whose future and why?

Lance Neckar, Professor of Environmental Analysis

FYS 10
Neckar, Lance – “Land(scape) Matters”
In Landscape and Memory, Simon Schama has described the anthropogenic imprint of landscape on land as jurisdiction. This term has broad implications for human dominion over at least half of the earth. This history/now/science seminar will focus on written responses to and discussions of critical readings from geography, history, science, design, planning, and current cultural commentary on issues based in problems of land and landscape. Topics will include biodiversity conservation, equity of access to ecosystems services, and environmental justice. These topics will also be investigated via design, planning, and sustainability approaches to solutions to problems generated by western-style urbanization and agriculture globally and in North America.

Adrian Pantoja, Professor of Political Studies/Chicano Studies

FYS 11
Pantoja, Adrian – “Surfing, and the Politics of Race, Gender and Culture”
The surf zone is a contested space between people of color and Whites; between men and women; between the developed and developing nations. How did surfing evolve from a native Hawaiian cultural practice to a multi-billion dollar sport that is largely dominated by White men from the United States (California and Hawaii), Australia, South Africa, and Brazil? This course will examine how colonialism, racism and sexism operated to exclude people of color and women from the surf zone. We will also consider how ethnic/racial minorities and women are seeking to challenge the status quo and transform the image of surfing.

FYS 12
Paulse, Shelva – “The History and Psychology of the Sport Cricket”
Associated in the popular imagination with Britain and its former colonies and sometimes baffling to Americans, the 2015 World Cup in cricket was watched by an estimated 1.5 billion viewers worldwide. This course will introduce students to the academic study of the history and psychology of cricket. The main focus of this course is two-fold. First, we will explore the socio-historical evolution of international cricket. Second, students will be introduced to various intra- and inter-personal psychological processes in the sport of cricket.

Andrea Scott, Assistant Professor of Academic Writing and Director, Writing Center

FYS 13
Scott, Andrea – “Education, Literacies & Culture”
“A good education helps us make sense of the world and find our way in it,” argues Mike Rose in Why School? Yet what do we mean by a good education? What literacy practices are privileged? And how do race, class, geography, and gender influence access? In this writing seminar, we investigate the cultural and communicative practices that define literacy in different educational settings. We begin by analyzing the literacy autobiographies of public intellectuals like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Mike Rose, before composing our own narratives about the people, perspectives, and institutions that have shaped our sense of ourselves as writers. Next, we draw on research from sociology, writing studies, and linguistics to reassess problematic representations of literacy in education policies and popular culture. For the capstone project, students write op-eds on an issue in education or literacy that interests them. Possible topics may include standardized tests and the college admissions process, language and identity, or the emergence of new literacies in the digital age.

Professor of Anthropology Dan Segal

FYS 14
Segal, Daniel – “Israel and Palestine: The Crisis and Competing Histories”
This seminar provides students the opportunity to learn about the ongoing crisis in (and of) Israel/Palestine, in a constructive and rigorous context. A major focus is the competing historical narratives of various Zionists and Palestinians. We in the seminar will examine these diverse narratives by the standards of history as a scholarly activity. Using journalism, ethnographic works, films, and fiction, the seminar also introduces students to the daily lives of Jewish Israelis, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and Palestinian refugees outside of Israel. The seminar makes use of comparisons—as with the British partition of South Asia into India and Pakistan a year before the establishment of the Israeli state—to provide students ways to understand the Palestinian-Israeli crisis on the basis of general principles, rather than as a matter of this one case alone. Finally, the seminar will examine controversies about Palestine and Israel here at the Claremont Colleges in recent years. A college classroom must be a place where the most controversial issues are explored openly, and this seminar welcomes students of all points of view, including those with questions and uncertainties, into a constructive conversation—a collective enterprise of value.

Maria Gutierrez de Soldatenko, Associate Professor of Chicana/o-Latina/o Transnational Studies

FYS 15
Soldatenko, Maria – “Latinx Food, Identity and Resistance”
In this course we will study the food ways and political economy of Chicanx/Latinx communities. We will start with the history of food in Mesoamerica, the significance and permanence of certain plant staples (corn, squash, beans, chilis, herbs) in the Chicanx/Latinx diet, and the hybrid diet that developed with European contact. We will cover the significance of Chicanx/Latinx and indigenous groups participating in food production in Las Americas, as a continent. At the present time we will study the labor struggles and injustices that Chicanx/Latinx food producers/ laborers had confronted and resisted. Ironically, in the U.S. Chicanx/ Latinx and indigenous food producers who work in the fruit and vegetable crops often cannot afford to eat a healthy diet, or live a healthy life, given the low wages, and terrible working conditions that they endure. The question remains can we as a Chicanx/Latinx community decolonize our diets given these conditions?

Professor Andre Wakefield and Nigel Boyle

FYS 16
Wakefield, Andre & Boyle, Nigel – “History and Political Economy of World Soccer”
This course examines topics in the history and politics of world soccer. We will see how culture, politics, economics and history play themselves out upon the stage of stadium and field. And we will try to understand the game as others, in different times and places, have seen it: a game freighted with meaning and beauty. Topics and themes include (1) how soccer emerged to become the world’s hegemonic sports culture, (2) the political economy of modern soccer, and (3) the relationship between soccer and major contemporary political issues such as racial and gender equality and globalization.

Phil Zuckerman, Professor of Sociology & Secular Studies

FYS 17
Zuckerman, Phil – “Scandinavian Culture”
The nations of Scandinavia are noteworthy on many fronts: they are among the wealthiest nations on earth, but also the most equitable. They are among the most technologically advanced, as well as the most environmentally conscious. They have been pioneering, progressive nations concerning workers’ rights, women’s rights, homosexual rights, childcare, eldercare, international peacekeeping, and successful welfare democracy. Although containing small populations, they have contributed disproportionally to the arts, literature, cinema, and design. Although certainly beset with their own share of problems, the nations of Scandinavia are arguably the most successful industrialized democracies on earth. This course will present a basic, general introduction to Scandinavia, without any assumption of much previous knowledge. We will look at various facets of Scandinavian society, as well as history, literature, art, and cinema.

Leah Herman, Instructor in English Language

FYS 18
Herman Leah – “Diversity, Equality & Inequities” (International Scholars)
This course will examine questions surrounding ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality and consider how this diversity has been challenged or accepted in the United States. Students will analyze contemporary and historical issues and explore questions of social justice as they read a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts. In discussions and compositions, students will consider the ways that culture and social structures shape the Pitzer experience, as well as imagining their own roles in transforming society.
This course is the designated First-Year Seminar for students in the International Scholars Program and is open to non-native English speakers only.

Michael Ballagh, Associate Vice President, Study Abroad & International Programs

FYS 19
Ballagh, Michael – “Love and Loathing in Los Angeles” (NRS/Transfers)
Through readings, documentary, cinema, and selected field trips to iconic LA spaces, students will unpack the stereotypes of communities and the natural environment of Los Angeles and come to their own understanding of this enigmatic and deeply flawed city. The course will focus on communities of color within LA and the cultural and environmental “apartheid” that impacts them. Readings—both fiction and non-fiction—movies, and documentaries will reflect Los Angeles in the later part of the 20th century.
This course is the designated First-Year Seminar for transfer students and students in the New Resources Program only.