New York City possesses a special place in the American imagination. It is the site of enormous aspirations, a place where immigrants come to make their fortune and artists come to make their reputation. It is also the place where the economic and social divisions of the United States emerge most clearly in the disparity between the rich and the poor. Thus, New York embodies both the best possibilities of the American Dream of transformation and the cruel realities of poverty, racism, and social injustice. This Freshman Seminar will explore the wide variety of ways in which the fiction of New York City embraces the diversity, possibilities, and realities of American life.
Our exploration begins with the great modernist classic, The Great Gatsby, and the ways in which outsiders like Gatsby and the narrator, Nick Carraway, attempt to penetrate a social and economic world that operates by its own rules. We move then to a very different novel that was published in the same year as Gatsby, Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers, which details the struggles of a Jewish immigrant with both her family and the larger American culture. The juxtapositions provided by these two literary masterpieces – male and female, rich and poor, entrenched social positions and immigrant ambitions – set the stage for further explorations of the city as the site for social triumphs and tragedies in Will Eisner’s A Contract with God, the book credited with inventing the form of the graphic novel, and E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, one of the greatest historical novels in American literature. Our investigation takes another turn when we explore the situation of upper class women in several of Edith Wharton’s finest short stories. We move from Wharton’s upper class world to Ann Petry’s The Street, perhaps the most powerful exploration of Harlem in American writing and one of the grimmest depictions of the corrosive effects of racism. The city as a special place for adolescents comes under scrutiny in Salinger’s classic Catcher in the Rye. History and science fiction combine to distinguish the imaginative time traveling of Jack Finney’s Time and Again. The possibilities of American life assume different meanings in Ha Jin’s portrayal of Chinese immigrants and Frank McCourt’s memoir of his journey to the United States from Ireland and into a career as a teacher in the New York school system. We wrap up the course with a plunge into the supernatural horror of Victor LaValle’s bold rewriting of H.P. Lovecraft and the science fiction of Isaac Asimov’s first robot novel, which offers a vision of the city three thousand years in the future. These texts provide new ways of looking at race, class, sexuality, gender, and the whole process of growing up and growing older in an urban and sometimes urbane landscape. By the end of the class, students should discover some new and amazing books and, more importantly, discover new ways of reading American fiction and the culture it both depicts and critiques.
Nadia Cervantes Perez
What is a border? ‘Qué es una frontera’? How have borderland spaces between Mexico and the US been configured throughout history and imagined by colonizers, indigenous peoples, artists and writers since colonial times? What does it mean to live in-between nations, languages and worldviews? How does the past inform the present? What does coloniality have to do with it?
In this seminar, students will explore the concept of the border and borderland spaces from a variety of perspectives, including Latinx, Chicano/a, Colonial and Mexican Literary Studies. In particular, students will reflect on the different ways in which the border, or la frontera, between Mexico and the US has been represented in history, literature and art. The seminar aims to develop novel ways of thinking of the US-Mexico border as a geographical space but also as a discursive site where individuals reflect on dreams, (land) struggles, trans-nationalism, language, identity, and human rights. The readings and class activities draw on historical texts from the colonial period such as relaciones and chronicles, as well as contemporary literary texts, music, and films that explore the rich symbolism of the border. We will discuss the development of the idea of the border in relation to: conquest and evangelization, security and militarization, indigenous peoples and cultures, immigration, il/legal discourses, life in the margins, language and nation, trade, and transcultural and transgender experiences. Among the critical concepts to be discussed are: colonialism and coloniality, race, gender, contact zones, memory, writing, and globalization.
This seminar is designed for students who are interested in learning about the US-Mexico border from a humanistic and historical perspective. No previous knowledge of Latinx, Chicano/a, Colonial or Mexican Literary Studies is required. However, some reading knowledge of Spanish will be useful since some of the works discussed in this seminar are bilingual or only in Spanish. In addition, the course includes a service project aimed at engaging with the local community in a context of partnership and reciprocity. Other course components include weekly reflections, a written critical analysis of an artistic work, and two presentations. Finally, we will have at least one guest speaker either from the Princeton community who is engaged in scholarly work on the US-Mexico border, or one of the authors whose work we study in this seminar.
Donald P. Wilson '33 and Edna M. Wilson Freshman Seminar
This is a hands-on seminar and laboratory experience about the engineering design of motorcycles. Students will restore or repair a vintage Triumph motorcycle and will compare it to previous restorations of the same make and model of motorcycle from other years (1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1963, and 1964). No previous shop or laboratory experience is necessary, and we welcome liberal arts students as well as engineering students. Technical staff members of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering—Glenn Northey, Al Gaillard, and Jon Prevost—will assist Professor Littman in laboratory.
Students will examine, disassemble, model, test, and rebuild a vintage motorcycle. All motorcycle subsystems will be considered with special attention to the power, structural, and control subsystems. Classic and modern engineering tools to be used include computer-aided design (CAD) software for the documentation and prototyping of engine parts, engine simulation software for understanding factors affecting engine performance, and engine brake dynamometer measurements for determination of engine power and torque. Students will assess and restore motorcycle components. Precise repair, and redesign (where appropriate) of key parts will include the restoration of cylinder, piston, head, cam, valves, transmission, brakes, fork, oil system, clutch, and chain. Students will also inspect and restore all electrical system components as needed and disassemble, clean, repaint, and restore the frame and suspension system.
The class meets twice each week. Each session starts with a 90-minute precept followed by a 90-minute laboratory. Please note that only the precept time is listed on TigerHub and Course Offerings. The 90-minute laboratory will follow immediately after each precept.
Paul L. Miller '41 Freshman Seminar in Human Values
Sentencing is at the center of the criminal justice system. Approximately 6.7 million people are under correctional control in the United States. Why do we punish? Who do we punish? How do we punish? Who answers these questions? And what does it all say about us as a society? Embracing a multi-disciplinary approach that draws on the traditions of history, sociology, and criminology as well as law, this seminar examines the principles and practices of noncapital sentencing and punishment.
Any brief study of sentencing can only hint at the rich field that has emerged—indeed, that has been created—in the past forty years. While sentencing as an aspect of the legal process has been around for several thousand years, sentencing as a distinct field of study and practice is quite a recent event. Modern sentencing reform movements revealed a gap in the law—a lawlessness—in many of the American justice systems for most of the 20th Century. But what has filled that gap in many systems—sentencing guidelines—is one of the most controversial law reform projects of our era. Even critics of modern reforms would probably agree that the field of sentencing and punishment has become a mirror through which justice policy, substantive criminal law, and societal values can be explored quite clearly. Sentencing is where the hidden assumptions about purpose and questions of justice can be—and perhaps are—more fully addressed.
As a part of this course, we may travel to a courthouse to observe a sentencing hearing, visit a prison, and welcome guest speakers offering different perspectives on this complex topic.
Ryan C. Edwards
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
Patagonia has piqued imaginations around the world, from the travel narratives of Magellan and Darwin, to the contemporary iconography of glacial-topped mountains stamped on the Patagonia clothing brand. For five centuries, this “landscape of the imagination” has been central to geologic theories, archaeological findings, and climate science, as well as social conflicts ranging from exile and labor protests to genocide. Today, the region is considered one of the last pristine wildernesses in the world, attracting tourists, conservationists, and green capitalists.
This course takes a historical and cultural approach to understand how Patagonia has become an iconic landscape, laden with myths and realities. We will use this southern region of Argentina and Chile to explore their national histories, but also, broader histories of exploration, indigeneity, imperialism, and environmentalism. The course will include readings from various disciplines, including the physical and social sciences, humanities, and arts. Course assignments will include writing exercises, map readings, and critical analyses of texts and images. The goal is to use this iconic South American landscape to explore a series of broader questions, while still rooting our questions in a particular space and time.
There is no language requirement for this course, though foreign terms, especially in Spanish, will appear regularly. The weekly reading load is roughly 100 pages.
During the spring break we will travel to Patagonia to visit a few of the places discussed in class. We will meet with locals and experts in order to couple our class materials with on the ground experiences. By the end of the course it will be clear that Patagonia is many things to many people, and its future is still uncertain.
Because this seminar includes overseas travel, a current and valid passport is required at the time you register for this course. A valid passport is defined as one that is current and valid for six months from the date of your return.
Mark J. Edwards
Professor Amy Gutmann Freshman Seminar in Human Values
In the history of religion and philosophy, many important works have been written by authors who were behind bars. This course probes this extensive tradition and the concerns they raise. Such texts deal, not only with classic problems in the history of philosophical and religious studies, but also with concerns that many of us share today. Topics to be addressed include: arguments for and against the existence of God; whether there is life after death; the logic and rationality of nonviolent rebellion; the nature of evil; whether divine foreknowledge negates human freedom; ethical reasoning in times of radical crisis; justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation; the metaphysics of time; and the abolition of prisons.
Readings span the world’s major religious and philosophical traditions and include imprisoned figures such as Socrates, Boethius, Marguerite Porete, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Hannah Arendt, Aung San Suu Kyi, and detainees at Guantanamo Bay. As we explicate the influence imprisonment has had within philosophy and religion, we will probe incarceration as both site and concept for individual moral growth, as a standard for societal justice and equity, and as the frequent tool of choice to eradicate the abnormal. While many of these authors have become standard reading, this course attempts to hear the voices “from below” as victim, rebel, and outcast. Works will be exegeted according to contexts of origination while also asking what they have to teach us about abusive power, mass incarceration, and our own intellectual and political history.
As a ProCes course that emphasizes scholarship encountering questions of pressing societal concern, we will feature in-person interviews with formerly incarcerated guests and introduce local opportunities for engagement and activism. MLK considered prison a sacrament while Lenin called it the birthplace of revolutionaries. Despite the agony, Mandela also felt “the cell is an ideal place to learn to know yourself.” Gandhi argued “jail for us is no jail at all,” while Socrates famously argued it was the mind imprisoned by untruth that is the greater threat to freedom and civility. What will you learn from jail?
Richard L. Smith '70 Freshman Seminar
Is it reasonable to believe in God, given the immense amount of seemingly preventable suffering in the world? Facing this question means asking why a perfectly good God might allow suffering to occur. We will examine proposed answers to that question that raise central philosophical issues about the choices we (ordinary humans) make. For example, they raise such questions as:
• When to dissolve a charitable trust that will do more good the longer it exists (but will only start doing good once it is dissolved)?
• Are we morally obligated to have the best possible (genetically modified) children we can?
• Is free will compatible with determinism?
• Can you be responsible for an action even if you couldn’t do otherwise?
• Does the neuroscience of human decision-making teach us that our feeling of deciding what to do is a cognitive illusion?
The seminar will explore these and closely related questions using contemporary analytic philosophy of religion, metaphysics, decision theory, and neuroscientific research relevant to the nature of free will. Students of every religious, atheistic, or agnostic background are welcome, and no prior experience in religion or philosophy will be presupposed.
Louise S. Sams, Class of 1979, Freshman Seminar
When, where, why, and how did human language originate? There are no definitive answers, but evidence from many different areas of investigation (including paleontology, archeology, animal communication, neurobiology, genetics, linguistics, statistics), when considered in conjunction, sheds light on these old questions. The seminar will examine and weigh findings from different strands of relevant research.
We define and distinguish critical concepts such as language and communication and analyze key properties of human language that distinguish it from animal communication. We examine the status of proposed universal properties shared by all human languages (in particular, recursion) and the documented birth of new languages like Creoles and Sign Languages.
We examine non-linguistic behaviors (sobbing, laughing) with communicative functions that involve brain areas dedicated to language processing. Research in animal communication shows that our biologically closest relatives (chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas), while lacking the ability for speech, communicate in sophisticated ways and recruit some of the homologous brain regions that are involved in human language processing. At which stage in human evolution were the prerequisites for language given, i.e., when did our ancestors have a “language-ready brain”? We discuss recent fossil evidence with respect to anatomical features (such as cranial volume and a descended larynx) required for language. Which features are shared by other species (such as birds and marine mammals) and why did they not develop a full language?
We ask whether language evolved gradually as a product of general primate cognition or whether it appeared within a relatively short time due to a genetic mutation (the “saltational” hypothesis) that is argued to have occurred between 70,000 and 40,000 years ago. In light of paleontological and genetic evidence of Anatomically Modern Human’s migration out of Africa, is a single origin of language (monogenesis) more plausible than polygenesis?
We examine contrasting arguments claiming simple vocalization, gestures, or music as “proto-languages,” precursors of full language. Can children’s language acquisition (ontogeny) shed light on the emergence of human language (phylogeny)?
What degree of societal organization was both a requirement and a catalyst for human language to arise? We examine several competing hypotheses (“verbal grooming,” efficient transfer of tool-making techniques). The earliest known artworks (cave paintings, fertility figurines) were most likely created to fulfill ritual functions; prehistoric tools and beads similarly point to social structures that were unlikely to exist without a well-developed language. Is language in fact primarily a product of cultural development rather than an innate cognitive faculty?
Michael Lemonick and Edwin Turner
Stuart Family Freshman Seminar
A few years ago, headlines screamed with the news that scientists had discovered evidence of fossilized bacteria in a rock that had come from Mars. Over the next several months, independent researchers examined the claims carefully and concluded that the evidence was poor at best. But that negative assessment, which remains the consensus among experts, was barely reported. As a result, most people still think the question of life on other planets has already been settled. A story in the New York Times in 2006 carried the headline "Cloning May Lead to Healthy Pork." But a careful reading of the story makes it clear that "may not" would probably have made for a more accurate, though less enticing, headline. And virtually everyone is familiar with the endless news stories that declare a particular vitamin, food, or physical activity to be good for your health, inevitably followed a few years later by a story saying that the very same food or activity is, in fact, bad for you.
Most people learn most of what they know about science through the popular media. Yet as these examples make clear, media reports, even in respected national publications, are frequently confusing, incomplete, or even just plain wrong. Moreover, even when they are accurate, they convey an idea of science that Albert Einstein himself skewered a half century ago. From such episodes, he wrote, "the reader gets the [mistaken] impression that every five minutes there is a revolution in science, somewhat like the coups d'etat in some of the smaller unstable republics."
So how reliable is science news? In this seminar, we will investigate this question from the perspectives of both science and the media, led by one instructor from each camp. We will analyze several major news stories that have dominated the media at various times over the past few years: life on Mars, intelligent design, possible cancer cures, the "discovery" that some stars appear to be older than the universe, global warming, and more. We will also address science news as it arises, as it inevitably will, during the semester. In each case, we will work to understand the actual science that led to these reports. Then we will look in detail at the forces at play in shaping media coverage, and how they tend to distort the science. Garbling and oversimplification by reporters is one factor, but this, as we will see, is only part of the story. Other factors include the competition for funding among scientists, the politics that lead universities and government agencies to hype their successes, and the competition between scientific journals—all flavored with plenty of ego on all sides.
Students will not only come to understand why you can't always trust what you read in the newspaper, but also will come to appreciate the satisfactions and pitfalls of communicating science, not only through readings and class discussion, but also by means of visits by and with science journalists, scientists, and public information officers. They will also get a taste of what science reporters are up against by producing several pieces of science journalism themselves, which will be critiqued by both instructors. Although we will focus primarily on the print media, we will also consider the treatment of science by the broadcast media. In the end, students will never be able to see the news in quite the same way.
Agriculture is the foundation of civilization. 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. Meeting the growing world population's demand for meat while ensuring global health and sustainability in a warming climate is a challenge for current and future policy makers.
Approximately 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic (i.e. diseases of animals that infect humans). 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). In some cultures, bushmeat is considered a delicacy. Ebola outbreaks in Africa are believed due to consumption of or interaction with fruit bats or their excreta.
This interdisciplinary seminar will cover subjects such as basic epidemiology, public health and policy, history of food safety and security, history of meat production and consumption in the 20th century, essentials of zoonotic diseases, the politics of antimicrobial resistance, sanitation and hygiene, environmental health, and the national and international organizations that oversee health and agriculture. A series of disease outbreaks will be discussed and analyzed including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), avian influenza, Nipah virus, Q fever, and Ebola virus. 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 the medical and veterinary medical literature. Two field trips are planned. In-class exercises, one five-page policy paper, one ten-page final policy paper, and a brief classroom Powerpoint presentation are required. A strong background in high school biology is required.
Professor Burton G. Malkiel *64 Freshman Seminar
This seminar will explore how the Internet—and the rapid communication enabled by it—has fundamentally changed the economy and the way we do business. What impact has the constant connectivity of an evolving and growing digital network had on the structure and speed of the economy? Has the balance of economic power shifted from larger groups to individuals or vice versa? How has the nature of trade changed in the digital bazaar?
This seminar will examine the three powerful forces unleashed by this new technology. First, we will look at the network of connections that enables information exchange and allows businesses to be organized on a smaller scale. Second, we will examine the massive data that can be used to create stories about individuals, and we will explore how we are all affected by this phenomenon. Third, we will consider how our attention has become a scarce resource as a consequence of this connectivity. We are inundated with information, such as advertising, some of which appears to be free. We will explore whether information is truly free.
Our choices and our decision-making strategies adapt to our information environment so we will broaden our inquiry to discuss the shortcuts we take in our daily lives. Students will be encouraged to develop case studies of specific applications of digital technology that have impacted their lives. For example, how has the smartphone made a meaningful difference? Why do we "Venmo"?
Students will read chapters from the assigned text and articles to explore these ideas as they gain fluency in thinking about these issues in class discussion. Grades will be based on a short midterm essay, a final paper, and class discussion.
Kurt and Beatrice Gutmann Freshman Seminar in Human Values
This seminar considers the cultural, scientific, geopolitical, and military developments that led to the massive aerial bombardment of cities in World War II—including the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We address a troubling question of modern times: How did nations come to accept the bombing of civilian populations as a “normal” part of war?
Among other things, the seminar introduces students to the Japanese side of the story— including Japanese accounts of the atomic-bombing and firebombing. In addition, we consider the broader history of bombing cities that predated the atomic bombs. Beginning with aerial bombardment in World War I, the seminar will read about Japanese, German, and Italian bombing of civilians in the 1930s; European bombing to control colonial populations; the German “Blitz” of London and other British cities; and the Allied saturation bombing of German and Japanese cities. Readings will be supplemented by British, Japanese, German, and American films about the bombardments and the creation of the atomic bomb.
Seminar discussions will focus on an array of ethical and strategic questions. Was aerial bombardment effective in bringing about the defeat of Japan and Germany? Did the A-bombs by themselves end the war with Japan? What role did race play in targeting civilians? Was Japan singled out for atomic bombs because of American racism? To what extent did Western powers perfect bombing techniques by first using them against non-white populations in their colonies? Did the scientists who devised the atomic bomb or incendiary bombs bear significant responsibility? Although Americans and others condemn acts of “terrorism” today, how do we judge the Allies’ self-conscious adoption of “terror” to demoralize German and Japanese civilians in World War II? Can the bombing of cities—then or now--be justified if the cause is just? And is it moral or effective to use air power to bomb densely populated areas in order to save the lives of one’s own soldiers?
Daniel Hoffman Schwartz
Peter T. Joseph '72 Freshman Seminar in Human Values
In this moment of unprecedented economic inequality and populist backlash, the time seems ripe for a return to Marxism. But what exactly would such a 21st-century Marxism look like? How would Marx understand (or not understand) Trump and Brexit or, for that matter, Twitter and Facebook? How might Marxist thought need to be revised in light of the present? What can Marxism learn from other forms of critical thought and activism that have emerged in the 20th and 21st centuries, especially those concerned with race and gender? Our seminar will examine the contemporary viability of Marx’s fundamental concepts—labor, exploitation, ideology, surplus-value, class-consciousness, and revolution, among others. We will thus read classic texts by Marx (and Engels) alongside contemporary texts engaged with Marxist thought. The question of labor will be a particular focus, with an emphasis on those kinds of labor that do not fit Marx’s primarily industrial conception of labor: the historically unrecognized labor of women—exemplarily housework and “care” (or “affective labor”)—brought to light by Marxist feminism; the racialization of precarious labor; forms of labor associated with the internet and digitality (i.e., “informational” or “communicative” labor”). A second major focus will be the transformation of social movements and revolutionary politics: How do the #Blacklivesmatter and Occupy movements update Marxist paradigms? What does a 21st century strike look like? What forms of resistance and political organization are available to exploited subjects who do not fit the traditional ‘proletarian’ mold, from gig workers to indebted students to the unemployed to the incarcerated? What effects does social media have on political mobilization and political immobilization? Finally, it will also be necessary to ask if the Marxist critique of capitalist modernity supplies any tools to fight impending ecological catastrophe.
FRS 128 Dante’s Inferno LA (MW 1:30-2:50 PM)
Professor Whitney J. Oates '25 *31 Freshman Seminar in the Humanities
A three-part poetic report of a visionary journey through the realm of the dead, The Divine Comedy takes its readers on a ride through a gruesome hell, in which impenitent sinners are eternally chastised by the most imaginative torments; the more serene airs of purgatory, where souls of the repented purify and ready themselves for paradise; and a final vertiginous, poetically exhilarating, ascent through the heavens toward the direct beatific vision of God. Along the way, Dante — both author and protagonist — encounters souls from all ages of mankind and from the most diverse walks of life: from the most ancient ones, like Adam (in heaven), to the most recently deceased, like the last popes from Dante's own day (surprisingly confined to hell). These meetings not only punctuate and propel the poem's plot, but they also present its readers with larger cultural questions: Where should we draw the line between advancing religious convictions and struggling for power in politics? How should we choose from among competing philosophies of life? What is the nature of art? And more fundamentally, how do we read a poetic text? By presenting us with these questions, the poem will challenge and enrich our perception and understanding of religious, ethical, and aesthetical issues.
In this course, we will use Dante's The Divine Comedy as an invitation and a starting point to become better readers of literary texts. The seminar will consist of a collaborative, close reading of the Inferno; short introductory lectures will alternate with student-led class discussions, film screenings, and presentations on Dante's reception in modern poetry and art. We will use a bilingual edition, which will allow us to access the text easily, while providing us opportunities to observe nuances of meaning or style preserved in the original language. We will also take advantage of the wide array of resources available to Dante students at Princeton. The remarkable collection of illustrated editions of The Divine Comedy in Firestone Library, as well as the incredible wealth of information contained in the Web-based Princeton Dante Project, will help to familiarize us with the culture of Dante's time and the scholarly activity that has surrounded the poem over the last seven centuries.
One key feature of the course will be the experimentation with active-learning techniques. Students should expect, for instance, to work in small, fluidly forming, discussion groups to tackle key issues in the readings and report to the class. They will be asked to prepare one-word lectures on select cantos of the Inferno, defend them and eventually agree on one to be adopted as mnemonic aid for the class. Emulating professional Dante scholars, they will be given the opportunity to become the class leading experts on one facet of Dante’s culture. In sum, they will be asked to become directly responsible for an informed, meditated, and collaborative interpretation of the poem, so that our reading will constantly be refracted through the lens of each individual competence.
At the end of the seminar we will have acquired a wealth of techniques of interpretation that will prepare us to perceive and decode meaning in other literary texts beyond the Inferno. A great reader of classical and biblical poetry himself, Dante will be our first guide in this interpretive journey and help us develop and train our sensibilities for other poetry beyond his own.
L. Richardson Preyer '41 Freshman Seminar in Public Service
The Cold War influences our lives in more ways than we may realize. The institutions that govern our world today, from domestic national security structures to international organizations like the UN, NATO and even the international financial institutions, were largely shaped by the Cold War. Our ways of understanding international relations were likewise shaped by the omnipresence of military threats, real or imagined, to our security and well-being, which may help explain the over-militarized U.S. response to contemporary foreign policy challenges.
Undergraduates today experienced none of this history, and studied it through texts that often gave only cursory coverage to the creation, evolution, and eventual collapse of the Soviet empire. The instructor of this seminar, by contrast, spent a diplomatic career focusing on East-West affairs and culminating as Director for European Affairs at the White House during the East European revolutions of 1989, the unification of Germany, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Together in this seminar, we will look back on this period with the benefit of hindsight and with access to new archival material that allows us to understand what was happening behind the scenes in Washington, Moscow and other capitals. The assignments will come at or topic from different angles that will help us recapture the spirit of the times—via novels set in the Cold War, memoirs, contemporaneous journalistic accounts of key events in Cold War history, and audio and video material now available, including the 24-part CNN television documentary series on the Cold War. We hope to do so with a degree of perspective as well, so that we can transcend the Cold War’s legacy and prepare ourselves for the new challenges that lie ahead.
The main goals of the course are to develop your critical thinking and basic research skills, so that you can apply and further develop those skills in your future academic work. Secondarily, the course aims to familiarize you with the main currents of world history over the past century. The Cold War is interesting in its own right, but for this course, designed for students with a wide range of academic and career interests, the study of the Cold War is a vehicle to these other learning objectives.
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
Would you like to see a Degas pastel, a tour de force of 4th-century 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. There also will be a trip to New York City to visit museums.
Bert G. Kerstetter '66 Freshman Seminar
This seminar will explore some of the critical contributions of (mostly Allied) scientists, engineers, and mathematicians during World War II. Topics will include radar, the Spitfire and the Battle of Britain; cryptography and the breaking of the German Enigma code; microwave radar, operations research, and other technical breakthroughs in the Battle of the Atlantic against German submarines; the great advances in medicine—penicillin, anti-malarials, DDT and other—during the war; amphibious craft, advanced aircraft carriers, the B-29 Super-fortress in the Pacific theater; navigation aids, the proximity fuse, and the Mustang P-51 and the erratic history of strategic bombing; tides, weather, artificial harbors, deception in the D-Day invasion; and the Manhattan project to develop the atomic bomb.
How do films influence our understanding of politics? What role do state actors play in shaping the cinematic narratives we see on screen? This first-year seminar will introduce students to the field of political science by placing American and international films in conversation with scholarship on power, politics, and storytelling. Each week we will study a film, read related research, and analyze how one can inform our understanding of the other.
For example, to illuminate social science on political machines in urban politics we might watch Street Fight (dir. Marshall Curry, 2005), a documentary about the 2002 mayoral race in Newark between incumbent Sharpe James and challenger Cory Booker (now a senator representing New Jersey). To shed light on issues of political violence we might watch The Act of Killing (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012), a documentary about mass killings in Indonesia.
The course will focus on ethnic politics, broadly conceived, while considering a range of questions including, how do films influence public opinion? How do filmmaking techniques (e.g. cinematography, casting, sound design) influence which people and issues become salient? How do aesthetic and narrative choices affect attitudes about the social order and who is deserving of power? Through close readings of films, social science, and media studies scholarship, this course will enable students to study key political science concepts, the institution of cinema, and how films make meaning.
Anna Arabindan Kesson
Barrett Family Freshman Seminar
Over the last year, The New York Times published several articles describing how the perception of racial difference among hospital patients played a crucial role in the kind of medical care those patients received. These stories reinforce the work of Black feminist scholars like Dorothy Roberts and Ruha Benjamin, who have shown how racialized ways of seeing influence perceptions of bodies as healthy or sick, and as in pain or diseased. Taken together, this scholarship explores the ways in which meanings of race inform, and are informed by, the production of medical knowledge—the ways in which our conceptions of medicine, sickness and wellness are shaped by the ways we see and understand difference. The aim of this seminar is to unpack this relationship, and its longer history, by exploring the colonial origins of medical science and the central role that images played in the development and production of medical knowledge within the British Empire.
We will begin the course by briefly examining the different techniques that artists and scientists used over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to observe the body and translate their observations into visual representation. We will focus on how these images were used and circulated to produce knowledge about the human body, and how they taught people to see variation and difference within the natural world. Throughout we’ll trace the development of medical science in Britain and consider its role in the representation and categorization of human, racial and geographical difference by colonial explorers, merchants, scientists, doctors, and artists.
By understanding better the relationship between medical knowledge and racial categories, we’ll then be prepared to analyze the role of art in producing knowledge that was used to maintain and challenge structures of colonial power. Art was an important cultural sphere for the production and circulation of colonial medicine and categories of racial difference. In the visual material we will study, we can trace how art, medical science and constructions of race were used to influence perceptions of difference, and how these ways of seeing shaped the everyday structures of colonial society, both in Britain and in its colonies. Since these visual histories remain with us today, we will also be working through ways to dismantle their effects, meeting with artists and writers working at the nexus of art and science who are constructing alternative narratives for visualizing health, wellness and medicine that value difference. Students will also have the opportunity to travel to London during Spring break to visit important museums and collections. This trip is an essential component of the course, although it may be possible to find alternative arrangements if students have scheduling conflicts.
Because this seminar includes overseas travel, a current and valid passport is required at the time you register for this course. A valid passport is defined as one that is current and valid for six months from the date of your return.
In October 1922, when Benito Mussolini completed his semi-legal seizure of power in Italy, the Fascist era began in triumph and was cheered by the crowds. It ended two decades later in the Piazzale Loreto at Milan, where the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress were strung up by the heels by the partisans as silent evidence that the Fascist regime was indeed over. Between those two historical moments, Mussolini, the ex-socialist, had dominated the spotlight of Europe.
Produced from the post-World War II period to the present, the Italian, French, German, and Polish films we will study in this seminar establish a theoretical framework for the analysis of Fascism, its political ideology, and its ethical dynamics. We shall consider such topics as the concept of fascist normality, the racial laws, the morality of social identities (women, homosexuals), the Resistance, and the aftermath of the Holocaust. An interdisciplinary approach will be combined with learning basic concepts of film style, technique, and criticism. Some of the films we will study are Bertolucci's The Conformist, De Sica's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Malle's Au revoir les enfants, Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum, Wertmüller's Seven Beauties, Holland's Europa Europa, Polanski's The Pianist, Rossellini's Open City, and Benigni's Life is Beautiful.
Readings will focus primarily on historical essays, interviews with filmmakers, and critical reviews. Students are expected to view one film per week. Students will be required to write three 3-page papers based on the weekly readings and the films and a final paper (6-8 pages). All books will be available for purchase at the Labyrinth bookstore or can be consulted at Firestone Library. All other materials will be distributed by the instructor in class.
Jaamil Olawale Kosoko
Imagination gives us borders, gives us superiority, gives us race as an indicator of ability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone else's capability. I often feel I am trapped inside someone' else's imagination, and I must engage my own imagination in order to break free.”
― Adrienne Maree Brown, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds
How does the use of one’s imagination spark social and systemic change in the world? What does it mean to devote one's life to this kind of work? Blurring the lines between the creative and political experience, students will be introduced to the radical contemporary practices that interdisciplinary artists use to build creative, impactful lives. Our texts will include live and recorded performances, as well as historical and theoretical secondary sources. Every other week the class hosts a guest artist talk series featuring pioneering artists. We will take 2 to 3 field trips to surrounding cities to witness live performances, lectures, exhibitions, and/or films screenings.
Stansky Family Freshman Seminar
Cold War. Moscow, March 1953. Feared Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin dies, leaving a legacy of mass terror and an extensive system of slave labor camps full of innocent people arrested on trumped-up charges. This was Stalin’s Gulag, a highly secret institution whose name could not be spoken aloud for fear of arrest. The tyrant’s death sets off a leadership crisis and a power struggle ensues between notorious KGB chief Lavrenty Beria, Stalin henchman Georgy Malenkov, and Communist Party First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev. In a surprise one-two, Beria boldly moves to enhance his popularity and distance himself from Stalin by opening the gates of the Gulag, releasing 1.5 million convicts into Soviet society with no warning or preparation. This causes mass chaos. Soon the new government is flooded with petitions from people insisting on the release of their still-incarcerated relatives. In a few months, Beria is arrested and shot, and the unlikely Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev, a peasant from Ukraine with a 4th grade education, emerges victorious in the leadership struggle. As he battles to gain control over the Soviet Union, it becomes clear that he has to answer to his nation for the repression of the Gulag and all the pain it had cost the Soviet people for 25 years. On February 25, 1956, he makes the speech of his life at the 20th Communist Party Congress, and changes the course of the Soviet Union. In his “Secret Speech,” he shocks the world by denouncing Stalin and blaming him for all the terror that had taken place. With this, he ushers in a new era of openness and a lifting of Stalin’s repressive controls over Soviet life. Thus begins “The Thaw” in the USSR.
In this course, we will learn about Stalin’s repression and life in the Gulag, we will read from actual Politburo transcripts as the leadership contenders decide how to deal with each other and Stalin’s legacy, and we will look into Khrushchev’s earlier life for clues to his meteoric rise in the Communist Party. Then we will turn our attention to the incredible outpouring of creative energy as a population that had been repressed for decades comes alive. We will experience this unexpected Soviet freedom by reading the new “Thaw” literature, looking at outrageous “non-Soviet” art, fashion and design, watching “Thaw” films, and listening to the music of the bards. We will also follow Khrushchev as he travels the world as the new Soviet leader touting his new doctrines of “de-Stalinization” and “peaceful co-existence.” And finally, we will examine the inevitable disastrous consequences of Khrushchev’s new policies on the Socialist bloc, as these countries, one after another, erupt in disarray and revolution, trying to leave Communism behind.
Throughout the course, we will focus on ethical and sociological questions posed by Khrushchev’s actions. Was Communism as a form of government structurally repressive? Was Stalin really the only person responsible for the mass arrests and the Gulag that terrorized the nation? As one of Stalin’s loyal followers, was Khrushchev guilty, too? Was the Communist Party? Were all ordinary citizens? And if so, what has this meant for today’s Russia, a country that still has not come to terms with its complicity and responsibility for Stalin’s crimes?
Shelly and Michael Kassen '76 Freshman Seminar
Over the past few decades, we have seen the discovery of some amazing medicines with dramatic benefits to the quality of human life. To many, however, the firm belief that science will triumph over disease has been replaced by doubt, frustration, and fear. Where are the new medicines? HIV, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease are not yielding after years of work. Tuberculosis and malaria are coming back, long after we declared them solved problems. New, really frightening strains of bacteria and viruses, resistant to old treatments, arrive every day. What are we to do?
This seminar will be an optimistic (I promise) look at the ways that medicines are created and tested. Participants will gain an appreciation for the complexities and risks of drug discovery—and a glimpse into what the next decade promises to bring. Topics will include: immunotherapy for cancer, teachings from mother nature, unmet medical needs, target selection, toxicity, clinical trials, neglected diseases, economic models of drug discovery (and drug pricing), along with how to address pandemics. Class time will be a blend of lectures and discussions on the basics of drug discovery coordinated with case studies. Guest speakers will range from experts in oncology to business development.
This seminar is appropriate for both non-science and science concentrators with an interest in the future of healthcare. Students will choose a disease and then identify a path toward a new way to treat it.
What is Secularism? The answer to this question seems at once obvious yet abstruse. In contemporary parlance, while religion is usually associated with such things as belief, God, prayer, and the church, secularism is defined as the opposite of all things religious. But is it so? And how have we come to imagine secularism in this manner? This course will engage these questions and try to complicate the often-assumed opposition between the religious and the secular by developing an understanding of secularism as a form of discourse and power that constantly defines and shapes what religion in the modern world should look like. Through a thoroughly interdisciplinary exploration of the social, political, and economic activity that fuels the making of religion and its so-called other, we will develop a narrative that reveals the mutual dependence and overlap between the categories of religion and secularism across time and space.
The study of secularism bears massive consequences for the way we understand law, politics, religion, and even the environment. In what ways do laws about religious freedom depend on secular understandings of religion? How is the concept of secularism intimately bound to the political history and experience of western colonialism? In what ways do secular attitudes shape the way we imagine environmental development? This course will wrestle with these questions with the view to showing the importance of secularism studies to a range of different themes and questions central to the humanities and social sciences. This course will include guest lectures, class field trips, and other in-class interactive assignments and activities. A central focus of this class will be on developing the skill of the close reading of theoretically-oriented humanistic texts.
FRS 160 How Not to Be a Leader LA (T, Th 1:30-2:50 PM)
Since the 70s, US education has had “leadership” as its vector—even kindergarteners are supposed to find “The Leader in Me.” But if everybody wants to be a leader, is there anybody left willing to be led? We are presently at a critical juncture: large parts of the population are expressing their frustration about the lack of leadership when it comes to implementing strategies to secure a common future; environmental activist Greta Thunberg (15) expressed her anger at the UN Climate Summit: “Our leaders are behaving like children.” Similar views are held by high-school students in the US rallying for gun control. Thus, in response to failures of leadership within the political class, high school students have emerged as figures of leadership of a different sort.
From such protest movements we can learn how political action might look that does not take the classical centralized form of leadership; this serves as a point of departure in turn to study theories of leaderlessness (Bataille, Clastres, Graeber, Robinson, Tiqqun, Bernadette Corporation). The question which this seminar raises is polemical in nature: How Not to Be a Leader? Which is to say: “Welcome to the Ivy League! Now let’s put some sand in the machine!” Let’s reflect on how not to self-optimize, how not to push yourself to the brink by discussing, week by week: “How not to succeed” (poems by Emily Dickinson and Lydia Davis), “How to hide your success” (Le Guin, “Sur”), how to be small (Lispector, “The Smallest Woman on Earth”), “How not to learn anything” (Walser, Jakob von Gunten), “How to get fired” (Wilder, The Apartment; Melville, “Bartleby”), “How to become a leftover” (Varda, The Gleaners and I; Bahrani, Plastic Bag) “How Not to Survive” (Adams, Last Chance to See, Jarman Blue), and, finally “How Not to Be a Super-Caller” (Riley, Sorry to Bother You). The humanities and the arts are currently under attack again (“What’s the use of the arts?” “What’s the value of the humanities?”). But this also means that the arts, together with those who have been traditionally excluded from leadership (children, women, the queer, the colonized) have the potential to serve as experts in resisting, questioning, testing, and ironizing the lure of the leader.
Richard L. Smith '70 Freshman Seminar
This seminar is focused on contemporary issue in Bioethics particularly on developments on the biomedical frontier that generate significant ethical, and/or legal and/or public policy issues. Thus we address ethical, legal and policy issues arising out of the evolving doctor/patient relationship, the contemporary use of human subjects in clinical trials, and such issues as eugenics in its classical and contemporary form, genetic engineering in animals and plants [including CRISPR-Cas9 and athletic enhancement], rights of non-human animals, ethical perspectives on suicide and physician assisted suicide, IVF, gestational motherhood and the shifting definition of families, cloning and embryonic stem cell research. In dealing with these and related subjects we will try to think carefully about the public policy issues as well as the legal and ethical issues that might arise and how they are resolved in different countries and in some cases how these issue might be handled in the different states within the U.S.
Central to many of these issues is the structure of ethical norms, the architecture of the U.S. Constitution, the role of the Courts in dealing with moral issues and the capacity of public policy to address issues where moral disagreements arise. Indeed in any liberal democracy we should expect moral disagreements to be the norm in many arenas. Within liberal democracies most controversies in bioethics require not a simple resolution, but a politically stable set of decision mechanisms for peacefully living together in the face of differing views on certain ethical issues.
At a time when our political discourse seems frayed at best, this course uses creative and critical tools from theater, sociology, and civics to learn about the people who make government and citizenship function at a local level. To that end, we will analyze local democratic processes in Princeton and Trenton, along with other cities, in order to examine ways that the performance of democracy can be different from its enactment. Through a hands-on, layered and fun study of the decision-making, empathy, citizenship, and dramaturgy of power that make up these political landscapes, you’ll leave the class understanding how officials, activists, and citizens sort through bureaucratic processes, find ways to work together, and actually make things happen. Assignments include short readings and response papers, observations and reflections on guest visits and interviews, and a collaborative final project. If you are interested in public policy, philosophy, live performance or social science, this class is ideal for you.
Questions engaged by this course include:
• How do we perform power and who gets to play which roles?
• Why are local government meetings structured the way they are?
• How can the tools of theater inform our understanding of politics?
• How can more people feel more empowered to participate in our democracy?
Class work includes brief readings from the ancient Greeks to contemporary thinkers, and ranges from 1950s sociologists to modern-day theater directors. Over the course of the semester we will observe city council meetings in Trenton and Princeton and watch recordings of one in Philadelphia. We’ll interview local elected officials, staffers, activists, and other citizens and write reflections on those conversations. As a final class project, we’ll pull together the most interesting and illustrative moments from what we see and hear into a short script, then invite an audience to enact that with us. Our goal is that by the end of the semester we learn through observation, reflection and collaboration how we might activate civic engagement among diverse populations.
FRS 166 What to Read and Believe in the Digital Age SA (W 1:30-4:20 PM)
This intensive seminar will immerse students in cutting-edge topics in journalism, touching on everything from fake news to filter bubbles to troll farms to comedy news to Pizzagate.
Those subjects will provide a lens through which the course will examine the challenges and opportunities that today’s rapidly evolving media landscape presents to freedom of the press and to the democracy that the media serve. Discussion will focus on where journalism comes from and how citizens can best assess the credibility of individual news reports. Students will evaluate how successful traditional mass-media outlets and emerging digital media have been at accomplishing the lofty goals embodied in the First Amendment, and they will develop strategies for crafting a personal media diet that will nourish them intellectually for the rest of their lives. They will explore muckraking, ethics and the rapidly evolving economics of the news industry. Students will discuss the responsibilities of journalists and the sometimes-conflicting professional tenets of objectivity, neutrality and advocacy.
Readings, topics and guest speakers will evolve to address breaking news events and the particular interests of the students enrolled. Like today’s media itself, the seminar will be fluid and apt to head in surprising directions. Students will read the web sites of The Washington Post and The New York Times daily. They also will seek out and consume serious, substantial journalism in all forms -- including social media, audio journalism and mobile apps -- and bring examples and analysis back to class for discussion. Many classes will include a visit by an award-winning journalist who will share favorite reporting techniques. The speakers also will share tales of their in-the-field experiences, from Capitol Hill to war zones around the world.
Students will have frequent writing assignments and will produce one major news article of their own whose preparation will span the length of the course. The seminar will take a field trip to the headquarters of a major news organization.
Note: This seminar will fulfill the “gateway course” requirement necessary to qualify for a Certificate in Journalism.
Does a “rise ball,” or a “rising fastball,” really move in a gravity-defying way? Where is the sweet spot of a bat, and does hitting the ball there result in more hits? How does spin rate affect the trajectory of a pitched ball and does a pitcher always want maximum spin? A few Major League Baseball (MLB) parks have started storing their baseballs in humidors; why would they do this and how does it change the game? This seminar will explore the physics behind these situations and many more.
The coursework will be split into four units, each of which will explain the physics concepts of a different setting on the baseball/softball field. The first unit will explore the trajectories of batted and pitched balls, paying special attention to the effects produced by spin; this will be done, in part, by analyzing MLB data collected with the PITCHf/x system. The second unit will discuss the dynamics of swinging a bat, investigating issues such as swing weight, bat vibrations, and the sweet spot; this will be done through measurements and experiments with actual baseball and softball bats. The third unit will look at the interaction between the ball and the bat; this will be tacked on two fronts, by conducting experiments with ball-bat collisions and by investigating MLB data collected before and after the use of humidors. The final unit of the seminar will focus on specific questions that spark student interest (see below).
Each unit will involve discussions, problem-solving, experimentation with baseball/softball equipment, and analysis of MLB data. The first three units of the seminar will be taught in a “studio style,” where concept discussion and problem-solving is interwoven with hands-on experimentation. It will start with a discussion of a known ball/bat phenomenon, an overview of the basic physics describing this, and then move on to an experiment studying the phenomenon. This style will allow the complete exploration of each topic while also facilitating interactive, discussion-based class meetings.
The semester’s final two weeks will be devoted to student-designed projects. These projects will require students to answer one question that has intrigued them throughout the semester. The project will require students to develop a specific question and then devise a way to answer it. In cases where the student’s question has been answered in the literature, they will be asked to expand on what is already known.
We go about the world feeling that we perceive things objectively, as they truly are. This could not be farther from the truth. From visual perception to social evaluation, our lives are full of illusions, and our reality is but an interpretation, biased by our history. In this seminar, we will discuss our subjective reality beginning from perception and perceptual illusions (and how our view of the world is shaped by filters that are based on past experience), continuing to thought distortions and mental illnesses such as anxiety and schizophrenia (where subjective interpretations deviate most strongly from the “norm”), and finally to social “illusions” of stereotypes, racism and sexism and how these shape our perception and evaluation of others. We will discuss the implications of the subjectivity of our experience to our lives, and how we can take it into account when communicating with others who inevitably have a different subjective reality.
From the navigation apps on your cell phone to ancient drawings of an Earth not yet fully explored, maps demonstrate the fundamental ways in which we understand and interact with our world. They can be beautiful pieces of art, but they also represent the collection, analysis, and presentation of rich datasets related to politics, populations, commerce, ecosystems, and the environment. Almost every discipline deals with geographic information, from sociologists who may track demographic patterns, economists who may map the flow of goods and services from one place to another, ecologists who may document the distribution of species, and landscape designers who may create new spaces that foster community building. This seminar is designed to bring together students with a wide range of interests to learn practical skills of modern, digital geographic analysis and graphic design—skills that will be applied in diverse ways to the big problems of many fields—and to discuss the advances and challenges of mapping in the 21st century. How do maps help and hinder our understanding of the world? How do free and widely available tools like Google Maps change our interactions with geographic data? How can mapping skills transform your education and future career path? Each week, we will meet for half of the class in the Council on Science and Technology’s StudioLab to do hands-on activities and discussions that will help us grapple with mapping and design concepts. The other half will focus on creating maps and analyzing spatial data in the Lewis Library Map and Geospatial Information Center. Weekly assignments, readings, and discussions will prepare students to contribute original research in their field of interest by the end of the semester.
Joyce Carol Oates
Donna '78 and Michael S. Pritula '78 Freshman Seminar
What is “The American Dream”? Is it an ideal, a shared cultural goal, a perennial challenge? A riddle, a chimera? How does the American Dream manifest itself in individual works of art?
“The American Dream: Visions and Subversions” will explore, primarily in American literature, themes of individual and cultural identity from 19th century texts (by Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Mark Twain, Kate Chopin) through 20th century texts (by Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, James Baldwin, Flannery O’Connor) and 21st century fiction (by Jhumpa Lahiri, Lorrie Moore, Junot Diaz, Ha Jin among others).
Supplementary texts may include William James’s “Varieties of Religious Experience,” de Tocqueville ‘s “Democracy in America,” and selected memoirs (by Mary Karr, Tobias Wolff, Edmund White, Anthony Bourdain, Steve Martin) as well as selected art, photography, drama, and films.
Students will write 1-2 page papers each week on assigned topics, present one half-hour analysis and discussion of a text or art-work to the class, and write one major paper of 12-15 pages due at the end of the course. Also due at the end of the course will be a portfolio, or facsimile of a book, containing all of your work for the semester as well as a cover, cover art and design, table of contents, and back cover. (Careful instruction will be given on the creation of this “book.”)
Students will be encouraged to pursue individual projects that might involve making contact with/interviewing appropriate contemporary writers or artists.