• The YC Core

    Course Descriptions

    Course offerings vary from semester to semester. Please consult the list below to determine which courses will be offered the current semester.

    Cultures Over Time (CUOT)

  • CUOT 1003 The Monstrous

    Professor Lavinsky
    Werewolves, dragons, giants, witches, demons, lepers, anthropophagi (a race of cannibals with eyes in their chests)—the Middle Ages were awash in tales of the monstrous.  In this class, we will consider monsters and the monstrous from the perspectives of history writing, travel accounts, folklore, drama, and literary texts.  Though sometimes dismissed as the imaginings of a more credulous era, such material not only drew on classical authors but also continued to have wide currency in early modern England, persisting through the change in religious culture known as the Reformation.  Indeed, as the word “monster” (derived from the Latin verb

    monstrare, or “to show”) suggests, stories of the monstrous reveal much about the cultures in which they circulated.  Our readings will track medieval and early modern attitudes toward religious identity, birth and reproductive practices, gender, personhood, animality, and the supernatural. Throughout the term, we will make sense of these topics by employing methods, questions, and theoretical propositions from different academic disciplines, primarily English and History.



    CUOT 1002 Roman Empire in Theory and Practice

    Professor Stenhouse
    This course examines various ways of understanding the figure of the Roman emperor, by focusing on the first emperor Augustus. We will consider a range of textual and visual sources for the emperor, including poems, historical accounts, and coins, and place the emergence of the emperors within Rome’s political, religious and cultural traditions. Assessment will be by exams and a range of short papers. For syllabus see here.

    CUOT 1004 Classical to Renaissance

    Professor Nochimson
    The culture that produced the great literary works of ancient and classical Greece and the culture that produced the great literary works of the European Renaissance have been stimulating critical and literary responses for centuries.  This course will examine those two cultures through study of three representative authors from each, considering those authors' works both as independent entities and in their cultural contexts, and considering the works from the two cultures in relation to each other.  It will aim to provide the student the opportunity to think not only like a literary critic but also like a psychologist, a philosopher, a cultural historian, a theologian, an anthropologist.

    In studying these two important pre-modern cultures, students will seek to gain an awareness of the distinctiveness of the past in relation to the present and an understanding of the values, traditions, and modes of thinking of ancient and classical Greece and the European Renaissance.  

    CUOT 1016 From Tradition to Modernity

    Professor Weidhorn
    We will begin by tracing the rise of Christianity as embodied in the three greatest Christian literary works—the New Testament, Augustine’s Confessions, Dante’sCommedia. Then we observe the fragmentation of the Christian vision during the Renaissance. A subsequent one-two punch dealt a lethal blow to the hegemony of the faith, as first Martin Luther and then Galileo dismantled the four basic values. The triumph of the latter pioneer caused all intellectual disciplines to adopt the new procedures of modern science. The results were secularism, meliorism, and individualism. This is the world which, for better or worse, we inhabit, unless one is Amish or Charedi. 


    CUOT 1021 Origins of Democratic Political Culture

    Professor Freedman

    Today, in the Western democracies, we take for granted certain norms of political life: constitutional government, sovereignty of the people, legislative bodies elected at regular intervals according to the principle of one person one vote, secret ballots, competition among established political parties, ministerial accountability, and, most important of all, the constitutional guarantee of such basic human rights as are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. None of those features of modern political life, however, existed before the late eighteenth century. At that time, most states were still subject to the rule of kings, their societies divided into legally distinct orders based on the principle of hereditary privilege. This course will examine the origins of our democratic political culture as that culture took shape—haltingly, incompletely, and violently—in the first great revolutions of the modern era: the American and above all the French. In addition to works by historians dealing with the Age of Revolution and primary sources from the late eighteenth century, readings for the course will include some more theoretical work devoted to the doctrine of human rights, its evolution in modern societies, and its uses—and misuses—in the world today. 
    CUOT 1010 Coffee and the Creation of “Modernity”

    Professor Levin
    Coffee, the second most valuable commodity traded on world markets, is ubiquitous in contemporary American culture—so much so that it’s difficult to imagine that there was a time before coffee. But there was. Coffee wasn’t introduced into the Ottoman Empire until the end of the 15th century and into Europe until the 17th century. The world at the end of the 18th century looked very different than it had at the beginning of the 16th, and coffee had a lot to do with it.

    We will examine the introduction and reception of coffee in the early-modern Ottoman world and subsequently in 17th– and 18th–century Europe. Using journalistic, literary and visual sources, we will explore how multiple societies responded to the introduction of coffee—a novel, foreign and exotic drink, as well as how the eventual European thirst for coffee impelled the development of a system of colonialism, or world trade. Drawing on approaches from disciplines including history, sociology and anthropology, we will trace how coffee, an everyday object, transformed cultures into which it was introduced. At the same time, we will consider how the act of drinking coffee took on divergent political and cultural symbolism in disparate contexts, including the Ottoman world, European nations and colonial societies.

    The early modern world saw the birth of many aspects of culture and society that we consider “modern,” including “nightlife” in all its varieties, a bourgeois “middle class," “consumerism,” “public space” and “globalization.” Together we will analyze the central role coffee and coffeehouses played in their creation and in the creation of “modernity.”

    For syllabus see here.

    CUOT 1011 Cultures of Revolt

    Professor Aroosi
    For many observers of European political history, the 19th century was one of unprecedented peace. Beginning with the fall of Napoleon in 1815, and lasting until the 1914 outbreak of the First World War, this era was punctuated with few international conflicts, while those that did occur were limited in scope. However, if we refocus our gaze to domestic affairs, we find that this period was actually more tumultuous than most others. The 19th century’s problem wasn’t war, but insurrection, as it unfolded in the wake of the American, French and Haitian revolutions. Moreover, the 19th spirit of revolt continued to animate the 20th century, as well as our own.

    Turning first to the 19th century, and then to the 20th, we will explore this burgeoning culture of revolt, in a variety of its forms, so as to see how the spirit of revolution manifested itself in a myriad of ways—and how various forces attempted to respond. However, our concern will not only be to survey this vital and diverse culture, but to arrive at some specific insights into the nature of revolution. After all, in the glimpse it offers of dramatic political change, revolution distills many of the central concerns of political thinkers, insofar as we are motivated by the study of politics, and by their improvement. Into our study of the culture of revolt, we will therefore be tasked with understanding why some individuals risk life and limb to overthrow an old regime in the name of a new one.

    CUOT 1012 Ethics and Character

    Professor Carmy
    Twentieth-century ethical theory was dominated by approaches concerned exclusively with duty or with utility. In recent years philosophers have evinced a renewed interest in virtue, i.e., character formation, the good life and the like. This entails greater attention to the concrete ways that ethical theory expresses the ideas and ideals of particular cultures. The cogency and relevance of philosophical argument is enhanced by attending carefully to implicit, unacknowledged presuppositions that require an understanding of social, psychological and religious practices and goals, not only as external influences, but as constituents of philosophical positions themselves.

    We begin by examining three representative thinkers—Mill, Kant and Aristotle—with special attention to the place of character in their ethics and their cultural context. We then turn to other major thinkers, like Maimonides, Hume, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. The third part of the course introduces the late 20th-century debate and, time permitting, interdisciplinary themes relating to ethical emotions like honor, shame and guilt.

    CUOT 1014 The Arch of Titus

    Professor Fine

    This course explores the Arch of Titus, one of the most significant Roman monuments to survive from antiquity, from the perspectives of Roman, Jewish and later Christian history and art. We will examine both the contexts for the construction of this monument and the continued reflection that it has evoked over the last almost 2000 years, and especially since it's menorah relief was chosen as a symbol for the State of Israel in 1949.

  • COWC 1002 Diaspora Literature

    Professor Stewart
    Literatures of the 20th and 21st centuries that share the legacy of massive historical dispersals of peoples, the dissemination of many of their respective cultures, and their encounters with other cultures. African, Asian, and Jewish diasporic literature, with an emphasis on American “minor” literatures (Asian American, African American, Jewish American) and Caribbean literature. Explorations of diasporic cultures’ survivals and transformations in hybrid forms resulting from the continued, and continuously revised, interactions with other, especially “host,” cultures.


    COWC 1003 Race, Ethnicity and Religion

    This course examines the power relationships surrounding discussions of culture by looking at the interactions of race, ethnicity and religion through an interdisciplinary framework. Though most of the material discusses American cultural groups, we will maintain a global perspective through investigation of immigrant groups and examples from abroad. Selected topics include Thai immigrant and white Theravada Buddhism in the United States; diasporic Jewish cultures; Christian attempts to develop multiethnic congregations; African-American Islam; Central American liberation theology; and the Black Church in the United States. For syllabus see here.

    COWC 1015 Social Movements

    Professor Kosak
    Social movements and protest politics of the 1960s, such as civil rights, women’s liberation, environmentalism, and the American Indian movement, had a profound impact on American political landscape and American history.  These movements -- their origins, forms of protest, and methods of mobilization, organizations, goals, and cultures -- became subjects of inquiry for both historians and sociologists. In this course, we will explore some of the theories of the two disciplines, while examining a broad variety of movements (and some counter movements) of the 19th and 20th century, as well as exploring movements of our own time such as the movements that erupted in 2011 in Europe, in the US, and in the Middle East (including Israel).


    COWC 1006 Nationalism

    Professor Zimmerman
    This course traces the rise and spread of national movements in Europe and the Middle East from the French Revolution to the outbreak of World War II in 1939. Part I examines how contemporaries and subsequent scholars have understood the terms “nations” and “nationalism.” We then examine the emergence of liberal or civic nationalism in Western and Central Europe down to Italian and German unification in 1871. The transition from civic to ethnic nationalism in Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire is examined in the context of the gradual disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires in the period 1871–1914. It is in this context that we also analyze the various expressions of Jewish nationalism, both Zionist and non-Zionist forms, in a comparative context.

    Part II of the course examines the victory of the principle of national self-determination in the first half of the 20th century. This idea culminated in the Treaty of Versailles and the emergence of new national states in Eastern Europe and the Middle East that resulted in both independent Arab states and European colonial rule. The new states of Eastern Europe and the Middle East both solved the national problem for those peoples who received statehood and simultaneously created new conflicts with regard to minorities within those new states. We shall differentiate types of minorities and examine minority policies in the new states and their international dimension. A survey of each new state will highlight the minority population and their unfulfilled national aspirations, often with their mother country across the border.

    The interdisciplinary component will be satisfied by including artistic expressions of nationalism with a focus on music and painting. Furthermore, inclusion of theoretical texts in sociology (Max Weber) and history (Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson) will be presented and analyzed.

    COWC 1007 Introduction to Folk Traditions

    Traditional literature is also referred to as folklore. It encompasses the rituals, customs, superstitions and manners of a particular group that are passed orally or in writing from one generation to the next. We will discover the amazing diversity of what constitutes folklore and how it is defined. For now, recognize it is (1) the study of what the folk, not the elite, create and (2) the transmission—from generation to generation, from group to group, or from individual to . . .—of dance, costume, art, musical instruments, chants, proverbs, as well as a dizzying host of other creations. We will discuss how some believe contemporary or modern folklore is deemed folklore. For syllabus see here.

    COWC 1009 Genocide

    Professor Burgess
    This course explores the emergence and incidence of genocide in the 20th and 21st centuries. Examined topics include the genocide of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, atrocities of colonization, the Holocaust and more recent examples in Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur. Discussion will include the following issues: What does “genocide” mean, and why is it a modern phenomenon? What are its root causes? What distinguishes it from ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity? Is this distinction a viable one? Can genocide be prosecuted or prevented? For syllabus see here.

    COWC 1008 Political Geography

    Professor Bevan

    How does our physical environment – our geographical confines, shape the way in which we live in social units?  This question sets our course for the semester.  We shall be focusing on the social organization of space as defined territorially (e.g., natural boundaries), culturally (e.g., private vs. public space) and politically (e.g., open versus closed social space, hierarchical versus egalitarian space). Modern technology has compressed time and space, making the world “smaller” and more interactive. To speak about Contemporary World Cultures, the theme of this part of the Core Curriculum at Yeshiva College, one can no longer refer to national (political) cultures as discrete units since all cultures exist within the crosscurrents of globalization. This course, therefore, analyzes the linkage between space, culture and political power in the modern technological age. We shall establish the theoretical framework for analyzing space and then apply this framework to specific social constructs with emphasis upon China and Japan.

    COWC 1012 Travel, Technology and Modernity

    Professor Burgess

    This course examines how mechanized transport revolutionized travel in the 19th and 20th centuries: fostering imperialism, creating the modern “tourist” and transforming perceptions of cultures encountered en route. From the fantasies of Jules Verne to the modern seagoing behemoths of today, our understanding of the world has been irrevocably shaped by the machines we employ to reach it

  • INTC 1001 Books on Books/Films on Films

    Professor Geyh

    What do literature and film tell us about themselves and each other?  How is reading a novel or short story different from “reading” a film? What happens when a story passes from one medium to another? By addressing these questions, this course will help student to develop a deeper understanding of literature and film and the relationships between them.
    The course will begin by examining the key elements of literary and cinematic story telling, and how these elements come together to produce the meaning of a story. Then we will explore various approaches used in the analysis of literature and film, including both theoretical texts and close readings of particular works in both media, with the aim of enabling students to create their own compelling interpretations of literature and film.

    INTC 1004H Recognition: Scenes and Plots

    Professor Newton
    This course will focus on the recognition scene across a range of genres and periods, from literature and philosophy to contemporary visual media. We will begin the course with fiction by Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) and Mendele Moykher Sforim (1835–1917). We will read selections from Homer’s Odyssey and Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, excerpts from several parshiot and from Megillat Ester (graphic novel version), aggadot from the Bavli and a tale from 1001 Nights. We will take a tour of recognition scenes across the canon of Anglo-American literary fiction. We will read short stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen Crane, Henry James and Borges again, and a selection from Marcel Proust, followed by specimens of lyric poetry, dramatic monologue and post-Holocaust verse. We will look at the historical case of Martin Guerre, as refracted by an episode from "The Simpsons." We will read examples from philosophy including selections from Aristotle, Descartes, Hegel and Wittgenstein. We’ll also look at Diego Velázquez’s famous painting from 1656, Las Meninas (reproduced on the coursepack cover) and listen to excerpts from an opera by Mozart.

    Our exploration of primary texts will be supplemented by a set of analytical and critical sources, e.g., chapters from Recognitions: A Study in Poetics by the literary critic Terence Cave and Interdisciplinary Studies on Anagnorisis, edited by Philip F. Kennedy and Marilyn Lawrence; A Course in Recognition by the philosopher Paul Ricoeur; as well an episode from "The Twilight Zone" and/or a film by Alfred Hitchcock or Bryan Singer.

    INTC 1005 Parisian Views

    Professor Mesch
    This course will consider the ways that 19th-century Paris inspired artistic creation through its cultivation of a variety of new ways of seeing, which led in turn to new forms of entertainment. The artistic products of this rich and imaginative time were in many ways responsible for contemporary mass culture and our lingering fascination with the real. To explore this history to our own cultural tastes, we will employ a host of colorful characters as tour guides: from Balzac’s young student, who abandons legal studies for a Parisian education of another sort; to Baudelaire’s flâneur, who invented a whole new way of wandering the city; to Zola’s naïve young woman cruising the newly invented department store.

    But we will not limit ourselves to the strictly literary: in addition to reading novels and poetry, we will consider the overlapping ways through which painting, art criticism, photography, early cinema, architecture and various kinds of public exhibits addressed the feelings of excitement and anxiety around the new points of contact that the modern French city offered. Juxtaposing poems with paintings, novels with photographs, we will compare the different idioms through which these art forms attempted to respond to a shared set of questions. As we consider the panoply of new desires, seductions and fascinations for which Paris itself seemed wholly responsible, we will also not fail to notice the deep and lasting impact of those practices on our current modes of entertainment and pleasure, from cinema to celebrity culture to reality TV.

    INTC 1006 Arguments

    Professor Johnson
    This course, designed for those who love intellectual rigor, is an intensive study of selected arguments, as great creative works of the human mind. The arguments to be examined and evaluated are very important and are selected from various fields (philosophy, axiomatic set theory and physics). What you need to know about philosophy, logic and probability, in order to understand the arguments, is explained in lecture. What you need to know about set theory, mathematics and physics is explained through a combination of lecture and the material in the texts I have ordered. No prior technical background is presupposed, beyond an elementary familiarity with algebra. For syllabus see here.

    INTC 1007 Fiction, the Artistic Imagination and the Creative Process

    Professor Nochimson
    The primary focus of this course is to explore the fiction writer's creative process from different angles, including inspiration, conception, development, revision and adaptation to the screen. We will be exploring together questions such as the following: What happens during the creative process? What is the relationship between an author's life and the author's fictional works? Where does literary inspiration come from? What do creators of fiction think about as they work? How do short stories and novels get written, rewritten, reimagined? In adapting fictional works, how closely do later writers and filmmakers follow the original work? How do audiences react to changes from the original? Students will read three novels and a selection of short stories, as well as some background and critical materials. Also, they will see screen versions of the three novels. For syllabus see here.

    INTC 1008 New World Encounters: Narratives of Discovery and Conquest from Columbus and Beyond

    Professor Perelis
    The arrival of Columbus’ caravels to the Caribbean islands of Guanahaní, Haiti and Cuba in the fall of 1492 forever changed the course of world history. There could be no turning back for either the Europeans or the Americans. This course examines the nature of that encounter–beginning with Columbus and following it through the first 150 years of European exploration, conquest and colonization of the Americas. How did European travel writers make sense of the “New World”? How did they relate to the people that inhabited the “West Indies”? Where can we find the voices of the Native Americans? How did the encounter transform the Europeans and the Native Americans? What challenges do we as modern, Western readers face when we attempt to understand the Columbine encounter?

    We will pay particular attention to the ways that the Americas and the Americans are imagined, at the same time we will investigate the self-fashioning of the “Imaginers”; how does writing about others impact the self-understanding and self-presentation of the writer/observer?

    Our focus will be on several Spanish narratives of the discovery and conquest of the Americas. In addition, we will consider the deceptions, distortions and illuminations offered by film. Shakespeare’s The Tempest will serve as a dramatic epilogue.

    For syllabus, see here.

    INTC 1011 Nietzsche and the Art of Philosophy

    Professor Rynhold
    Friedrich Nietzsche suffered with debilitating illness; he suffered a total mental breakdown; he did not suffer from humility. Nietzsche was one of the most controversial yet compelling thinkers of the modern age, but the above self-assessment was unfortunately spot on. Nietzsche’s writings have been interpreted in multiple and at times disturbing ways, most notably in their assimilation by the Nazi’s. This course will explore the nature and limits of interpretation through an examination of the philosophy and legacy of this strange yet compelling thinker, by subjecting key works of his to both philosophical and literary analysis, studying the nexus of philosophy and art in his work, and analyzing the chains of transmission between his thought and the varied political and cultural phenomena it inspired.


    INTC 1010 The Imperial Self: Edwards, Emerson and Whitman

    Professor Sugarman
    A close reading of selected works of Jonathan Edwards, RW Emerson and Walt Whitman to understand how the widely accepted notion of “American individualism” is in fact a cultural movement (embodied in the works of these authors) away from the authority and structure of collective life inherent in Church, State and Family toward a redefinition of individual agency and authority. These three “prophets” working in diverse literary or social forms—sermons, autobiographies, essays and poems—that actively undermine these institutions of communal activity and posit the “imperial self" as the sole source for human authority.

    The culmination of this discussion will be the lifelong and organic work of Walt Whitman. Whitman produced multiple editions of his poems over his lifetime so we will be examining his development through the first edition of his poems in 1855, perhaps his finest edition in 1860 and the last edition published after his death in 1892. We will also be placing Whitman in the context of New York City and its growth as an imperial city by meeting on the Brooklyn Bridge (“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”) and walking to various Whitman “shrines” in Brooklyn, NY. If we can agree, I would gladly meet at Whitman’s home in Camden, NJ, for a reading from his poems.

    INTC 1013: Literature, Morality and Entertainment

    Professor Lavinksy

    The didactic and moral content of English literature often seems in conflict with modern notions of reading as a form of entertainment or imaginative escape.  What happens, for instance, if we derive pleasure or enjoyment from a text meant instead to reform our behavior or provide examples of how to act?  And what does it mean if we discover moral or ethical models in literature we expected only to be entertaining?  Does literature have ennobling effects, as defenders of the humanities still sometimes argue today?  Or does artifice inspire immorality, distracting us from what truly matters?  And what becomes of the reader who resists or is already estranged, because of religious or cultural identity, from a text’s prescriptive intent?  We will approach these questions from different cultural and aesthetic vantage points, all variously concerned with how certain literary and artistic forms inscribe their audiences in the stories they tell, scripting a specific moral response in the process.  Our investigation will ground itself in readings from classical antiquity before considering the interrelation of artistic form and moral meaning in specific contexts.  We will track anxieties about the spiritual consequences of imaginative diversion and departure; reconsider the relationship between religious art and secular forms of entertainment, and the utility of the sacred/secular distinction more generally; explore the different ways in which visual, textual, and performative mediums exert a hold on our minds (and bodies); and assess how these concerns are implicated in contemporary debates about the problematics of reading and moral exemplification.  Many of our readings will be drawn from early English poetry, prose, and drama, though no previous exposure to this period or its literature is assumed, and a wide range of critical and theoretical texts will help students situate unfamiliar material, as will class excursions to The Museum of Biblical Art, The Morgan Library, and at least one art gallery or play.  Requirements include regular postings to an online discussion forum, ungraded response papers, collaborative exercises and/or group presentations, two short critical papers, and a final project. 


    INTC 1018 Aesthetic Revolutions: The Age of Wagner to Stravinsky

    Professor Beliavsky

    This course covers the period of European history framed by Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde and Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring. An era of significant revolutions in music, society, and the arts, it is one that created modernism. By exploring this era's remarkable music, students will develop active and critical listening skills, and begin perceiving the events and internal relationships that govern this repertoire.  

    INTC 1016: Culture of the Fin de Siècle

    Professor Olson

    Travelling back in time, and finding one’s self at a place like Vienna’s Café Central or Prague’s Café Slavia around the turn of the 20th century (the fin de siècle), there was a good chance that one of the conversations casually overheard as one enjoyed a cup of espresso or a Sachertorte would be between one, two, or more of these remarkable people. These men and women, who formed the intellectual, scientific, literary, artistic and musical vanguard of the modern age, will be the center of our study as we explore the flourishing of modern culture in central Europe between 1880 and 1914. We will approach our subjects from a variety of perspectives, including as subjects of literary interpretation, art and music history, and the history of ideas. In particular we will explore concepts that played a central role in the creation of fin de siècle culture, such as psychoanalysis, theories of degeneration and renaissance, social and political conflict, and the creation of new languages of artistic, musical and literary expression in historical context.



    INTC 1023H Shakespeare and the Arts

    Professor Lee
    This core course will explore both Shakespeare’s ability to meld different genres and forms of art and later artists’ visions inspired by Shakespeare. Drawing on close reading, textual studies, genre studies, genre theory, media studies, film studies, art criticism, art history, literary studies, Shakespeare studies, influence studies, historical studies and cultural studies, we will focus on how each medium, each genre, each form of art and each artwork creates meanings; when we can assess an interpretation as partial, implausible or downright impossible; and how interpreters can arrive at probable or even compelling interpretations of individual creative works within the literary, visual and performing arts.

  • HBSI 1006 Economics, Efficiency and Justice

    Professor Grivoyannis
    This course focuses on “institutions “of justice and economic theory to examine the complexity of “human behavior” in settling legal disputes in an “efficient” way.  Through research of data bases, and practical case assignments, students will learn to understand the importance, value, and limitations of different types of data and how to use each type of data to develop hypotheses, describe and analyze findings,a nd arrive at conclusions supported by empirical research on assessing economic damages for litigation support.


    HBSI 1003 Psychology and Public Opinion

    Professor Malka
    Honors and non-Honors
    This multidisciplinary seminar will provide an overview of social scientific research on the psychological and social processes that underlie political opinion. Students will learn about empirical research in psychology and political science dealing with the origins and consequences of mass political attitudes. Some of the major topics we will cover are psychological and survey research methodology, genetic and environmental influences on political attitudes, political thinking, public opinion and election polling, and aggregate political opinion. The course will focus heavily on empirical studies and their conclusions. It will also include a current events component in which students discuss articles and blog posts that analyze recent public opinion evidence. For syllabus see here.

    HBSI 1014 American Public Policy

     Professor Aroosi

    The study of Public Policy is the study of the design and implementation of government policy and its subsequent effects. As such, it is one of the most comprehensive ways to study social and political issues, because these policies have a profound effect on our lives. After all, its concern is with what political figures actually do, rather than what they say they do, and how this then shapes and reshapes the world in which we live. Public policy therefore finds us looking beyond the political rhetoric that often masks social and political issues, to the reality that lies underneath.

    Given the complexity of the subject, our approach will be thematic. Increasingly, inequality is recognized as the defining issue of late 20th and early 21st century American (not to mention global) life, shaping both our society and our politics. Yet, few understand what it actually means, or why it is important. In this class, we will look at what inequality is, as it pertains to various areas of public policy, such as social welfare, the workforce, and healthcare. Following from this, we will then look at how public policy creates such problems, just as we will explore how policy might help alleviate them. In this way, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the problems and possibilities that lie within the field of public policy.


    HBSI 1007: Psychology and Public Opinion

    Professor Malka
    This multidisciplinary course will overview social scientific research on public opinion, focusing on its psychological and social underpinnings.  The course will cover relevant theory, methodology, and findings from psychology and political science, and will aim to promote application of critical social scientific thinking to students’ understanding of political attitudes and behavior.  The specific topics of the course include background and empirical methods of the disciplines, personality and genetic influences on political opinion, thought processes underlying political opinion, aggregate political opinion, political socialization and political learning, group membership and political opinion, the news media and political opinion, and public opinion in campaigns and elections.  Each course meeting will involve, in approximately equal parts, both (a) lecture and (b) class activities and discussion.  Through the class activities, students will apply information learned in the course in various ways and will gather, discuss, and present publicly available data from public opinion surveys.  A current events component of this course will involve reading and discussion of  blog posts and articles that analyze contemporary opinion polling.  Thus a strong emphasis will be placed on application of scholarly thinking to interpretation and evaluation of contemporary topics in public opinion presented in the news media.  And in line with the multidisciplinary nature of the course, we will focus on the distinctive goals and theoretical frameworks that characterize political attitude research across the disciplines of psychology and political science.


    HBSI 1008H: Law & Society

    Professor Kimmel

    This course will explore social-scientific understandings of law. It explores how social change affects law and legal institutions, how legal change affects society, and the roles and institutions of the formal legal system in the United States. This will not be a class in law or legal history, and it will not teach you how to be a lawyer; it will focus on the social, political, cultural, and historical contexts of law in practice rather than legal doctrines, statutes, or decisions. We will address questions such as: What is the purpose of law? What is the relationship between laws and norms? Why do people obey the law, and why and how do we punish lawbreakers? Does the practice of law undermine or reinforce social inequality? The goal will be to understand the manner in which social scientists study law as an institution and as a profession, as well as to explain some patterns and dynamics of law in various social settings.

    HBSI 1011 Education & Society

    Professor Kimmel

    Education is probably the single most important generalized determinant of life chances in the modern world, and is almost universally valued by American citizens. The goal of this course is to investigate and critically examine the role of education in our society. We will strive to understand education as a formal organization, to investigate some of the effects of education in later life, and in particular to examine the role education plays in social stratification. Along the way, we will ask questions like: How are schools as institutions organized, and why? What factors determine educational opportunities and outcomes? Do schools reward the best students, and how do we choose what's considered "best"? Do schools reproduce the class order, or do they work towards equality? In these endeavors we will draw on research from across the social sciences, including economic, political science, anthropology, and (especially) sociology.

  • EXQM 1003 Physics of Life and Technology

    Professor Behravan 

    This course will explore concepts in physics as related to everyday life and technology. We will learn how to perform experiments, collect data, and draw conclusions and explore how science can predict natural systems and behaviors. The lectures and experiments will explore materials, thermal energy, electricity and magnetism, electronics, optics and radioactivity.


    Please note that science students who take one or more years of college laboratory science courses and one or more years of college level mathematics courses will be exempted from the Experimental and Quantitative Methods core category.

    EXQM 1002:Analysis of Environmental Toxins

    Professor Viswanathan

    The purpose of this course is to introduce you to the nature of designing experiments to answer specific questions and to measure specific properties.  All experiments involve the collection of data followed by an analysis of the experimental results.  A number of common quantitative and graphical methods are used in different experiments and by different scientists.  This course will introduce you to some of the quantitative tools to analyze and interpret your experimental results. 

    In the laboratory, you will learn about the experimental methods used to analyze some of the toxins in our environment.  You will learn about different experimental methods and choose the appropriate methods to quantitatively measure the amount of analyte in various samples ranging from grams to ppm. 

  • NAWO 1001 Frontiers of Science

    Professors Barrios-Landeros, Cwilich and Feit
    This course will convey to the students the relevance and impact of science in their everyday lives regardless of their background and career interest and to help them understand the process of scientific discovery, by discussing cutting-edge topics from different science fields during lecture and discuss related material during recitation. Students will learn how to critically read science articles from popular press and scientific journals. Rather than a basic science survey, this course will present topics focusing on the tools employed for scientific discoveries and our underlying need that drives the exploration. We will address questions like: How do we decide which ideas are worth pursuing? How do we test those ideas? Why and how do scientists develop models in their efforts to study and predict natural phenomena? Why do we estimate outcomes and deal with uncertainty of the results? How is data gathered and analyzed?

    NAWO 1001 From Molecules to Organism

    Professors Barrios-Landeros, Peter, Steinhauer

    Scientific progress is inextricably intertwined with our lives in the 21st century.  Human mortality is at an all-time low, quality-of-life is at an all-time high, and the health care industry dominates our economy. This interdisciplinary course will focus on the complexity of the human body and the importance of understanding its function for medicinal and nutritional interventions. Students will learn to appreciate the components of a living entity and the process by which basic scientific concepts are discovered and translated into cutting edge technologies. Greater comprehension of the research methods that lead to groundbreaking innovations will strengthen critical thinking and enhance technological understanding to improve future decision making. 


  • FYSM 1023 Genius: An Idea in History

    Professor Olson
    Section 331, TR 3–4:15 p.m.

    Throughout European and American history, people have been fascinated by the exceptional among us. Whether it is the most extraordinary athlete, the musical virtuoso or the most brilliant physicist, the “genius”—a person who is able to perform a task with an uncanny degree of skill, to do exceptionally more than those around them or think about a familiar problem in a way that shifts the paradigm of the thought that came before—is an archetype that seems to have always been the ideal (and envy) of society. But like all ideals, it has a discrete history and evolution. Where, when and why did the idea of genius emerge? How has it changed over time? How have different cultures understood the exceptional individual and his or her place in the social order? How have exceptional individuals been understood (or misunderstood) by those around them? Where is the idea of genius going and what is its impact on contemporary society at large? Using literary texts, music, art and other "primary" demonstrations of genius, as well as philosophical, anthropological and historical writing about the idea of genius and the history of ideas, these are some of the questions that this “history of ideas” course will investigate.

    Students will be expected to keep a weekly journal, offer an in-class presentation of reading materials and regular participation in discussions, and compose one short "think piece" and one longer research essay to successfully complete the course.

    FYSM 1001: Exploring Hamlet (Spring 2015)

    Professor White
    Section 311, TR 1:30pm–2:45 p.m.

    This course has two aims. One aim is to examine Hamlet as theater, touching on its historical context and looking at its resonance today. The second, but no lesser aim, is to look at how research is employed in the field of theater. Through the study of the play Hamlet, students use their understanding of research in the theater discipline and form their own research projects. Film, visual art, visiting artists and outside texts will be used to supplement the course.

    Basic course requirements:

    • Consistent, probing, thoughtful and prepared class participation
    • Excellent classroom citizenship
    • Five graded writing assignments, including in-class assignments, various types of writing on viewings and readings, and a written component to your research project
    • Presentation
    • Final research project
    FYSM 1003: Immigrant Fiction (Spring 2015)

    Professor Lane 

    Section 231, MW 3:00pm - 4:15pm

    In this course, you will study three short stories by three contemporary authors, all of whom write about what it is to leave a country of origin and come to the United States. It doesn’t sound like much, three short stories over the course of a whole semester, but close reading requires a lot more than you might think. Only after we’re read the texts two or three times will our research begin, research that will tell us about the author, who they are, how they approach their writing, and about their country of origin. We might also do research into that particular immigrant group’s habits and experiences in the U.S. With any luck, our research will turn up information that sheds light on the text in unusual and unforeseen ways. It will be up to you, after I’ve given you some basic secondary readings, to do a little of your own research and to incorporate it into your papers, which will be expository in nature (i.e. analyzing and making arguments). 

    FYSM 1004 Origin Stories: The Family in Literature (Spring 2015)

    Professor Blatner
    Sections 211 and 241, MW 1:30 - 2:45 p.m. and 4:30–5:45 p.m.

    What we learn from family life is a large part of who we are as adults in the world. Writers write about family because these core relationships, these “long, strange rapport[s],” as D.H. Lawrence calls them, are perennially transformative.

    In this course you will study poems, short stories and scripts portraying the joys and struggles of families ranging from English royals of The Queen to the African-American Youngers in Raisin in the Sun to the dysfunctional white middle-class Goodmans of the musical Next to Normal.

    The course will introduce you to the analysis of literature as an academic discipline and to basic principles and methods of research. Weekly response journals; two short essays, including a piece about your family; and an oral presentation “preview” of what will evolve into a final researched essay are required. Class activities include discussion of readings, exploratory writing, development of written and oral arguments, investigations of primary and secondary source materials, and library visits.

    FYSM 1013 Jews and Journeys

    Professor Levin
    Section 331, TR 3–4:15 p.m.

    We will consider how and why Jews travel, raising questions of what Jewish travelers hope to learn about the world—and about themselves—as we think about how Jews write about and reflect on their journeys. We will begin with the experiences of medieval Jewish travelers, asking questions about the role of travel in medieval Jewish life and the conditions and contexts of such travel. Examining the narratives composed by medieval and early modern Jewish travelers, we will consider these travel writings in context; comparing them to travel writings by Muslims and Christians will yield a heightened sense of how Jewish journeys resemble and and how they diverge from the journeys of non-Jewish contemporaries. We will consider modern Jewish journeys, raising questions about how the experience of Jewish travel changes over time (or not). Writing is a critical component of this First Year Seminar; we will approach writing both as a tool for learning and as a skill to be learned.

    Requirements include weekly reading journals, a short essay, a presentation introducing a class meeting's text that articulates the issues raised by that text and sets the agenda for class discussion, and the design of a research proposal on a course-related question of your choice.

    FYSM 1014H Understanding Financial Crises (Honors) (Spring 2015)

    Professor Kahn
    Honors, section 241, MW 4:30 - 5:45 p.m.

    In September 2008 many policymakers and titans of the financial industry genuinely feared that the financial world was crumbling, that the economic world as they knew it was coming to a horrible end. While we seemed to have avoided catastrophe, the reverberations from this episode are still with us. And yet this was far from the first financial crisis—in fact there have been many throughout U.S. history, and while they are important differences in details, they do have some characteristics in common. The primary objective of the seminar will be a deep understanding of the recent crisis, but also broader insight into the causes and effects of financial crises in general.

    By the end of the semester you will:

    • Learn just enough finance and economics to understand the key technical concepts
    • Learn about the historical precursors of the crisis and about the similarities and differences
    • Be exposed to a number of alternative views about the causes and effects of the crisis, and form your own educated opinion
    • Become a better writer and researcher
    • Extend your skills to writing coherently and meaningfully about economic and financial topics

    Requirements include several short essays on readings discussed in class, a midterm exam on basic finance concepts, a final term paper based on the material in the class and a book chosen from a selection, participation in discussions, and group in-class presentations.

    FYSM 1018 The Good Life: Positive Psychology Research, Theory and Practice

    Professor Schnall
    Section 241, MW 4:30–5:45 p.m.

    How have psychologists traditionally viewed the study of human illness and wellness? By contrast, what is the new and cutting-edge field of “positive psychology,” and how is it applied in the quest to help individuals and communities to flourish and thrive?

    Psychology research, theory and practice will be integrated. Students will learn how psychologists investigate questions and how they apply their findings in the real world.

    Requirements include class attendance and participation in discussions; midterm exam; three 3-page take-home essays; periodic in-class writing exercises; online tutorial based on APA style, with accompanying online quiz; oral presentation; and a final term paper.

    FYSM 1021 Myth and the Frontier: Perspectives on the American West

    Professor Anderson
    Section 241, MW 4:30–5:45 p.m.

    In 1942, poet John Berryman wrote, "It's time to see the frontiers as they are, fiction, but a fiction meaning blood." Using readings and films, we will investigate the notion of the "Frontier" as America's creation myth, political ideology and national identity. While the story of the settling of the American West has often been told as a series of violent and romantic events populated by cowboys, warriors, sheriffs and the like, we will turn a critical lens on the West and its history of conquest. Using a survey of “Old West” narratives and modern counternarratives, we will look carefully at race, class, gender, religion and the environment in readings by William Cronon, Patricia Limerick, Sherman Alexie, Ian Frazier, Louise Erdrich, Cormac McCarthy, Frederick Jackson Turner, Rebecca Solnit and others. We will construct a more authentic and complicated vision of the frontier and how its mythology continues to play a part in our national narrative and identity.

    In addition to readings, coursework will include regular short reading responses, two short critical papers (3-5 pages), a research paper and a class presentation.

    FYSM 1023H East/West: World Masterpieces and Cultural Values

    Professor Lee
    Honors, section 341, TR 4:30–5:45 p.m.

    We will focus on Western and Eastern works that helped define their societies, relying on an interdisciplinary approach that combines literary, historical and anthropological perspectives. We will begin with the ancient world: Mesopotamian Gilgamesh, Homer’s Odyssey, and Chinese poetry, then move on to Kalidasa’s Sakuntala and the Ring of Recollection, T’ang poetry, Dante’s Inferno, Machiavelli’s Prince and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Can we make meaningful overall distinctions between early Eastern and Western masterpieces? Do these works both reflect their cultures and help construct them? Clearly we can interpret any text without any cultural or historical knowledge, but in what ways is such an interpretation valid?

    Like other First Year Seminars, this one will devote some attention to writing both in assignments and in class. We will discuss and attempt to understand writing in disciplines, especially literary and cultural studies, as well as writing for a general educated audience.

    Requirements: attendance and participation; two interpretive essays of 4 pages (a close reading and a close cultural reading); focused revision of specific aspects of those essays; an 8-10 page paper based on research in primary and secondary sources, prepared in stages; a brief oral presentation; and a take-home final.

    FYSM 1024 Ancient Egyptian Literature

    Professor Koller
    Section 611, F 9:30 a.m.–12 noon

    We will be surveying 2,000 years of literature from ancient Egypt, centering around two major interrelated questions: how much a traditional society can change, and in what ways, over the course of such a long time, and the relationship between an individual and the greater society within a hierarchical and highly structured society.

    Our study will consist mostly of reading the texts—stories, poems, instructions, magical spells, and other types of texts—closely, with the historical and social contexts in mind. We will be introduced to some of the major ideas in literary criticism, as they are relevant to literature from so long ago, and also encounter the world of ancient Egypt through a class trip to the Brooklyn Museum and an optional second trip to the Metropolitan Museum, both of which have world-class Egyptian departments.

    There will be three writing assignments as well as one oral presentation. The writing assignments include the following:

    1) A close reading of one Middle Egyptian short story and one Late Egyptian short story, and a comparison between them
    2) An essay on one Egyptian text that has biblical analogues, in conversation with the relevant biblical texts
    3) A response paper to a modern work (book, painting, music, etc.) that is set in ancient Egypt or a discussion and comparison of the way Egyptian materials are presented in the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum, each of which includes a research component

    FYSM 1025 Political Zionism and Convental Judaism: Zionist Perspectives from Herzl to Begin

    Professor Soloveitchik
    Section 331, TR 3–4:15 p.m.

    Throughout its history, two different facets of the Zionist project have either existed in tension with each other or complemented one another. On the one hand, Israel is, and seeks to be, a flourishing democratic state that makes manifest the modern Jewish right to national self-determination. On the other hand, Zionism has long claimed to represent the covenantal, religious longings of Jews over millenia. The goal of this course is to examine how these two facets of the Zionist project are reflected in the worldview and career of one of the most influential leaders of modern Israel: Menachem Begin. The course will first trace the roots of modern Zionism in general, and Revisionist Zionism in particular, by focusing on the writings of Theodore Herzl and Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky. We will then focus on some of the seminal and controversial moments in Begin's life, beginning with those that occurred before his election as prime minister: the revolution against the British mandate; the tensions between Begin and Ben-Gurion and the Altalena incident; the debate over whether the nascent State of Israel should accept reparations from Germany; Knesset discussions over the role religion would play in defining the national culture of the state; and the unity cabinet during the Six Day War. The second part of the course will examine moments in Begin's administration that continue to impact Israel today: the peace treaty with Egypt, the strike against the Iraqi nuclear reactor and the Lebanon war.

    Throughout the seminar, students will be asked to confront and discuss several important questions: What is the difference between a "state of the Jews" and a Jewish state"? Can one create a state that is simultaneously democratic while remaining profoundly Jewish? Is there a tension between the modern political notion of "social contract" and the biblical concept of berit on which Judaism was founded? How should a Jewish state balance religious or historical values with national security needs? How should a Jewish state balance its responsibilities to all its citizens with the bond that Jews all over the world share? What can the lives of Herzl, Jabotinsky and Begin teach us about political leadership in general, and Jewish leadership in particular?

    At intervals throughout the course, students will be asked to compose three significant essays reflecting serious engagement with these questions via a careful reading and analysis of the syllabus sources. There reflections will be further assisted and enhanced by visits to class by prominent academics, historians, thinkers and national security experts.

    FYSM 1026 Speeches That Changed the World

    Professor Williams
    FYSM 1026, section 261, MW 6:45–8 p.m.
    FYSM 1026H—Honors, section 611, F 9:30 a.m.–12 noon

    We take this as our fundamental premise: Great change in our world has nearly always started with a speech. Arguably, the existence of many social and political movements today and in history, whether feminism or abolitionism or marriage equality or the Tea Party, can be traced back to a series of speeches, or at times, a single speech.

    What is it then about such a speech that empowers it so? What are the functions of language in such a speech? How do the language choices in such speeches reflect acute awareness of audience and discourse context? In what ways do the performance of such speeches contribute to their success? Why have these speeches stood the test of time?

    In short: Why do such speeches change the world?

    We will be watching, listening to, closely reading and critiquing a wide range of world-changing speeches in order to understand the stylistic and substantive features of these speeches that account for their impact. In order to do so, we will also conduct extensive research to unearth the relevant historical, autobiographical, social and political contexts in which these speeches were crafted and delivered, and thus understand the larger dialogues within which these speeches existed. Of course, we will not only respond to and conduct rhetorical analysis of such speeches, but will ultimately craft world-changing speeches of our own.

    Although the speeches we will examine will include canonical texts like Socrates' Apology and historic greats like Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream," we will also add variety (and at times comedy) with speeches from across the oceans like Mahatma Ghandi's "Quit India," memorable nonpolitical speeches like Steve Jobs' iPhone speech and remarkable commencement speeches like those from David Foster Wallace, Steve Jobs and Steven Colbert.

    Requirements: active and consistent class participation; readings; class presentation; two rhetorical analyses (4 pages); one speech (5 pages); and one research paper (10 pages). The workload for the Honors section will include one additional essay and additional readings.

    FYSM 1027 The Politics of Memory: Contemporary Memoir and Other Forms of Life Writing

    Professor Heiser
    Sections 311 and 341, TR 1:30–2:45 p.m. and 4:30–5:45 p.m.

    "What is remembered is what becomes reality. If we ‘forget’ Auschwitz, if we ‘forget’ My Lai, what then do we remember? And what is the purpose of our remembering? If we think of memory naively as a simple story, logged like a documentary in the archive of the mind, we miss its beauty, but also its function."—Patricia Hampl, "Memory and Imagination"

    What is memory? In what ways is memory political? How do our memories—our very lives—become stories? These are some of the questions we will try to get at in this course as we examine various forms of life-writing including personal narrative essays, full-length memoirs (including graphic memoir), texts that tell other people's stories, film and radio segments. As we analyze these texts, we will note the ways that writing about the past is never simply a matter of transcribing our memories, but of wrestling with factual and emotional truths that lay buried in a place to which we can never actually return. And yet, since reading and writing memoir is a way of reading and writing about the world, inevitably in the story of anyone’s life, questions about class, race, religion, gender, sexuality and geographical location may arise. We will be on the lookout for these issues as we read and as we write our own personal narratives and grapple with what our lives mean within a social context.

    We will consider such questions as: What does it mean to represent a life and why do it? When does the representation of a life become “art”? How have modern forms of technology—smartphones, StoryCorps, the Internet—specifically Facebook and Twitter and YouTube—affected the ways we publicly represent ourselves? What is at stake when we try to represent the lives of others? Or when others try to represent us?

    We will look at texts from the following authors: David Sedaris, Joan Didion, Patricia Hampl, Vivian Gornick, Marjane Satrapi, David Mura, Anne Lamott, James McBride, Maxine Hong Kingston, Lauren Slater, Jamaica Kincaid, Victor Villanueva, Craig Thompson, J.E. Reich, Anna Devear Smith, Moises Kaufman and Sarah Polley

    Course requirements: active class participation, two short essays, a longer researched essay and an oral presentation.

    FYSM 1028H Light and Dark Shakespearean Comedy: Text and Performance (Honors) (Spring 2015)

    Professor Nochimson

    Section 261, MW 3:00pm - 4:15pm

    This course will focus on the question of the different (indeed opposite) ways comedies by Shakespeare can be read and performed: Light (happy) or Dark (troubled or cynical). For a very long time, the Shakespearean plays that end in marriages were assumed to be happy plays that were designed to make their audiences feel good. Relatively early, All's Well That Ends Well and especially Measure for Measure were regarded by some as exceptions to the usual rule. In recent decades, however, more and more critics and directors have begun to interpret most of the romantic comedies as somewhat or more than somewhat dark. In this course, students will learn about the different ways Shakespeare's comedies have been interpreted, will develop their own interpretations and will thoughtfully consider the issues involved in choosing between the two very different interpretations—both in the study and in the theater.

    The primary readings in the course will be six plays by Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, All's Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure.

    Like all first-year seminars, this is a writing-intensive course. Students will be doing frequent informal writing in the form of a journal of reactions to the assigned primary and secondary readings. They will work on and complete a researched essay of at least 2,000 words as well as two briefer essays and an oral presentation. As part of their work on their research project, students will be consulting a variety of scholarly and critical essays and will be seeing at least three screen or stage productions of the play that is the focus of their research: Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream, or Twelfth Night.

    This is a discussion course. Attendance and participation are essential.

    FYSM 1029: Crime and Punishment: Justice and its Aftermath in American Democracy (Spring 2015)

    Professor Schwabe
    Sections 241,  MW 4:30–5:45 p.m.

    In the wake of any crime, calls for “justice” are nearly universal. Yet opinions about what the term should imply or how the search for it plays out are far from unanimous. In this First Year Seminar, we’ll explore how investigations, trials, and imprisonment directly and indirectly affect everyday Americans. We’ll also look specifically at the use of reading and writing – both by those telling the stories and those hoping to change them – as an essential component of democracy. With an emphasis on long form journalism, investigative reporting, and newspaper editorials, we’ll consider the power and the limitations of narrative when looking to understand and sometimes impact the quest for justice as an American ideal. One of the primary goals of this course is to provide students with a richer understanding of the American justice system in order to become more effective, engaged, and informed citizens.

    FYSM 1030H New York Through the Eyes of Three Hispanic Writers

    Professor Bazet-Broitman
    Honors, section 261, MW 6:45–8 p.m.

    This course will examine the nature of the relationship between the United States and Latin America as well as the changes experienced in that relationship as transpire from the works of three Latin American writers who visited the city of New York at three different points in time (1845, 1880–1895 and 1929–30). The three writers were Domingo Faustino Sarmiento (Argentina), José Martí (Cuba) and Federico García Lorca (Spain). Particular attention will be given to these authors’ impressions of the city of New York, taking in consideration their own personal circumstances and cultural backgrounds, the political situation in their countries and the specific political and social circumstances in New York and the United States at the time of their respective visits. In addition, the course will peruse articles that appeared in New York magazines and newspapers depicting important events that were as well at the center of these authors’ writings. We will thus compare the various accounts as to their contents, vision, perspective and purpose.

    During the course of the semester, the class will visit some points of interest in New York City that are tightly linked to the works of the authors in question and to important events that took place in New York City at the time of their visits. There will be weekly readings and weekly or biweekly writings on those readings or related subjects, an oral presentation and a midterm paper. At the end of the course, students will write a research paper on a topic that they will choose from the various questions raised by the readings and discussions held in class.

    FYSM 1031H Philosophy and Science Fiction (Honors) (Spring 2015)

    Professor Segal

    Section 241, TR 4:30–5:45 p.m.

    Science fiction makes vivid very different ways the world could have been (or, more radically, very different ways the world might be) and hence raises deeply puzzling questions about our concepts, our values and our place in the world. It is therefore an ideal genre for exploring perennial philosophical questions, including the following: whether we can really know what we take ourselves to know, what it takes to be a sentient being, whether we can possibly be free and what constitutes the ideal polity.

    We will cover these and other philosophical questions through a combination of works of science fiction (texts and films) and works of philosophy. By the end of the course, you will be familiar with the questions that animate philosophers and the methods they often use to address them, including thought experiments, conceptual analysis and the rigorous formulation of arguments.

    You will be required to submit questions on readings/films in advance of each lecture, write two essays (the first ~2,500 words, the second ~4,000 words), participate in a debate and take a final exam.

    FYSM 1033: Utopias and Dystopias (Spring 2015)

    Professor Geyh

    Section 331, TR 3:00pm - 4:15pm

    Throughout history, great thinkers and social revolutionaries have imagined and created utopias, visionary communities embodying their ideals. Others, questioning the totalitarian impulses they believed lurked behind such utopian projects, have created dystopias that demonstrate the ways in which such projects might to awry. This course will explore utopian and dystopian thought through literary and philosophical works including More, Utopia; Marx, “The Communist Manifesto”; Morris, News from Nowhere; Bellamy, Looking Backward, Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents; Huxley, Brave New World, and Robinson, Red Mars.  Films will include Modern Times and Pleasantville

    FYSM 1034H: Narratives of Illness and Healing (Honors) (Spring 2015)

    Professor Jacobson

    Section 331, TR 3:00pm - 4:15pm

    What hopes do we bring to writing about illness—as authors, as witnesses, as readers?

    In this course we will be immersing ourselves in recent narratives created in the face of pain and disease, as well as the possibilities for healing and recovery. We’ll be reading the writing of doctors and patients, and looking together at some of the ways in which that relationship is dramatized in film and on television. We’ll be considering the relationship between the body and identity, as well as the cultural context of “illness.” Most of all, we will be examining the diverse needs that bring human beings to language and story when health is endangered: the need for understanding, for community, for confession, for advocacy; the hunger for healing and for closure; the need to mourn and the need to let go.


    FYSM 1035: How Writing Works: Key Concepts and Research (Spring 2015)

    Professor Fitzgerald

    Section 341, TR 4:30pm - 5:45pm

    Ever wonder why writing comes more easily to some people? Or why certain kinds of writing impress some readers but not others? Or why some writing strategies are helpful and some just slow you down?

    We’ll answer these and other writing-related questions by learning about key concepts and research from the field of writing studies. Specifically, with the help of Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs’ Writing about Writing: A College Reader (2014), we’ll explore how and why

    ·      Previous writing experiences influence how you write today

    ·      People use writing to make things happen

    ·      Contexts shape writers, writing, and readers

    ·      Writers use different processes, often producing meaning as they write

    ·      Writing has always been technological and visual


    Knowing about these concepts and related research can help you become a stronger and more adept writer, especially when you develop this knowledge through your own writing. In our course, you’ll do so by drafting, giving and getting feedback on, revising, and reflecting on informal assignments, two essays, one presentation, and one longer research-based project.

    FYSM 1036H: Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia (Honors) (Spring 2015)

    Professor Holtz 

    Section 611, F 9:30am - 12:00pm

    Some of the oldest attempts to articulate the relationship between humans and the divine come from the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.  Texts going back as far as the third millennium BCE, or almost to writing's very beginnings, encompass, in one way or another, the realm we moderns consider "religious." The remains of architecture and visual art complement what the texts tell us through words.

    For first year students, the goal of this seminar is to enter the modern academic discourse on these ancient texts and artifacts.  To that end, we will study primary sources (texts will be read in translation) together with representative published interpretations of these sources by contemporary authors.  We will also take up the broader theoretical questions inherent in bridging the gaps between us and the ancient materials: can we get these materials to "talk religion," should we, and, if so, how?



    FYSM 1037 Sports Writing (Spring 2015)
    Section 611, F 9:30am - 12:00pm

    Sports Writing can take many forms, from statistical to researched arguments, and we will explore a range of these styles.  In addition to reading popular sports publications and blogs, we will study a number of seminal sports texts, including Friday Night Lights, Eight Men Out, and The Game.  Our discussions and writings will include not only a wide range of sports themselves – familiar and unfamiliar -- but also ancillary issues, including race, class, and violence; the sociology of fandom; and how sports shape and are shaped by surrounding cultures.

    Students will write reportage, features profiles, blog posts, and a researched essay.


    FYSM 1038: Marriage Plots (Spring 2015)

    Professor Mesch

    Section 231, MW 3:00pm - 4:15pm

    Marriage has long been associated with the proverbial happy ending, but what happens to the marriage plot when divorce becomes possible? when adultery disrupts it? when religion thwarts it? when women refuse it? when racism prevents it? This course will explore ways in which marriage has long structured narrative, plotting and determining so many of the stories that we tell, in literary fiction, cinema and television. We will explore the history of marriage, its shifting definitions and expectations, and the ways in which marriage plots and their modern reimaginings can cast an illuminating light on subtle changes in social norms. The conjugal dramas that we will examine range from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and its modern rewriting as Bridget Jones’s Diary, to works by E. M. Forster and Colette, as well as “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Downton Abbey” and Disney’s Frozen. This will be a discussion based class in which we learn to engage critically with literature and film through informal and formal writing assignments, an oral presentation, and a final essay on a topic of your choosing.


  • The Language Option

    You can use up to three of our specially designed French and Spanish courses to satisfy Core requirements, starting with the second semester of Elementary. To gain the invaluable skill of proficiency in a foreign language, you need four semesters of college language study. So while the first semester of Elementary counts only as an elective, the payoff comes later: three requirements fulfilled, and the acquisition of a skill that will pay dividends throughout the rest of your life. And don’t forget, with their knowledge of Hebrew, YU students are in a privileged position to learn another language.

    • Elementary French or Spanish II can be counted as a COWC
    • Intermediate French or Spanish I can be counted as a CUOT
    • Intermediate French or Spanish II can be counted as an INTC
  • Questions?

    If you have any questions about the new YC Core curriculum, please e-mail thecore@yu.edu.

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