Fall 2022 First Year Experience Courses
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- Putin’s Russia
- Soy Cuba: Cuban Youth in Word, Image, and Sound
- Memory and the American Civil War
- The Innovation Economy
- Dialogues with the Dead
- Food for Thought
- What’s Your Story?
- Between Good and Evil
- What Good is College?
- Make It New: Modernism in Literature and the Arts
- Island Energy: Geophysics and the Arts
- The Monstrous and the Marvelous: Fairy Tales across Cultures
A. Putin’s Russia
It came as a shock to much of the world on February 24th of this year when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. But for those paying attention it was less of a surprise. Over the years, Putin has engaged in military conflict all over the world, has assassinated enemies both in and outside of his own country, and has meddled in the internal affairs of the United States and various European nations. His invasion of Ukraine was simply the continuation of a war started in 2014. Furthermore, Putin’s rise fits into a broader wave in populist movements that can be seen in Hungary, Poland, Italy, Britain, and the United States. In this class we will examine the history of Putin’s rise to power, the cultural environment it has produced, and the furtive democratic moments that have risen to meet it. Among other things we’ll look at the fall of the Soviet Union, the rise of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s political meddling, Pussy Riot, Alexei Navalny, and of course the invasion and ongoing war in Ukraine.
B. Soy Cuba: Cuban Youth in Word, Image, and Sound
“Soy Cuba: Cuban Youth in Word, Image, and Sound” explores the voices and perspectives of Cuban youth through ethnographic interviews, as well as literary, visual, and audiovisual texts. As a collaborative, project-based course, students will create a digital, in-house archive of Cuban narratives. They will also document their processes of academic and personal development as first-year college students participating in a cross-cultural learning experience with Cuban youth.
C. Memory and the American Civil War
In this FYE, students will investigate the impact of the Civil War on American memory, politics, and art. We’ll explore questions like: How might we understand the urge to memorialize racially charged moments in US history? How have images of the plantation system and its legacies—from Gone with the Wind to Get Out—shaped American identity? How has our two-party system evolved since the Civil War?
By analyzing films, public monuments, and the US political system, students will learn to draw connections and make interpretive arguments. To support students in doing this work, and thriving in college more generally, the course will also devote time to writing and editing, time management, and navigating life at Wheaton. By the end of the semester, students will be better prepared to reflect on tough questions, as well as approach the rest of their classes at Wheaton.
D. The Innovation Economy
In this first year experience (FYE) course, students will explore the entrepreneurial frontier where innovative technology transforms the market economy. We – a mathematician, an economist, and an entrepreneurship scholar – examine with our students how economic growth is driven as much by processes of trial and error as by design. Government investment in national goals enables the discovery of new knowledge and fuels the innovation process for the betterment of humanity, providing the building blocks of new technologies. Nevertheless, it is the downstream experiments in exploiting novel technologies and processes by private sector actors that bring them to customers and other end-users. Financial bubbles and speculative investment amplify the impact of innovations and accelerate their impact.
E. Dialogues with the Dead
One of the great world myths is the trip to Hell. The hero overcomes an insurmountable obstacle in order to speak with the dead who possess the knowledge they need. The basic story stays the same, but these dialogues in the underworld reflect the changing world above as much as they reflect the unchanging world within. We’ll start 4,000 years ago with the Epic of Gilgamesh and engage in dialogue with the likes of Homer’s Odysseus, multiple incarnations of Orpheus, Virgil’s Aeneas, Menippus the Cynic, Apuleius’ Psyche, and Dante’s Pilgrim.
F. Food for Thought
What is food? It’s such a simple question at first. But when the four of us started answering that question, our first impulse was to ask more questions. Is food what you eat? Is food what you buy at the grocery store? Yes, what you buy at the grocery store is what you eat, but there are so many other questions to ask about eating. When, with whom, and how do we eat? Why do we choose some food over others? How does what we eat affect ourselves and others? There are so many ways to analyze why we eat what we eat that have little to do with what’s available in a grocery store. Family traditions. Religious traditions. Concerns for animal welfare. Convenience. Necessity. Can we just keep eating food without being mindful of these concerns? Doesn’t the situation of our planet (8 billion people, climate change) require all of us to think about more than ourselves? How can we possibly balance all these concerns and still register true delight and relish with what we are eating?
G. What’s Your Story?
A geologist, a children’s lit professor, an actor, and a businessman walk into a bar… Join us as we lay the foundation for you to interrogate your own stories, while digging into the Wheaton College experience, and plotting your own path forward. We’ll look at the power of storytelling from a variety of perspectives including science and the arts. You’ll be getting up, moving around, and interacting with other students and the world around you. By the end of the course, you will be able to advocate for yourselves and feel more connected with your fellow students and the Wheaton community. Plus, you might be able to help us finish the joke!
H. Between Good and Evil
This FYE links two disciplines, philosophy and psychology. The courses—”What is the Good Life?” and “The Social Psychology of Good and Evil,”—examine the nature and meaning of these foundational concepts. The courses will study real-world examples of individuals who are caught between good and evil, attempting to navigate the situational, societal, and political contexts in which they find themselves. We will draw upon a range of historical, contemporary, fictional, and scientific texts to critically analyze the human struggle to live a good life. This FYE invites students to contemplate their own lives through reflections, activities, and practices aimed at paving the way toward a meaningful and purposeful existence.
I. What Good Is College?
Linda Eisenmann and Kerra Gazerro
Monday & Wednesday 12:30–1:50 p.m.
We will explore the different ways people think about college, as well as whether college is equally good for everyone who attends. In the U.S., people have long idealized higher education as a meritocracy, offering opportunities for upward social mobility for any student with the drive, intelligence, and desire to succeed. But, is it possible that the way college is organized benefits some people more than others?
J. Make It New: Modernism in Literature and the Arts
Do we experience the world as it really is? Do the arts represent the world? Or do they create the world for us to understand? Can we understand the world at all? How about ourselves? These are a few of the questions raised by the artists, musicians, and writers whose ideas became central to early-twentieth century modernism. We will focus especially on German and Austrian figures such as the psychologist Sigmund Freud, the artist Wassily Kandinsky, the composer Arnold Schoenberg, the architect Mies van der Rohe, and the writer Franz Kafka who didn’t just change their disciplines: they radically transformed the ways that humans thought about themselves, their relationships with each other and with society as a whole, and how the arts could be used to explore these new conceptions of the world. By questioning, reformulating, and even destroying 19th-century ideas about art, music, literature, and human nature, modernism paved the way for a new world: one marked by an unceasing critical exploration of nearly every aspect of human culture and society.
K. Island Energy: Geophysics and the Arts
The world’s islands provide opportunity to study how peoples’ cultural values and worldviews, expressed through their stories, visual and performing arts, are shaped by the geophysical world around them. In this first-year experience, students will explore how the unique physical environments of islands are reflected in the cultures and artistic practices of the people living there. Topics will range from volcanoes, architecture and avant-garde pop music in Iceland to petroleum geology and Trinidad’s infectious steelband music, from a long tradition of tranquille renderings of the natural world and the escalating reality of typhoons and tsunamis in Japan, to the complicated relationships represented within Hula, decisions surrounding astronomy and geothermal energy in Hawaii.
L. The Monstrous and the Marvelous: Fairy Tales Across Cultures
Laura Bohn Case and Kerra Gazerro
Monday & Wednesday, 2–3:20 p.m.
This FYE analyzes the structure, meaning, and function of fairy tales and their enduring influence on literature and popular culture. We will draw fairy tales from various national traditions and historical periods and examine them as cherished yet controversial conduits of learning that framed our childhood and shaped personal identities. We will explore pedagogical and political uses and abuses of fairy tales and investigate their origins and their continued relevance in, for example, children’s psychological development, traditional gender roles, as well as the means by which fairy tale and folk motifs are transferred to other media such as film (think Disney!) and music.