Seminars for the Fall Term 2020

FRS 101 Afronaut Ascension: A Creative Exploration of Afrofuturism and the Avant Garde LA

Shariffa Ali

In this seminar students of all backgrounds are invited to participate in visiting some of the pioneers and innovators of Afrofuturist thought and literature and performance as well as becoming familiar with emerging technology like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).

Module 1 The Past Future ELDERS + ANCESTORS: In this module we will learn about the pioneers of Afro-futurist thought and literature. Looking closely at the plotline and themes of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Sun Ra’s Prophetika in order to gain insight into the recurring refrains and motifs found in works of Afrofuturist discourse. Students will be introduced to the practical component of the seminar as the class crafts their own “New Frontier Manifesto”. This document will serve as a set of community agreements or guiding principles that will inform the performance that the students will ultimately present at the end of the semester.

Module 2 The Present Future ARTIVIST ACTIVITIES: Students will be introduced to the works of performing artists working in the realm of live arts. These practitioners evoke Afrofuturist aesthetics in the creation of their on-stage personas. This module will pay particular attention to artists whose work lies at the intersection of art and social justice. Students will be introduced to the work of radical feminist, Shasta from Shasta Geaux Pop. From Athi Patra Ruga’s alter ego Future White Woman of Azania students will learn about performing queer black masculinity in post-apartheid South Africa. Students will learn about Brobot Johnson the title character in a sci-fi hip-hop transmedia piece.

Module 3 The Future Future ANDROID AWAKENING: Students will learn about virtual reality film and meet with leaders in the field of digital content creation. Students will also meet Joe Brewster and Michèle Stevenson an award-winning documentary filmmaking duo and leaders of Rada Film Group, a company committed to ‘...create[ing] compelling visual stories that provoke thought about the complex multicultural world we exist in.’ Joe and Michèle will discuss their latest project, The Untitled Racial Justice Project, a virtual reality experience which enables users to travel to the Jim Crow South. I will share the prototype of my own virtual reality project Atomu which places users at the center of a Kikuyu tribal myth.

M W 11:00 AM-12:20 PM


FRS 103 Graphic America: Comics, Graphic Narrative, and American Culture LA

Alfred Bendixen

In 1986, the publication of Maus, Batman: The Dark Knight Return, and Watchmen transformed a popular form of American entertainment, the comic book, into a new literary and artistic form that demanded serious attention from readers and scholars, the graphic novel. In this seminar, we will explore some of the core texts of this new emerging canon of graphic narrative, paying particular attention to how specific works combine language and visual imagery in ways that enlarge the possibilities of narrative form and that provide a new kind of critique of American culture. We will develop strategies for interpreting and evaluating the cultural significance and aesthetic quality of narratives based on sequential art. 

Our exploration will begin with one of the most popular American comic strips, Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, which will enable us to define the specific characteristics of the form and its capacity to mask philosophical complexity with deceptive simplicity.

We move on to some of the recognized masterpieces, including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, and some graphic explorations of American life that seem likely to enter this new canon, such as Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, Mat Johnson’s Incognegro, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, and Danel Clowes’s Ice Haven, and Mira Jacob’s Good Talk.

These texts provide new ways of looking at race, class, sexuality, gender, and the whole process of growing up and growing older in the United States. By the end of the class, students should discover some new and amazing books and, more importantly, discover new ways of reading the graphic narrative and the culture it both depicts and critiques. 

M 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 105 Saving Seeds EM

Tessa Lowinke Desmond

Seeds are ubiquitous. We eat them. We plant them. We blow them in the wind. But do they need saving? Seed saving is an heirloom practice that is as old as the notion of agriculture itself. Yet, seed saving practices sit at the center of an intensifying debate about biodiversity, food sovereignty, intellectual property rights, and the future of our species. 

Seed-bearing plants have evolved naturally over millennia with the help of conscientious humans who selectively save and cultivate useful specimens. Yet, scientific advances, new legal frameworks, and corporate consolidation have drastically altered the way seeds are selected, saved, and regrown. Though much of the work done in the realm of seeds has been thought of as progress, we are nevertheless facing growing concerns about the decline of biodiversity around the globe and food security in the face of climate uncertainty.

This course will explore the oft-overlooked complexity of seeds and the people who are working to save them with special attention to intellectual, scientific, ethical, and practical challenges. We will consider the work of early plant explorers, the significance of seed trials in the establishment of the United States, trace the development of intellectual property and patent rights that have been extended to cover living things, read contemporary seed catalogs for their aesthetic and political underpinnings, and examine approaches to saving seeds that include corporate seed enterprises, international seed banks, and grassroots efforts. Readings will range from history and literature to social analysis, journalism, and science writing.

At the conclusion of the course, students will understand the social, scientific, and sensorial significance of seeds and seeds saving, an issue that requires historical understanding, complex problem-solving, and vexing ethical considerations.

W 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 107 Happiness and Being Human in Catholic Thought EM

Marcus Gibson

Happiness is something we all seek, both for ourselves and those we care about. Yet even as the lure of happiness guides us, we continue to contest its nature and meaning. From the Greek philosophers, to the Declaration of Independence, to the latest beguilements from Madison Avenue, different visions of happiness compete for our attention. What, then, does happiness consist in? How can the nature and pursuit of happiness illuminate what it means to be human, and vice-versa? In this seminar, we’ll wrestle with these questions, and those that arise from them, by engaging with central texts from the Catholic intellectual tradition and the perspectives, proposals, and puzzles they bring to bear on them. We’ll read these texts, spread across a wide range of genres and centuries, with care and critical attention; we’ll interpret and discuss the merits and implications of their proposals; where answers remain unclear or disagreements arise, we’ll make the best case we can for each option available. In this way, the course will not only introduce you to the Catholic intellectual tradition and equip you to reflect on the nature of the happy human life; it will also prepare you to extend that critical reflection to your own views and your studies more generally. 

Our approach will begin with the fundamental ethical question, “How should I live?” and the difference that Catholic understandings make when posing this question and proposing answers to it. We’ll explore these themes across a variety of genres: from dialogue, spiritual autobiography, and polemic (Augustine), to disputed question (Thomas Aquinas), to epic poetry (Dante), fragment and aphorism (Pascal), treatise (Scheeben), and catechesis (de Lubac). Major questions will include: what role does ethical conduct have in human happiness? How can reason and emotion help or hinder us in the pursuit of happiness? How do grace, freedom, good, and evil interrelate in human action? What does it mean to claim the vision of God is the end of human life? How is human self-understanding shaped by nature, fall, and grace?

Our exploration will include a visit to the Princeton Art Museum to examine how these themes are depicted in the visual arts, as well as discussions with visiting scholars. When these discussions overlap with the principal concerns of non-Catholic or non-Christian intellectual traditions, we’ll examine the difference made by specifically Christian or Catholic concepts and understandings. Students will cultivate the abilities required to engage with some of the tradition’s classic sources, to familiarize themselves with the terms, questions, and methods it brings to bear on what it means to be human and seek happiness, and to participate in and extend the conversation by developing critical responses of their own.

T Th 1:30-2:50 PM


FRS 109 The “Other ‘F’ Word” – Success & Innovation’s Sibling? SA

John Danner

Princeton students are naturally focused, if not actually fixated, on success – in the classroom, on the field and for their emerging careers. But success has a much less well-understood sibling, which is often a precursor and even prerequisite for that success, whether in business, science, athletics or the arts. Failure. Although we usually treat failure as a regrettable event, it has the potential to become a strategic resource, invaluable in its ability to show us - sometimes painfully and often uncomfortably - what we don’t yet know but need to know in order to succeed in our chosen objective.

Failure’s like gravity – a subtle, pervasive but invaluable fact of life. The Wright Brothers used it to fly; the ancient Romans to deliver fresh water to 1.5 million residents; and Nobel prizewinners to make profound discoveries in their labs – not to mention entrepreneurs, artists, authors, architects and athletes who’ve used the lessons of failure to achieve impressive success. In short, as much as we might prefer to deny or defy it, failure will be a likely companion in much of what we do, and our attitudes and skill in dealing with it can shape our own trajectory of accomplishment.

This seminar will offer incoming freshmen a unique interdisciplinary window into this “other ‘f’ wor[l]d” of failure, with an opportunity to see firsthand how valuable it can be in the pursuit of success.

In addition to utilizing my own recent book on this topic (The Other ‘F’ Word: How Leaders, Teams and Entrepreneurs Put Failure To Work, John Wiley & Sons, 2015), we will explore additional readings from history, technology, behavioral economics, psychology and even philosophy to anchor our class [see sample readings list].

This seminar is not for the faint-hearted. We’ll explore some discomforting territory, but it should be a fascinating odyssey through both unfamiliar and very familiar terrain. Curiosity, creativity, a spirit of open-minded inquiry and perhaps a dose of humility and humor will be the prerequisites for admission. [And although it would be especially apt in this case, this will not be a “pass/fail” seminar.

M 7:30-10:20 PM


FRS 111 Everyday Enchantment: Blurring the Boundary between the Arts and Life LA 

Barbara White

A sculpture made of half-chewed lard. A film that stars dancing saucepans and whirling whisks. Music based on recordings of London’s quiet streets during lockdown. Poetry incorporating the last words of a man who died in police custody. A comedian who satirizes a politician by lip-syncing to audio recordings of his speeches.

We are familiar with artworks that imitate life through images, sounds and stories. Creative artists may also work more directly with everyday experience, presenting humble, commonplace materials as aesthetic objects and experiences. Artists in various disciplines have long smudged the boundary between art and life, as when Marcel Duchamp (in)famously placed a bicycle wheel on a pedestal in 1913. (It is now held by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.) Forty years later, John Cage created an equally mischievous piano piece composed only of silence. In the 1960s, choreographer Yvonne Rainer explored "pedestrian movement," and Yoko Ono instructed performers to make art by eating a tuna sandwich, uttering a cough, or disrobing.

Earlier generations of experimental artists seemed to revel in mystification and countercultural status, but today we take for granted that everyday experience can be aesthetically invigorating. With ubiquitous digital media and technology, the arts become less distant from ordinary experience, and individual artistic disciplines get mixed up too. Such blurring of boundaries raises questions about aesthetics, authorship, expertise, spectatorship, commodification, and community. During the worldwide pandemic, vital questions have emerged about the purpose and meaning of the arts. Creative artists struggle to adapt to changing circumstances and seek new venues to share their work. Artists and audiences alike continue to reconsider what the arts might offer at a time of unprecedented disruption and uncertainty.

This seminar seeks enchantment in everyday experience, considering the allure and the danger of mixing up life and art. In addition to studying and writing about historical artworks, students will research current-day practice and will complete open-ended creative projects. Experience in any artistic discipline is welcome but is by no means required; more important is a spirit of curiosity and exploration. For our purposes, "art" refers not only to visual art but to a wide variety of creative undertakings that result in performances, objects, rituals, stunts, and other possibilities we will discover together.

T 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 117 Music, Memory, and the Holocaust LA

Christopher Hailey

2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz but the effects and lessons of the Holocaust are still very much with us. This course explores the role music played during the Holocaust, as well as the part it continues to play in commemorating and reflecting upon a historic tragedy that refuses closure. We begin with an overview of music in the Nazi camps and ghettos, both as an instrument of coercion and as a means of spiritual resistance. In what way did these varied works – from military marches and camp songs to cabaret numbers to opera – reflect the traces of the German-Jewish experience and the painful dichotomies of cultural assimilation? Our focus then shifts to a central component of this shared cultural legacy – the music of such canonic composers as Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Wagner. How has the Holocaust problematized and assigned new meanings to this music, which since 1945 has been enlisted to negotiate between unimaginable horror and utopian redemption? Finally, how have works written in direct response to the Holocaust, whether for the concert hall or film, attempted to bear witness and provoke contemporaries to confront the ongoing horrors of genocide? As the last eyewitnesses die, these are some of the questions that future generations must keep asking.

M W 1:30-2:50 PM


FRS 119 The Unfinished Work of Art LA

Carolina Mangone

When is a work of art finished? Who or what determines it is complete? When is lack of finish a functional, aesthetic, or desirable part of art? And why does an object that is unfinished so captivate the imagination? This seminar explores these questions by examining the longstanding Western fascination with unfinished works of art. Ancient authors recorded the phenomenon of accidental incompletion, noting remarkable instances in which unfinished works were admired for revealing the artist’s thoughts. These writings form the backdrop for analysis of art that beings in Renaissance Italy with Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Titian, whose sketchily worked canvases and partly-chiseled marbles came to be viewed in their own time as aesthetic objects to be preserved, collected, displayed and discussed. As we attempt to understand these unfinished works in their cultural, material, and technical specificity, we will also interrogate the prevailing assumption that lack of finish in Renaissance art, like that of the ancients, was accidental. Moving forward geographically and chronologically from the Renaissance through to Impressionism, process art and conceptual art, we will examine how generations of artists responded to historical precedents of the unfinished and broadened, transformed, reinvigorated this phenomenon in their own visual cultures.

Rooting our analysis in unfinished objects (both accidental and purposeful) and in the historical discussions they stimulated, this seminar will explore the following topics: the relationship of conception to completion, and means to ends; the rhetoric of perfection and imperfection; the revelation of concealment of artistic process; posthumous completion; the temporal flexibility of non-finish (suspended/ever-changing /unfinishable); destruction as an act of creation; and the productive ambiguity of representation. Because unfinished art leaves so much open to the mind of the observer who participates imaginatively in the act of finishing, it raises a question central to the study of art history: what is the active role of the beholder in generating artistic meaning? Works by Jan van Eyck, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Rodin, Cezanne, Warhol, Robert Smithson, and Lucien Freud, to name a few, will be discussed in class. 

We hope to visit the Princeton University Art Museum gallery so long as public health guidelines permit.

Th 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 121 Behind the Scenes: Inside the Princeton University Art Museum LA

Caroline Harris and Veronica White

Would you like to see a Degas pastel, a tour de force of Chinese calligraphy, or a Kara Walker up close and without the frame? Participants in this seminar will go behind the scenes of a major university art museum with an encyclopedic collection of more than 100,000 objects from ancient to contemporary art. Sessions will focus on close looking and discussions of museum best practices and the role of the museum in the 21st century with a special emphasis on collecting with opportunities to study masterpieces of Asian, Ancient American, European, and modern and contemporary art. Students will spend the first half of the semester studying Princeton University’s collecting practices and the second half considering the politics of presentation through considerations of installations, exhibitions, conservation, and outreach. Course readings will introduce students to some of the most compelling practical, theoretical, and ethical issues confronting museums. A team of curators, the director, and other members of the professional staff of the Princeton University Art Museum will help lead some seminar sessions. Students are expected to discuss critically issues in acquisitions, conservation, education, and interpretation based on readings and outside projects.

We hope the class will be held in the Princeton University Art Museum gallery so long as public health guidelines permit.

W1:30-3:20 PM with a 1 hour weekly practicum 


FRS 123 Wordplay: A Wry Plod from Babel to Scrabble LA

Joshua T. Katz

What was Georges Perec thinking when he wrote—and what should we think when we read—his 1969 novel La Disparition (“The Disappearance”), which lacks the letter e? And what about the continued e-lessness of Gilbert Adair’s English translation, A Void? All forms of linguistic expression involve constraints (this course description must be under 400 words, for example, and a Shakespearean sonnet must have 14 decasyllabic verses), but some of these are more difficult to manage, more remarkable, and just plain stranger than others, like writing hundreds of pages without even once using the letter that makes up about 14.7 percent of any normal French text and 12.7 percent of any normal English one.

The purpose of this course is to bring together interesting reading, thoughtful scholarship, and hands-on revelry in the exploration of the ludic side of language. Linguistic play is part of many people’s normal experience (think of the daily crossword), and yet it is widely considered a trivial pursuit, often childish (Dr. Seuss) but sometimes abstruse (James Joyce). We—ideally a wide-ranging group of simultaneously serious and zany adventurers interested in such fields as comparative literature, linguistics, and mathematics, as well as anthropology, computer science, history, psychology, and religion—will spend the term considering the formal features, aesthetic pleasures, and societal roles of wordplay from as wide a temporal and geographical perspective as possible.

Building on my own areas of expertise and the linguistic competence and passions of the participants, which I hope will be broad, we will read poetry, stories, and novels both ancient and modern by authors you’ve heard of and others you probably haven’t, have fun with scripts besides our own, and regularly try to produce decent examples of “constrained writing” ourselves. Watching movies, challenging one another to games of Scrabble and Boggle, and designing devilish puzzles, we will arrive in the end at a better understanding of how language works and how these workings can be bent in unusual ways to produce striking effects.

Students will be encouraged to become scholars in interests old and new by seeking out the many resources (both animate and inanimate) on campus, by collaborating with one another, and by sharing their own personal discoveries. All are required to submit two projects that show evidence of creativity and research: one a (fairly conventional) academic paper, the other an (ideally unconventional) example of ludic verbal art.

T 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 125 Global Health, Food Security, and the Environment: An Introduction to One Health Policy SA

Laura Kahn

Without agriculture, civilization would not exist. Surplus food enabled the growth of cities; cities led to nations, and nations discovered the science and technology that allowed our numbers to grow. The United Nations estimates that the global population will increase to over 10 billion in 2050 and possibly over 15 billion in 2100 if high-end estimates prove true. But agriculture comes with costs, including environmental destruction and zoonotic diseases (i.e., diseases of animals that infect humans). Meeting the growing world population's demand for meat while ensuring global health and sustainability is a challenge for current and future policymakers.

Approximately 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and many of them emerge because of our quest for meat. For example, the deadly Nipah virus that emerged from the tropical forests of Malaysia in the late 1990s was preceded by widespread deforestation to clear land for pig farms, inadvertently destroying the natural habitats of fruit bats. The 2011 movie Contagion was based on this virus. When livestock is not available or too expensive, people sometimes resort to eating bushmeat (wild animals), which comes with its own disease risks. The consumption of fruit bats in Africa has been associated with Ebola outbreaks. Chinese horseshoe bats are believed to be the reservoir host species for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

This interdisciplinary seminar will cover subjects such as basic epidemiology, public health and policy, history of food safety and security, climate change, essentials of zoonotic diseases, the politics of antibiotic resistance, and the national and international organizations that oversee health, agriculture, and the environment. A series of disease outbreaks will be discussed and analyzed including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), avian influenza, Q fever, the Ebola virus, and COVID-19. Students will learn how to search and download data from government websites and analyze it using Excel and PowerPoint. Readings will come from a variety of sources including medical and veterinary medical literature, news websites, and government resources. In addition to classroom participation, in-class and take- home exercises, one short policy paper, one long final policy paper, and a classroom PowerPoint presentation are required. A strong background in high school biology is recommended.

T 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 127 Alternative Facts, Lies, and History HA

Marc Domingo Gygax

Since Kellyanne Conway’s infamous 2017 defense of White House Press secretary Sean Spicer, in which she said that he was presenting ‘alternative facts’, the phrase has become increasingly fashionable. Historians, however, have always been concerned with the problem of falsification and exaggeration, asking not only, ‘Can we trust our sources?’, but also, ‘How can objectivity be achieved in the analysis of history?’ and ‘Is there such a thing as ‘historical truth’?’ Because historians are deeply bound to produced and producing texts they are constantly asking: Can narration on its own provide a real understanding of the past? What ‘literary’ constraints are imposed upon historiographic writings? Is a ‘scientific’ history possible? and What are the boundaries between ‘history’ and ‘alternative history’? Given the current debate about ‘alternative facts’ and the proliferation of fact-checking, a scholarly discussion about these questions could not be more timely.

In the first half of the semester we will study how historians of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries have approached these questions and envisioned the study of history. One of the goals of the seminar is to learn about different possibilities for studying history and to explore the reasons for this diversity of approaches. In the second half of the semester we will deal with a highly controversial case study —Nazi Germany— which tests the relevance of historians’ debates. The importance of discussing truth and objectivity in history becomes patently clear when trying to explain and correctly evaluate the development of National-Socialism and its consequences. Because the events of the Holocaust were documented with such meticulous care, the nature of extreme cruelty and its evaluation makes the tension between objectivity and narration evident. In the seminar we will deal with problems concerning the falsification of documents (the Hitler diaries scandal), the debate on the role of Germans in the establishment of the Nazi-regime, and the different ways in which states have reacted to Holocaust deniers.

T 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 129 West African Drumming LA

Olivier Tarpaga

A performance course in West African drumming with a focus on music from the Mandé Empire (Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal.) Taught by master drummer Olivier Tarpaga, exponent of the Mogo Kele Foli drumming technique, the course provides hands-on experience on the Djembe drum. Students will acquire performance experience, skills and techniques on the Djansa (Diansa), and develop an appreciation for the integrity of drumming in the daily life of West Africa.

We hope the class will be held in person, so long as public health guidelines permit.

T Th 1:30-2:50 PM


FRS 131 Sizing Up The Universe QCR

Robert Vanderbei

This seminar will take students on an astronomical tour of the universe. We will discuss not only what is out there but also how we have figured most of this out using just ground-based observations and, more importantly, how we have determined how big and how far away these astronomical objects are.

The diameter of the observable universe is known to be about 46:5 billion light years. That’s really big. Not only is 46.5 billion a huge number but even one light year, the distance a beam of light travels in one year, is a very long distance. How far is it? In this seminar, we will investigate the size of things starting with familiar objects having sizes we can readily grasp and carefully working our way up to the largest most distant objects in the observable universe. We will describe how these sizes and distances were first measured by scientists/philosophers as our understanding of the universe we live in evolved and matured over the years. But, more than that, we will learn, and in some cases demonstrate, how many of these measurements can be done with fairly modest equipment in our modern age. For example, we will see (i) how one can measure the diameter of the Earth from a single picture of a sunset, (ii) how one can measure the distance to the Sun by analyzing pictures of nearby asteroids taken through a small telescope over the course of a few nights, and (iii) how one can measure the distance to nearby stars using a few pictures taken over the course a year or two again through a small telescope. Depending on weather and available resources, we hope to demonstrate with actual nighttime observations some of these fundamental measurements as part of the class.

There are two main goals of the seminar. The first is to provide a deep appreciation for the scale of things in the entire visible universe. The second is for students to learn that data collection involves a lot of randomness and extracting meaningful information requires ideas from the fields of statistics, probability, and optimization. By the end of the course the students will know the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

T Th 1:30-2:50 PM


FRS 133 Difficult Art LA

Zahid Chaudhary

Have you stood before an artwork, read a novel or a poem and felt you could not enter into it, or wondered what the fuss was all about? In this seminar, we will analyze what it means when we call a piece of art "difficult." Artworks might appear too abstract, not abstract enough, too emotionally wrenching, too allusive, historically or culturally distant, alienating, boring, or just plain offensive. We will consider all of these difficulties over the course of the semester and arrive at an understanding of our own reactions to art and literary works. How does the medium of the artwork condition what the artwork can do? Are there some things that art cannot or should not represent? We will assume an interdisciplinary perspective, and coursework will include art of all kinds: novels, poems, musical compositions, installations, paintings, video art, film from around the world.

M 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 135, 139, 155 Ways of Knowing: Knowledge and Power CD EC

Instructor – Staff 

Despite the increasing percentage of Americans that have enrolled in college over the past few decades, public trust in higher education has steadily decreased. Scandals like Operation Varsity Blues and the persistent racial and socioeconomic disparities in educational access have furthered the long-standing critique that selective colleges and universities are “ivory towers” disconnected from reality and social engagement. Yet, the foundational promise--and premise--of the liberal arts education at Princeton is that it helps students develop as scholars “in the service of humanity.” So how do we, as scholars, employ this education to engage in, and help address, the most pressing issues of our time? And how do we recognize, grapple with, and, indeed, interrogate the power and privilege that comes with this education? 

In Ways of Knowing, we will analyze and engage with a variety of texts that stage inquiries into power, privilege, and knowledge. From Plato to Lin-Manuel Miranda and W.E.B. Dubois to Sonya Sotomayor, the course texts provide students with an introduction to critical epistemology. Through analyzing novels like Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, theory like Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, and films like Jordan Peele’s Get Out, we examine how power and social identity intersect to shape the way that knowledge is produced, manipulated, disseminated, and consumed. The course thus provides a framework that allows us to see links between our scholarly education and pressing issues of inequity and injustice in the world. It will allow us to do so in a way that lets us reckon with structures of power rooted in racism, gender disparity, classism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and bias.

Each week, we will explore how different thinkers engage with a shared set of concepts that we will carry through the course, like privilege, language, and identity. Our course will address the ways in which knowledge in the academy is produced, why certain forms of knowledge have been invested with power, and who, historically, has had access to this power. Most importantly, we will hone our own scholarly ways of thinking, reading, and writing, becoming active producers of knowledge and making our own contributions to the world.

FRS 135 M W 1:30-2:50 PM

FRS 139 M W 1:30-2:50 PM

FRS 155 T Th 1:30-2:50 PM


FRS 137 Intellectual Foundations of Modern Conservatism SA

Thomas Kelly

In this reading- and writing intensive seminar, we will critically examine some of the fundamental ideas and central themes of modern political conservatism. Each week, we will read and discuss a seminal paper or book excerpt from a leading conservative theorist. We will attempt to better understand conservative thought, and develop a framework for assessing its strengths and weaknesses, with respect to a number of representative topics, including the following: distributive justice, the role of the free market, and the apparent tension between liberty and equality; immigration policy; the nature of crime and criminal justice policy; and social conservatism and the role of religion in society. We will also explore some broader conservative themes that appear repeatedly in the discussion of these and other topics, including conservative critiques of “good intentions,” “political correctness,” and the political and cultural influence of intellectual and cultural elites. Some attention will be paid to the diversity of, and tensions between, the varieties of conservatism: what, if anything, do libertarian or economic conservatives have in common with social or religious conservatives, or conservatives who advocate a “law and order” approach to crime, such that it makes sense to consider them all “conservatives”? Our readings will be drawn from a variety of sources, including philosophers, economists, social scientists, and legal theorists.

Th 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 141 Gender and Sex Diversity EM

Kristina Olson

At birth, or even months before, each of us is declared to be a boy or a girl. This early categorization determines how others will treat us, talk about us, and what they will expect of us. Yet sometimes this early announcement turns out to be wrong. Increasingly, we are hearing about people who reject the labels of boy or girl, man or woman, identifying instead as another gender. In addition, each year, thousands of babies are born whose sex simply cannot be classified as entirely male or entirely female—individuals with XY sex chromosomes but female external genitalia; folks whose external genitalia are not clearly male or female; individuals with XX sex chromosomes who are exposed to male-levels of androgens in utero. Where do these folks fit into our ideas about sex and gender? How are they treated in this culture and others?

In this class we will explore gender and sex diversity in humans by reading about classic medical cases and scientific reports, anthropological studies in countries like Madagascar and Indonesia, through the first-person narrative accounts of intersex and nonbinary adults, through documentary film, and print media stories. Throughout the class we will dive into deep ethical dilemmas emerging in the current cultural moment: Should intersex athletes be allowed to compete in the Olympics as women? Should surgery be done on intersex infants to “normalize” their genitalia? What hormonal and surgical interventions should be available to transgender teens and how should clinicians decide who can access such treatment? Is there a role of hormones in determining gender identity? We will learn what social and life scientists think about these topics and develop our own views.

During each class we will work together to understand where science and social science research can and cannot speak in these ongoing debates. We’ll have our own debates, developing arguments and testing them on one another. We’ll invite guest speakers to tell us about their research and their personal experiences with gender and sex diversity. And we’ll end each session with book club—a discussion of two popular books that will cause us to question our intuitions about the role of culture and biology in the experience of sex and gender.

W 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 143 Is Politics a Performance? SA

Aaron Landsman

In this transformative time, when national politics seems frayed at best, local government meetings remain sites of direct democracy and creative protest. Is Politics a Performance? looks at how we perform in these meetings, and who gets to play which roles. Drawing on the tools of sociology, philosophy, civics and theater, we will analyze meetings in Princeton and Trenton, as well as other US cities. With many government functions now taking place online, the course also reckons with our emerging, digital commons. Through a layered, practical and fun approach to decision-making, citizenship and dramaturgy, this class is ideal for students considering work in public policy, education, social sciences and performing arts.

Guiding questions for this course include:

• How do we understand the rules – both explicit and implicit – by which our democracy functions (or doesn’t)?

• What does it mean to study citizenship? 

• Why are local government meetings structured the way they are?

• How can the tools of theater inform our understanding of political process?

• How might digital democracy allow more people to participate, and what are the challenges of this new form? 

The course includes readings from Plato to contemporary philosophers, from influential sociologist Erving Goffman to modern-day theater artists and activists. We will virtually visit city council meetings in Trenton, Princeton and other major cities; we’ll also hear from local elected officials, staffers and activists. As a final class project, we will pull together the most interesting and illustrative moments from the meetings we see into a short script and invite classmates and colleagues to perform that script with us, in a virtual embodiment of democratic process. Our goal is that at the end of the course we have a sense of how to activate civic engagement through collaboration and participation.

Politics as Performance is drawn from a participatory theatrical work called City Council Meeting, which was presented in five US cities. In creating that work, we saw that young people who had a chance to try out different roles and texts within the familiar, uncomfortable and often boring structure of a local government meeting often found themselves able to empathize more easily with people very different from them than they did when they arrived. In other words, when you put an 8th grade girl in the Mayor’s seat, she might have a new idea about what she can do.

W 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 145 Learning to “Spell”: Visions of School in Fantasy and Science Fiction LA

Andrew Hakim

Fantasy and science fiction are often considered escapist genres more concerned with imagining new worlds than contemplating our own. Why, then, are these worlds frequently governed by educational institutions similar to those we encounter in our everyday lives? From Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to the Jean Grey School of Higher Learning to Gotham Academy, we find individuals negotiating institutions that seem to promise infinite possibilities. Yet students of these imagined academies are repeatedly forced to accept the limitations imposed upon them by institutional culture and politics.

This course explores fantastical works that showcase the very real issues that shape education, including race, class, gender, privilege, and disability. How might television shows such as The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina or fiction by writers like G. Willow Wilson and Ursula Le Guin inform the ways we imagine the educational policies and institutions we frequently take for granted? What might the experiences of characters like Hermione Granger, Kamala Khan, and the X-Men illuminate about our own experiences as students and citizens of the university?

We begin with a journey to Hogwarts, where we’ll immerse ourselves in scholarship on both fantasy and education as we contemplate the popularity of scholastic fantasies. From there, we’ll think about the often arcane-seeming systems guiding school admissions, as we look at magical and science fiction aptitude exams alongside studies of standardized testing. Next, with the help of various muggles, mutants, and vampire slayers, we’ll examine the curricula students study, the rules they’re forced to obey, and their feelings of belonging and inclusion. Alongside Olive Silverlock, Quentin Coldwater, and others, we’ll investigate honor codes, hidden curricula, and other labyrinthine academic byways. Finally, we’ll consider the processes through which students learn, examining fantastic portrayals of lectures, interactive game playing, and experiential education in order to reflect on what is prioritized in learning and the ways it is rewarded. 

Class assignments will reflect our concern with thinking about the different forms education might take, and students will experiment with delivering oral presentations, writing short papers, and pursuing independent research. For their final project, students will develop an educational guide, such as a lesson plan or digital archive, that draws on what they’ve noted about the unspoken norms of higher education and helps them prepare for further fantastic experiences moving forward at Princeton.

M 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 147 How People change: Short Stories and Life's Transitions LA

Sheila Kohler

In this seminar we will study moments of change at seven crucial stages in the life cycle (childhood, adolescence, courtship and marriage, work, maturity, and death) in order to discover the conflicts and contradictions, the emotional truth, and the possibilities that such moments hold for us. Our medium will be the short story. Great short stories show us convincingly how change comes about, each one unique and yet ultimately universal. How do moments of revelation occur? What are these changes each of us must discover in a unique way? What pushes us? What shows us the way? Or, does it result from within?

Each class will begin with a discussion of an illustrative short story, followed by a writing exercise inspired by it, which will be done off-line, and then discussed in small groups in breakout rooms. We will all gather again to share what has been written by those who wish to. Each student will be encouraged to produce, and thus, discover, the imaginative and regenerative potential residing in her/his imagination. The writing submitted will be both shared with the class and discussed in one on one sessions with the professor. In a final paper each student will put their pieces together to reflect a whole, and wholly unique, life. During the semester several guest speakers will address the process of change: Dr. William Tucker will talk about Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, Dr Peter Buckley will discuss courtship and marriage and Dr. Joseph Youngerman will talk about adolescence, Dr Maxine Antel will talk about maturity. A collection of most of the short stories we will read is available in “How People Change: the Short Story as Case History,” by William Tucker and all will be found on line.

M W 1:30-2:50 PM


FRS 149 Ethics in Finance SA

Jean-Christophe (JC) de Swaan

The global financial crisis and recent high-profile scandals (e.g. Wells Fargo in the United States, Wirecard in Germany, Luckin Coffee in China) highlight the extent to which we seem to have made little progress in stamping out unethical behavior in finance. This seminar will explore ethics in the finance industry using a case-based method. Our approach will be grounded in an understanding of the role of a financial system in an economy and society. We will frame the discussion by reviewing the economic development and egalitarian arguments in favor of markets and considering their limits. We will discuss the applicability of Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, and Virtue Ethics as moral approaches to finance. We will address the seminar’s topic from various angles, drawing on moral philosophy, financial theory and concepts of behavioral ethics, corporate governance, economic development, and public policy.

In addressing ethical issues, a few themes will be emphasized through-out the semester:

• A discussion of the underlying assumptions of finance theory and their impact on the practice of finance, and of the practical role of morality in the industry and the applicability of Kantian, Utilitarian, and Virtue Ethics philosophies to finance.

• An attempt to distinguish ethical issues that are systemic in nature from those that relate to individual decision-making and character. 

• For the systemic issues, a comparison of corporate governance across national financial markets, with particular emphasis on the US, China, and Japan, and how typical conflicts of interest encountered in each of these countries relate to the nature of their financial systems.

• For the issues related to individual decision-making, case studies to illustrate various patterns observed in markets, from outright deceit, fraud, and manipulation to more nuanced mishandling of conflicts of interest. For the latter, we will pay particular attention to the concept of “bounded ethicality” and the grey areas in which financial actors have to balance a complex web of duties and incentives. Many of these discussions will center on the conflicts that arise from agent-principal relations such as corporate executives acting on behalf of shareholders.

• A discussion of the social impact of financial investments.

• A discussion of role models – finance professionals who pursue their self-interest in a responsible manner, in ways that seek to benefit society rather than extract value from it. Some of these role models will participate in the seminar to discuss specific decisions they made.

Th 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 151 Time Capsules for Climate Change: To be Opened at Your Reunions SEN

Robert Socolow

This seminar is about thinking about the future of the planet and your own future. You will create four time capsules, to be opened at your graduation and at your 10th, 25th, and 50th reunions – that is, in 2024, 2034, 2049 and 2074.

These capsules will contain the essay you write during the semester and will be preserved for you in the university’s Mudd Library. Your essay will treat a single topic, which you will choose early in the semester and will become an expert about. Students’ topics have addressed technology (the electric car, energy from offshore wind in New Jersey, commercial shipping in the Arctic), human impacts on the biosphere (the fate of the hawksbill turtle, how well whales will survive), mitigation of environmental impacts (resilience against typhoon damage in the Philippines, forest-fire policy), Earth-system science (what we will know about clouds), and conceptual issues (values for the Anthropocene).

You will describe a pair of plausible outcomes at each of the four time periods, both at the large scale and as they relate directly to you. Some of your analysis will be quantitative. You should enjoy numbers and have an appetite for arithmetic; no AP math is needed.

The topics will be grouped into clusters (three or four topics to a cluster), and you will work some of the time with the other students in your cluster, confronting common issues. You will give oral reports as your individual and group work progresses, including a final presentation to an invited public. In the words of one of the students two years ago: “We examined our topics from a broad range of angles: biological, social, political, technical, economic, and, perhaps most of all, personal. [The course] gave us an incredible chance to look at the world and our relationship to it in a way none of us had ever really done before. We are all sure that this experience will stay with us throughout the rest of our lives.”

Lectures introduce the Earth as a physical system affected by human activity; fossil, nuclear, and renewable energy; uses of energy and land; and low-carbon policy. You read some published science papers. We host a few guests. It is fine for you to be completely new to the subject. You are welcome to insert personal material in the capsules, such as letters from your family and letters to yourselves.

T Th 1:30-2:50 PM


FRS 153 Pandemic Pedagogy: School and Society in a Time of Disruption and Trauma SA 

Mark Glat

Because classrooms are always on the frontiers of social change, Pandemic Pedagogy (PP) will explore the 2020 Pandemic as a “teachable moment “ in both our individual and collective experiences. PP will take a multi-disciplinary approach and include research from the fields of education, psychology, history, economics, and political science. It will focus on the relationship between theory and practice in all aspects of teaching and learning, as well as the relationship between school and society. Readings will be far-ranging and include scholarly papers as well as newspaper articles and other forms of social media. The goal will be to make every member of the seminar a smarter, wiser, and more self-regulated learner and informed citizen.

Focusing first on the individual learner, PP will examine how students are processing information, paying attention, and being flexible and creative in their thinking and decision-making in a world turned on its head. Looking at human development as successive waves of crises, choices, and changes, we will examine how COVID-19 has transformed how we see the present and imagine the future. Looking at learning as an interaction between thinking, feeling, and behaving will enable us to create a “pandemic survival kit “of cognitive behavioral and mindfulness skills and strategies designed to enhance individual and group educational experiences in these troubling times.

Utilizing principles of “psychological engineering” we will also examine how to take our theories and ideas and put them into practice. Here, issues of assessment and implementation will come to the forefront. Seminar members will be encouraged to think about broader policy issues associated with COVID-19. Topics might include how to support student engagement in a time of social distancing; what we know about the development and effectiveness of online and offline learning before and after the pandemic began; and what the pandemic has taught us about equity, bias and educational opportunity in a post-pandemic American society. 

The incoming freshman class of 2024 faces historic challenges. The University is evolving and changing right alongside its students in the face of trauma, stress, and social disruption. If you want to learn about how the pandemic has impacted your ability to learn and your school’s ability to teach, PP is the seminar for you.

T 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 157 The Bad Old Days? LGBTQ Writing Before Stonewall CD

Brian Pietras

The summer of 2019 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, a series of protests and street demonstrations often credited with sparking the gay rights movement in America. The rioters—who included trans women of color, gay men, and lesbians—were responding to the pervasive homophobia of post-World War II society. Fifty years ago, homosexual sex was a crime in almost every state, and openly identifying as queer was, for many LGBTQ people, a possibility too dangerous to contemplate. And yet, as scholars have shown in recent years, many pre-Stonewall queers had vibrant social and sexual lives—particularly in the decades before World War II. What was it like to be queer in small-town Georgia in the 1930s? In upper-class London in 1890? In Berlin between the two World Wars? In New York City during the great artistic and cultural movement that was the Harlem Renaissance?

This Freshman Seminar will explore these questions by taking a deep dive into the fascinating archive of literature produced by LGBTQ people before Stonewall. We will start by investigating the life and writings of Oscar Wilde, a glittering wit whom some have called the first “modern” homosexual. From there, we will examine the impact of late nineteenth and early twentieth century medical discourses that deemed homosexuality a form of “sexual inversion,” and how such language often complicates our search for early queer and trans figures. We will read the pseudonymous 1918 memoir Autobiography of an Androgyne—which recounts the life of a male-bodied person with a “female soul”—as well as Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, a novel whose depiction of lesbian desire led a British court to label it obscene. Next, the work of Harlem Renaissance writers including Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes will help us to consider the challenges—and possibilities—of being queer and Black in early twentieth century America. The final third of the semester will focus on four writers—Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Patricia Highsmith, and James Baldwin—whose novels both reflect and challenge the formation of the closet in pre- and post-World War II American society. In addition to learning about LGBTQ lives before Stonewall, students will also read pioneering works of scholarship that, over the past few decades, have helped return queer people to the historical record.

T Th 3:00-4:20 PM


FRS 159 Science, Technology and Public Policy SA

Harold T. Shapiro

The overall objective of this seminar is to understand and assess how developments on the scientific and/or technological frontier may raise issues and challenges for public policy as well as associated moral and/or legal issues in the U.S, context. The focus will be on developments since World War II. The seminar will begin with a lecture/discussion that identifies the interrelationship between science, technology, economic growth, and public policy, and why in the U.S. context the Courts may also be a critical factor in determining the set of policy responses that are possible.

We will also identify the tools available to Federal and State governments to both invigorate and direct the national scientific enterprise. All subsequent sessions of the seminar will revert to a more purely seminar format where students share the responsibility for both leading and participating in the discussions.

Once in this more purely seminar format (i.e., by our second meeting) the next three sessions will focus on four case studies of important national issues that involve the intersection of science, technology, public policy and ethics and the law. In particular we will discuss the legal, ethical, scientific and policy issues that emanated from the development of first, Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) along with human reproductive cloning and embryonic stem cell research; second, global warming and other environmental boundaries; third, our national energy policy including a special focus on new technologies in the renewables sector, and fourth privacy in the age of the Internet and Artificial Intelligence. In all these cases the focus will be on the new technological options available and the respective role of science, scientists, public policy, ethics, and law in addressing the potential challenges involved.

With this as background the seminar will consider the relationship of science and technology to economic growth and the manner by which Federal policies can influence these matters. In this context we will turn to a fuller discussion of the evolving role of the U.S. government in stimulating/directing the growth of science and technology as the government itself as well as sustained economic prosperity becomes more dependent on new achievements on the scientific frontier.

Through the course of our discussions, we will come to see the many inherent and potential conflicts of interest that may arise when scientists serve as advocates and advisors in heated policy debates where egos, money, and power are at stake, as well as supplicants for federal research resources.

T Th 1:30-2:50 PM


FRS 161 How Green is Your Campus? SEL

Adam Maloof and Frederik Simons

How green is Princeton’s campus? What is the total area of green space, and is all green space of equal quality? In nominally green areas, how diverse is the vegetation, how tall are the trees, how healthy are the leaves, and how permeable is the soil? Each student will be in charge of a square subregion of the campus where they will make a battery of measurements using a diversity of instruments. The ultimate group goal is to build a quantitative digital map of campus greenness. Individual student goals for final research papers can vary from tracking campus greenness through time (seasonally or over the past 90 years using available data sources), comparing Princeton’s campus to other universities (using satellite data where available), assessing the sustainability of Princeton’s expansion plans, or comparing this year’s observations with ongoing monitoring projects such as noise pollution or climate change.

This seminar is about natural science and technology, and the class has a laboratory component to it. You will need a bit of a technical mindset to follow the instructions to set up and use the various instruments you are supplied with for point measurements, repeat observations, and long-term automated data collection. As to the course itself, you must be prepared with an aptitude for, and a willingness to learn the quantitative aspects of scientific inquiry, as we will dive deeply into the numerical interpretation of your campus data using statistical data analysis techniques such as regression, cross-correlation, and time series and image analysis, using the MATLAB computer programming language, which we teach (from scratch) at a rapid pace. Throughout the seminar, you will complete a stepped sequence of writing assignments that teach you to communicate your scientific results, culminating in an original research paper and an oral presentation for an audience of peers, freshman seminar alumni, and invited guests from the University community.

In your application essay, please be sure to address your preparedness and excitement for both (1) setting up and monitoring the scientific instruments you will be issued, and (2) conducting frequent outdoor field work. Half of the class time be spent in-person outdoors (rain or shine, hot or cold), and you will need to make frequent trips to your adopted campus area to make outdoor observations. Also, before writing your essay, please read student feedback about our previous seminars so you know what to expect in terms of expectations and work load, and our “tough but fair” grading policy.

T Th 3:00-4:20 PM


FRS 163 "Once Upon a Time..." Magic Tales and their Meanings LA

Margaret Beissinger

In this course we will explore classic magic ("fairy") tales from around the world, focusing our attention on traditional narrative patterns and their meanings. We will view magic tales as stories that reflect significant moments and experiences of the life cycle (e.g., coming of age, marriage, etc.) and will explore symbolic journeys (often of initiation, both male and female), representations of the Other World (forests, faraway kingdoms, the land of the dead, etc.), and family relationships (between parents and children, siblings, etc.), to name a few. Topics we will examine include oral composition, variants and multiforms, storytellers and performance (including storytelling as a revived art form), the major critical approaches that have influenced the study of the genre (oral-traditional, historic-geographic, structuralist, myth-ritual, psychological, symbolic, socio-historical, and feminist), and how magic tales inform other types of narrative (in literature and film). Most of the seminar (weeks 1-9) will focus on traditional magic tales and how they function not only in Euro-American but also non-Western cultures; during the last three weeks of the course (weeks 10-12), we will examine how magic tales are adopted and adapted in Western literature and film. We will seek to understand how and why magic tales are composed and performed--how and why they resonate so profoundly and evoke such intriguing layers of cultural, social, and psychological meaning. Our goal in this seminar is to “read” the “texts” of magic tales and to understand how and why they so vividly express the human experience.

T Th 1:30-2:50 PM


FRS 165 Archeology as History HA

Janet Kay

Over the course of the semester, we will examine how historians and other scholars can use archaeological methods to interpret the lives of the people we study, especially the people who are not mentioned in texts. How is archaeology related to history, and vice versa? In the first part of the course, you will learn how to critically evaluate historical and archaeological sources, and apply different theoretical approaches to material evidence. We will then spend some time learning the practical skills necessary for archaeological research through a series of lab activities. We will explore cemetery statistics, analyze trash habits, study skeletal anatomy, and examine environmental samples. During the second half of the course, we will think about the different ways we can “tell” history using archaeology, and visit digital museum exhibits. Finally, we will consider the difficulties of gathering archaeological data responsibly, in terms of research design and out of respect for living communities. The term project, which will be completed in groups, will be to analyze the “excavation” data of a mock burial from late-Roman Britain, following a research design, which your team will write and submit before the break. For the rest of the semester, you and your team members will create an excavation report, and present it to the class on the last day. 

W 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 169 Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Wisdom of Crowds LA

Susanna Moore

This seminar will study the history and nature of fairy tales, superstitions, conspiracy theories, and urban myths, particularly in regard to the way that they reflect the concerns and fears of society. We will examine the ways in which these differ from one another, and the means by which entire communities create, preserve, disseminate and fortify them. The unconscious is often manifested in metaphor, particularly in literature and film, and the legitimate anxieties, fears (and guilt) that it reflects will be the subject of our study. We will discuss witchcraft, sorcery, alchemy and the philosopher’s stone, and prophecies of the end of the world, as well as contemporary myths and conspiracy theories, and the technological, religious and cultural shifts that cause them. Students will read The fairy tales of Han Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Madame d’Aulnoy, as well as essays by Bruno Bettelheim, Marina Warner, Alison Lurie, and Angela Carter. We will read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson), White Noise (DeLillo), and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Jackson). We will watch the films ‘Let the Right One In;’ ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (Cocteau); ‘Moonlight;’ and ‘Song of Sparrows.

T Th 3:00-4:20 PM


FRS 171 The Lives of Early Christian Women CD HA

AnneMarie Luijendijk

The intellectual work of this course combines the categories of Historical Analysis and Culture and Difference. It introduces students to multiple methodologies to analyze historical sources through the focus on early Christian women. The students will learn to read sources from the first centuries of our era critically and within their historical and geographical context. They will engage with modern scholarship on issues of gender and sexuality, social class, enslavement. Material culture provides an additional lens for this class; widening the range of sources from elite to non-elite. For example, we will read the diary of an elite convert to Christianity from North Africa, Perpetua, who was martyred with her female slave Felicitas, both of them new mothers. This allows us to discuss such topics as women’s literacy in antiquity, family relations, motherhood, enslavement. Material culture includes evidence for confinement of slaves, actual papyrus letters penned by women etc. The approaches of Historical Analysis and Culture and Difference are thus brought in constant conversation with each other.

M W 3:00-4:20 PM


FRS 173 First Year Painting Studio Seminar LA

Pam Lins

This studio class is about painting and practice. Painting has such a long and complicated history that is now transforming and including adjacent events, perspectives, and artists—that there is no real place to start. It has become professional and is an academic area of study. That said—anyone can use a paintbrush somehow and make a painting.

This class will be a lab where we study many things about painting the process and paint the material. This could include: experimenting with different types of paint, discussing what subject we paint, studying colors lying down next to one another, ideas about painting space, ideas about producing a lot of paintings on different types of surfaces and traditional canvas, letting go of your preconceived notions of what "good painting" might be, learning to make a stretcher, not naming the thing you are painting, stories of pigments and paint, and how to approach starting and finishing a painting. We also look at a lot of images of paintings, and celebrate the sociality of a studio class. The best part of the class is we are here together working and the room is filling up with many paintings. There will be an awareness of making paintings in your own time, and we will look at contemporary painting. You will achieve some understanding of your own relationship to painting as an artist.

We start with the basics. That said, the class is not meant to be conclusive, but you will leave from a more informed position about painting. This class is not a “how to” approach. You will not learn exactly “how to” render a figure, a horse, a building, etc. But we may paint them. It is important you know this. This class is part of the Visual Arts Program. We will make a lot of paintings.

W 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 175 Civil Disobedience: Breaking the Law from Socrates to the Civil Rights Movement EM HA

Peter Wirzbicki

This freshman seminar uses canonical texts, alongside little known primary sources and works of historical analysis to examine the origins of Civil Disobedience theory and practice. Starting with Socrates’ famous trial and execution, the course will then travel through a series of episodes where people debated the righteousness of following or disobeying manmade laws. We will discuss Civil Disobedience in the context of U.S. fugitive slave law, labor organizers occupying factories, the temperance protesters who went to jail by smashing barrels of rum, the pioneering use of mass civil disobedience by Gandhi, and, of course, the American Civil Rights Movement. We examine both arguments for and against disobedience.

Among the thinkers and activists we will study are Socrates, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Merton, Hannah Arendt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. We will pair canonical texts of theory alongside historical works that will contextualize these thinkers and the movements they were involved in.

The question of Civil Disobedience, we will see, is intimately wrapped up in a series of profound questions about moral and social life. How should believers weigh their duties to the government versus their duties to God? Are there are moral and ethical codes that transcend society? In democratic societies, the question of Civil Disobedience becomes more fraught as the laws that the resister is violating were made by their neighbors. Where does disobedience begin and lawless vigilantism end? Who gets to decide whether a law is unjust or not? Does Disobedience have to be non-violent? What are the practical consequences of disobedience?

M W 3:00-4:20 PM


FRS 181 "Kim Kardashian is Dead!" and Other Stories: Mobilizing Millions for Human Rights and Social Justice LA

Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri

The course takes its title from a campaign in which Kim Kardashian and other celebrities agreed to be photographed inside of coffins, and to temporarily silence their social media lives. Fans and viewers contributed to “reviving” these figures by helping to raise millions of dollars for families with HIV/AIDS in Africa and India. This act of media disruption inspired massive public discussion about the mobilization of celebrity for social justice activism.

Over the span of the semester, we will explore how artists, thinkers, politicians and activists have used the allure of fame, fantasy, cinematic storytelling, disruptive innovation, and even the strategies of advertising to effect social change. Featuring discussions and workshops with change-makers recognized by institutions from the Oscars to the United Nations, this course provides students with the tools to investigate and critique past and present media campaigns for social change, as well as to engage a variety of strategies for art and advocacy in unleashing their own potential to mobilize change for a more just and equitable world.

Our vocabulary for considering the intentions and effectiveness of contemporary and historic social movements will be formed by readings in cultural criticism and media studies, as well as the investigation and critique of classic advocacy campaigns such as “D.A.R.E. Drug Abuse Resistance Education” of the 1980’s, Zombie Apocalypse by the CDC (2011), Dumb Ways to Die by Australian Railways (2012), and KONY 2012 for “Invisible Children” child soldiers. We’ll also investigate the complexities, and at times the moral dilemmas, of film and social-media based forms of activism. How can we measure the success of these efforts to achieve real impact and change? Is disruption possible without unintended consequences of disharmony and backlash?

For their final projects, students will choose an issue that is important to them, analyze the existing messaging around it, plan their own multi-media campaign, pitch their concept to relevant NGOs or organizations, and finally, utilizing techniques explored in the class to enhance effectiveness, create an original public service announcement.

M 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 185 Freedom in the Age of Revolutions EM

Joel B. Lande

In her comparative study On Revolution, Hannah Arendt argued that the “aim of revolution was, and always has been, freedom.” On its face, the claim is bold and persuasive, especially given that no other concept enjoyed the same prominence in the decades around 1800, when a series of revolutions reshaped the Atlantic world. However, as Arendt goes on to note, freedom meant vastly different things depending upon the context and did not apply to all groups uniformly. By comparatively studying these revolutions, this class searches out commonalities and differences in how freedom was thought about and concretely realized. We will inquire into the legitimate and illegitimate circumscriptions of freedom in a political community. Will will focus not only on the salutary effects of the revolutionary pursuit of freedom, but also on the ways that its selective use perpetuated entrenched hierarchies, including in gender roles, and reinforced racial discrimination, as in chattel slavery.

This course has two principle teaching goals. It seeks, first, to equip students with a critical overview of this pivotal phase in modern history. By having students read selections from contemporary historiographical texts and critical scholarship, the course tries not only to familiarize students key events and actors, but also to encourage students to develop a vocabulary for thinking critically about complex historical processes. Students will, to this end, read historical surveys alongside scholarly investigations focused on issues of, e.g., race and gender. The second major goal of this class is to help students to develop skills and strategies for the analysis of primary source materials. Students will learn, through close in-class discussions, how to recognize the rhetorical and argumentative structure of documents like the _Declaration of Independence_ and the _Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen_. But they will also be exposed to the different interpretive approach required to understand a historical drama like Büchner’s _Danton’s Death_ or the paintings of David and Delacroix. By using classroom discussions to engage in close reading, students will learn to read in a focused and critical fashion, and they will also develop the ability to support their ideas with evidence.

The course asks students to write weekly one-page response papers in order to secure their consistent engagement with the material, to encourage them to articulate their own ideas, and to give them low-pressure, regular practice in expository writing.

T Th 11:00 AM-12:20 PM


FRS 187 Cannibals and Kings: Uncomfortable Topics in the Pre-Conquest Americas CD

Noa Corcoran-Tadd

Human sacrifice. Shamanism. Female political leaders. Often exaggerated or ignored by European colonizers and 20th-century anthropologists, these difficult topics tend to remain misunderstood today. This course focuses specifically on three major topics of ongoing debate in the study of the pre-conquest Americas - violence and warfare, gender and sexuality, and religious practice. Over the course of the semester, we will look at the texts and objects that have been used and misused to make sense of the complex cultural practices and social identities of Mesoamerican, Andean, and other Indigenous societies in the past. Through a combination of close readings and virtual museum tours, students will develop the tools to carefully explore these fascinating yet difficult topics. Classroom conversations will build on this work to engage with broader contemporary discussions, including the representation of Indigenous histories and the contested role of the museum in a quickly changing world. 

T 1:30-4:20 PM


FRS 189 Systems CD EC

Asif Ghazanfar

One way to understand the various patterns and processes in our world is to think of them as “systems” (e.g., the criminal justice system, neural systems, economic systems, etc.). There’s a lot of talk about these systems (“blame the system”; “you can’t beat the system”) and efforts to change them, but not a lot of understanding about how systems actually work. We will bridge this knowledge gap by first learning about what all systems have in common, how they respond to change, and why it is difficult to change them in predictable ways.

This course will be an adventure, for you and for me. We will cover a range of subjects and the only one of these that it could be argued that I’m an expert in is biology. Being an expert, however, is no fun. Being an amateur and an “imposter” is how we can learn at the fastest rate and see connections that the experts like me—made complacent by our specialized knowledge—cannot see; non-experts will ask questions experts wouldn’t think to ask. For example, in my field of biology, we are stuck with the idea that a behavioral characteristic, like aggression, can be straightforwardly linked to a cause. Depending on one’s expertise and perspective, the cause for aggression could be due to a neural circuit, hormone levels, a gene or the environment. Of course, none of these causes are “correct”, but we are stuck. We need to reframe the problem.

In this course, by learning about systems, we will learn that the standard notion of causality itself, as we typically conceive of it, should be questioned if we are to make progress in understanding how phenomena of various types come about. In the process, we will learn some new ways to think about behavioral biology for sure, but we will also learn just as much about: 1) how the problems of the criminal justice system are similarly complicated and impervious to solutions that use simple notions of causality; 2) how music making is not a pure artistic journey but influenced (whether one likes it or not) in unexpected (and unrecognized) ways; and 3) how gift-giving was historically an important part of enhancing human relationships and how this economic system evolved into something quite the opposite. We might also see how these various systems form an even larger system! I’m excited to see where our reading, discussions and creativity will take us!

Here are the books we will be reading (though, for some, maybe not in their entirety): What so special about Systems? - Thinking in Systems by Donello Meadows; Biological Systems - Behave by Robert Sapolsky; Criminal Justice System - Ghettoside by Jill Leovy; Musical Systems - How Music Works by David Byrne; Economic Systems – The Gift by Lewis Hyde.

T Th 11:00 AM-12:20 PM


FRS 193 Just Looking LA

Ronni Baer

What is a painting? How was it made, when, by whom, and for whom? What can it tell us about the society and culture that spawned it? There is a lot to glean from a single work of art if you know how to look. This course will provide an overview of the history of 17th-century Dutch art—for the most part characterized by a naturalistic style in service of easily recognizable subject matter—while honing the skill of close looking that can be applied to works of all types and times. 

In the fall of 2020, the Princeton University Art Museum will host an exhibition of 17th-century Dutch paintings from its collection. Under the guidance of the exhibition’s curator, these works will be the focus of our course. While the history of 17th-century Dutch art can be taught chronologically or by location of manufacture, in this class we will examine it by subject matter. We will consider different types of paintings—histories, portraits, land- and seascapes, still lifes, and genre scenes (many were new types of imagery at the time)—in light of their physical characteristics, the condition in which they’ve come down to us, the artistic tradition behind them, the choices expressed in their making, and some of the ways they can be interpreted. Through readings and close looking, we will gain insight into the multivalence of these works; use technology to understand the changes in their appearance over time, which in turn affects our perception of them; and learn about the Dutch art market and historical circumstances that may have affected the development of style and choice of subject matter.

We hope the class will be held in the Princeton University Art Museum gallery so long as public health guidelines permit.

T 1:30-4:20 PM