Students in a classroom

The First-Year Seminars are the signature element of Occidental's Core Program.

Students are required to take two First-Year Seminar (FYS) courses: one in fall semester of their first year and another in the spring. (Transfer students are exempted from the FYS requirement.) 

FYS courses prepare students for success at Occidental College and provide a shared intellectual experience, while also developing effective college-level writing and critical thinking skills. These seminars also assist students with the transition to college and include an introduction to scholarly inquiry. 

Most FYS courses are stand-alone courses that earn 4 units. For context, students typically enroll in 16-18 units per semester, so your FYS will typically be one of four classes you take. We also offer special FYS courses that are part of special "immersive" programs. These seminars are connected with other courses in order to allow students to explore a topic in more depth. The immersive programs have special enrollment procedures which are detailed below. 

FYS Registration opens on Monday, June 17, 2024 at 9am. 

There are three immersive programs being offered this semester that have special enrollment procedures. Students interested in Life on the Edge, Subversive Art and Media, or Computing IRL should sign up by Wednesday, June 12, using the interest forms linked from each program's web page. 

Most First Year Seminar (FYS) courses meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:45-12:40. A few have two sections—the content is the same, but you can decide whether to sign up for the 11:45-12:40 class or the 12:50-1:45 class. All FYS courses also meet during a weekly Common Hour on Wednesdays from 3:00-3:55pm. FYS courses are only open to first-year students.

When looking at class times on this page or on Course Counts, keep the following abbreviations in mind:











Immersive FYS Courses for Fall 2024

Immersive: Life on the Edge

Open only to first-year students, Life on the Edge is a special program that consists of two connected courses that will give students the opportunity to explore environmental and geological issues with a special focus on southern California. Students will get to go on a weekend-long trip to Joshua Tree National Park to get hands-on experience exploring the natural environment. 

Student who participate in this 8-unit program will take both a First Year Seminar and one of Oxy's most in-demand science courses:

  • FYS 1: Life on the Edge: How Geology Shapes Our Lives in Los Angeles and Its Environs (4 units)
  • GEO 105: Earth Our Environment (4 units)

By participating in this program, you'll fulfill both your Fall FYS and also the Core Labs Science requirements. 

FYS 1: Life on the Edge: How Geology Shapes Our Lives in Los Angeles and Environs

MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

Are we ready for the Big One? How have water issues shaped the growth of California? Where has our energy come from and where will we get it from in the future? And can we move towards a more sustainable future? In this seminar, we will explore societally-relevant issues. Topics will include earthquakes, water, and issues related to energy and climate. These topics will then be expanded upon with scientific focus in the Geology 105 course.

Visit the course web page for more information!


Immersive: Subversive Art and Media

Taught by Prof. Vivian Wenli Lin (Media Arts and Culture) and Prof. Amy Lyford (Art and Art History)

This immersive program will center on visual artistic practices that challenge and critique dominant systems of power by manipulating historical and contemporary media to reimagine, reconstruct, and reclaim history and narratives. We will explore how photography, film, visual and media arts play powerful roles in the shaping of histories, both those we think of as “back in time” and those of our present day world.

The program consists of two linked courses:

  • FYS 2: Subversive Art and Media: Reimagining History and Narrative (4 units)
  • ARTH/MAC 296: Subversive Art and Media (4 units)

By participating in this program, you will fulfill your Fall FYS, Core Global Connections, and Core Fine Arts requirements. 

FYS 2: Subversive Art and Media: Reimagining History and Narrative

Prof. Vivian Wenli Lin and Prof. Amy Lyford
Two Sections that both meet MW 4:05-5:30pm

Modules in this course will center reading, discussion, writing, and art practice around questions of power, belonging, exclusion, visibility and invisibility among others. Issues of race, gender and sexuality will also inform our work together. Collaborative projects with locally and globally diverse communities and individuals will further shape this course, as will studio visits with artists, filmmakers, curators, historians, and media makers in LA/the US, South/Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Europe. By the end of the immersive, students will have gained critical skills in discussion, research, and writing alongside creative skills in visual media making to independently produce a visual media project.

Visit the course web page for more information!

Image caption: "Columbia" by Dinh Q. Lê (2003). Lê’s woven images combine historical and personal photographs, Hollywood film stills, and journalistic images in order to reframe representations of war and migration from the perspectives of Vietnam, the United States and the global Vietnamese diaspora. Lê’s photo-weaving technique derives from traditional methods of weaving mats that the artist learned from his aunt.

Immersive: Computing IRL

Taught by Prof. Brian Bartell, Prof. Chris Cianci, and other Computer Science faculty

The Computing IRL ("In Real Life") immersive program consists of a connected set of courses in which students will see how computing techniques and ideas inform and are informed by their interaction with the real world. Student who participate in this 12-unit program will take three connected courses:

  • FYS 11: Social Difference and the Politics of Technology (4 units)
  • COMP 131: Fundamentals of Computering Science (4 units)
  • COMP 295: Computing IRL Internship (4 units)

By participating in this program, you will fulfill your Fall FYS and Core Lab Science requirements.

FYS 11: Social Difference and the Politics of Technology

Prof. Brian Bartell
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

"Technology" is often thought of as being neutral and at its best providing solutions to problems without human bias. Despite this, contemporary developments in predictive policing and algorithmic racism, to give only two prominent examples, suggest that this is not the case. In Social Difference and the Politics of Technology we will discuss contemporary issues like AI, automation, and environmental technologies, and a longer history of technology dating to plantation slavery and European colonialism. The course will ask students to think about the ways that technological development has never been neutral and has always been connected to histories of race, gender, sexuality, and hierarchical conceptions of what it means to be human, as well as economics and labor, and ecological issues. In doing so we will look at a wide array of texts and media to examine these histories, to imagine worlds otherwise to them, and as a foundation for developing writing skills in order to ethically engage with technological change on an increasingly unequal and unstable planet. Open only to first-year frosh.

Visit the course web page for more information!

Standard FYS Courses for Fall 2024

All of the seminars listed below earn 4 units.

FYS 3: Imagining Utopia

Prof. Michael Amoruso
Section 1: MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55
Section 2: MWF 12:50-1:45 + W 3:00-3:55

Given the desperate situation of our world—environmental crises, racial injustice, reactionary politics, out of control AI—it can be hard not to devolve into dystopianism and despair. Yet, in this course, we will focus on religious communities who, faced with similar societal challenges, imagined a hopeful future: utopia. We will see that utopian thinking tends to flourish during times of precarity and unrest, when the fracturing of the old social order opens up new spaces of possibility. The course starts with a brief genealogy of utopian socialism-inspired intentional communities and political reform across the Atlantic world, with special attention on its religious and philosophical roots. From there, we will study the utopian visions of a range of communities from the late-nineteenth century to the present, including the Oneidan community’s vision of sexual liberation, the early Rastafari commune at Pinnacle, and the communist community at Marinaleda in Spain. We’ll explore how their utopian visions inspired political change and consider what lessons these communities might offer us today. Students will get firsthand experience with both the promise and challenges of living in alternative societies through site visits to historic and contemporary intentional communities in Los Angeles. Students will also engage in a social justice project so they can themselves envision and work toward a more utopian future. This course is part of the Humanities for Just Communities curriculum.


FYS 4: Isn't It Romantic? Romance Novels as the People's Genre

Prof. Q. Sarah Ostendorf
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

While the term "romance novel" today often calls to mind tawdry love stories featuring heaving bosoms and uncontrollable passions, the genre of romance is much more complex than these stereotypes would make it seem. Early examples of romance are sprawling adventure narratives of chivalry, crusades, the supernatural, and yes, occasionally even love. Today, these tales have evolved into the modern day romance novel - a genre known for celebrating love, but which also often questions gender, sexuality, family and friend relationships, and professional success. In this course we will explore the genealogy of romance, asking not only what constitutes a romance, but also what the continuously popular genre can teach us about readers' desires and discontents across history.


FYS 5: Romance and Sexuality in Asia

Prof. Min Joo Lee
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

This course will examine the diverse ways that Asians conceptualize and engage in romantic and sexual relationships in ways that complicate the hegemonic Western stereotype of Asian men as emasculated and Asian women as hypersexualized. For example, we will examine the sex tourism and sex work industry in different parts of Asia. We will comparatively examine the stories of Asian marriage migrants. Furthermore, we will examine how queer Asians conceptualize their queerness in relation to the hegemonic white Western queer identities. In addition to academic journal articles and books, materials we will cover throughout the course will include various forms of popular cultural contents ranging from magazine articles, photographs, and films, to music videos, and social media posts. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 6: Senses and Sensorium in Classical Literature

Prof. Meimei Zhang
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

Why are the senses important? They are our means of experiencing the physical world. We are born to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, through which we perceive, experience, and make sense of our surroundings. This course explores the vital role of the senses in human experience and their representation in Chinese literature. Through various genres and historical periods, we will examine how sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell are depicted in literary works. By analyzing these sensory descriptions, we will uncover how authors' philosophical views, aesthetic preferences, and personal interests influence their ways of writing about sensory experiences. The course emphasizes that our sensory experiences are both collective and individual, highlighting the diverse ways in which we perceive and interpret the world around us.


FYS 7: What’s the (Subject) Matter with Musicals?

Prof. Laural Meade
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

Broadway musicals are paradoxical. For all their quality, popularity, and variety, musicals have been historically disparaged as escapist entertainment: romantic and/or comedic romps that are, for the most part, thematically light and spectacle-oriented. And then Hamilton, right? Not so fast. Singing and dancing theater artists have dramatized hard-hitting social dynamics throughout the history of the form. This course will explore the development of the distinctly “political” stage musical. Offerings will track its rise throughout the 20th century (in shows such as Showboat, Cradle Will Rock and Hair), to contemporary productions that tackle a variety of issues through a decidedly intersectional lens (like Caroline, Or Change and Passing Strange). Our inquiries will also address representation and access. For all of the evolution of the genre, musicals are out of reach for many, on stage and off. How can an essentially elite art form have meaningful resonance and impact? Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 8: Transnational Feminist Films

Prof. Viviana MacManus
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

This course uses a feminist lens to analyze transnational documentary and feature films. We will examine the politics of gender in films produced in the West and the Global South and we will assess the flows between "first world" and "third world" cinematic traditions. Students will gain the necessary skills to analyze representations of gender, race, class, nationality, and sexuality in transnational film. The course considers how film can be a powerful tool that operates in the perpetuation of "third" and "first world" hierarchies and the economic, racial, and gendered inequalities that stem from histories of colonization. We will also consider how film can offer a critique of these dominant ideologies and inequalities that reflects postcolonial relations between "first" and "third" worlds. We will turn to feminist film theory, documentary film theory, cultural studies and postcolonial feminist theory in order to facilitate our analysis and class discussions of these films. Open only to first year frosh. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 9: Linguistic Resilience in Los Angeles

Prof. Marishka Bolyanatz Brown
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

Los Angeles is one of the most linguistically diverse cities in the world. At the same time, it is also known as a linguistic graveyard, absorbing immigrants by the millions and extinguishing their home languages within a few generations. The loss of home languages is due in part to ideologies associating the English language with whiteness, power, and "American" identity. It is within this context, acknowledging the socio-political and institutional barriers to speaking a non-English language in the United States, that students in this course will explore how maintaining a home (or heritage) language, and indeed, speaking any non-English language in the United States is an act of political resistance. This course will focus on the speakers of non-English languages who are attempting to resist the barriers described above and maintain their languages at the individual, community, and institutional levels. We will focus on the linguistic resilience and cultural practices of speakers of Spanish, Mandarin, and indigenous American languages in Los Angeles and throughout the country, via scholarly readings, documentaries, and case studies, as well as through field trips and guest lectures with members of these communities. This course will ask students to pose questions about the connection between one's identity and the language one speaks. We will examine our experiences with our own language(s), confront our own beliefs, and aim to understand the beliefs and experiences of others. Please note that there will be 1-3 field trips in this course, usually on Saturday mornings. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 10: All That Glitters: Life, Literature and Film in Los Angeles

Prof. Jackie Elam 
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

Norman Mailer described Los Angeles as a "constellation of plastic." John Fante called it a "sad flower in the sand." Is Los Angeles really just "72 suburbs in search of a city," as Dorothy Parker claimed, or is there something else brewing beneath the beautiful, sunny skies? We’ll explore (primarily through films and literary texts) 20th and 21st century Los Angeles as both a real and imagined location. Through the completion of three papers (including one with a research component), a self-directed field trip and other activities, you’ll craft your own conceptual “map” of the place. Please note that some of the literary and film texts for this course may be disturbing. Contact the instructor if you have any questions. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 12: Animal Intelligence

Prof. Zach Silver
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

From our pets to the animals that we see in popular media, nonhuman animals represent a central component of the human experience. The prevalence of animals in our daily lives invites questions surrounding how animals think and reason about the world around them. This course will provide an overview of the many perspectives on animal intelligence and the scientific frameworks used to explore how animals think. Our discussions of animal intelligence will feature species traditionally thought to be highly intelligent, such as dolphins and whales, as well species whose intelligence is often overlooked, such as ants and bees. We will also explore the intersection between research on animal intelligence and debates surrounding animal ethics. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 13: Psychosocial Determinants of Health Disparities

Prof. Patty Cabral
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

Disease prevalence, severity, and treatment varies across sociodemographic groups. Understanding why health disparities occur is key to determining how inequalities might be alleviated. Central to detangling health disparities are psychological, socio-cultural, cognitive processes, and behaviors that are related to ethnic, cultural, and gender identity experiences. The focus of this course is on research that a) describes health disparities, b) investigates factors that explain differences, and c) proposes interventions to treat at-risk populations. This course will emphasize the theme of equity in health across multicultural groups. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 14: Race and the Environment

Prof. Michael Murphy
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

For several decades, scholars and activists have documented, analyzed, and organized against the myriad ways that race shapes the quality of environments in which human life unfolds. Their work has consistently revealed that environmental burdens, such as air pollution, toxic contamination, and urban heat island effects (to name a few), are distributed unequally across the color line,⁠ and that both nonwhite and low-income populations are most vulnerable when it comes to dealing with "natural" disasters and their aftermath.⁠ People of color also often lack adequate access to environmental amenities and necessities like tree canopy cover and green space,⁠ in addition to having inadequate access to healthy and affordable foods.⁠ This scholarship points to different facets of we might call racialized socioecological relations, or those relations and dynamics between humans, nonhumans, and ecosystems, that are mediated by racial hierarchy and difference. In this course, we will study racialized socioecological relations at various scales, from the neighborhood to the globe, with the underlying aim of rethinking “race,” “the environment,” and their complex relationship. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 15: Literature and Philosophy: The Dionysian in Modern Thought

Section 1: Prof. Damian Stocking
Section 2: Prof. Sydney Mitsunaga-Whitten
Both sections: MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

More than simply a "god of wine," Dionysus was for the Ancient Greeks a god of ecstatic self-abandon, of gushing fertility, of violent dismemberment and unexpected rebirth. In myth he was attended by raving Maenads and mischievous Satyrs; amongst humans he was worshiped with festive dances, communal shouts, ritual obscenities, and (perhaps most importantly) with poetry—with the literary genres of ode, comedy and tragedy that were invented specifically to honor him. What could be farther, we might ask, from the cool, reasonable practice of philosophy than this wild, uncanny, irrational god? And yet, as we shall see in this class, this reckless god of madness and poetry stands at the foundation of some of the most important ideas in modern philosophy—Hegel's phenomenology of spirit, Nietzsche's will to power, Heidegger's philosophy of Existenz, Bataille's notion of excess, and Derrida's "non-concept" of différance. Beginning with an exploration of Dionysian poetics in Ancient Greece, this course will attempt to show what thinkers like these found so inspiring in this ancient god, and what the writers and thinkers of our own time might yet find in him still. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 16: Chaos: Just How Predictable Is Our Universe?

Prof. Janet Scheel
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

In this seminar, we will learn how the mathematics of chaos helps us to better understand science, economics, psychology, and our environment. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 17: Exploring Experimental Poetry

Prof. James Ford
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

While poetry often gets framed as a path for individual expression, poetry has proven especially effective for questioning the terms of cultural belonging, political agency, and collective memory. This seminar will examine poets from several different cultural traditions. Poetic form is constantly changing along with our rapidly changing world, in order to address the gaps and contradictions that narrative cannot always fill. For that reason, this course is interested in the centrality of experiment to poetic creation.

Close readings of poetry from Phillis Wheatley, Derek Walcott, Solmaz Shariff, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Philip Metres, and Kevin Young will provide test cases for improving our skills in writing thesis-driven and argumentative essays.


FYS 18: AAPI: The History of a Racial Category

Prof. Jane Hong
Section 1: MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55
Section 2: MWF 12:50-1:45 + W 3:00-3:55

How do racial categories get constructed in the United States? Who decides which groups get lumped together and which are classified separately–and why? This seminar will explore these questions using the history of the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) racial category, focusing on its construction in law and policy, popular culture, community and grassroots activism, and academic scholarship. Like some other groups, AAPI have experienced racialized exclusion and demonstrated community resistance as well as resilience. They also share histories indelibly formed by US wars and militarism. But settler colonialism and Indigenous movements to reclaim land and political control distinguish Pacific Islander histories from Asian American counterparts. Many Pacific Islanders "became American" through annexation and/or colonization by the United States, not through im/migration. These factors set them apart. Such differences have had implications for AAPI activism and advocacy, as recent examples from the racial violence of the Covid-19 pandemic have demonstrated. By interrogating the construction of the AAPI racial category, we will familiarize ourselves with AA and PI histories as well as with broader trends in U.S. history and politics from the nineteenth century through the present.  


FYS 19: Latinx Foodways

Prof. Alexandra Puerto
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

This seminar explores the relationship between food, race, and migration for Latinx populations in historical and contemporary U.S. contexts. The course is organized thematically with a fundamental consideration of how and why food has shaped Latinx migrant communities and collective identities. Through Ethnic Studies and Gender Studies frames and topics such as cultural memory, labor, agriculture, authenticity, gentrification, and health, we will examine debates about the role of food in assimilation and transculturation as well as the interplay between production, distribution and consumption of food. California as a subject of study will play a prominent role in our studies. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 20: Emancipation: Black Freedom in the Making

Prof. Sharla Fett
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

The emancipation of four million enslaved people during the US Civil War marked the largest scale abolition of slavery in the Western Hemisphere. This unprecedented social and political revolution was accomplished not only by elite politicians and generals but also by millions of emancipated African Americans. Historian Barbara Jeanne Fields wrote, “freedom was no fixed condition but a constantly moving target.” Building on traditions of resistance established under chattel slavery, freedpeople struggled to make freedom a reality along many dimensions, including bodily sovereignty, land, labor, intimate relations, family integrity, education, legal rights, and citizenship. In this class, we will immerse ourselves in primary historical documents—including letters, military reports, petitions, and newspapers—seeking to understand how African Americans pursued their vision of freedom from wartime through Reconstruction. We will also take the “long view,” as the poet Langston Hughes put it, to examine the legacies of emancipation as seen from our contested present. At the end of the course, students will participate in a social justice project. This course is part of the Humanities for Just Communities curriculum. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 21: Histories of Incarcerated Youth

Prof. Christine Grant
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

Can young lawbreakers be rehabilitated, or should they be removed from society to prevent them endangering others? Since the 1820s, reformers, philanthropists, and state officials throughout the Western world have wrestled with the question of how to reduce juvenile crime and turn delinquents into good citizens. The institutions and policies they created reflected their conceptions of young criminals, their backgrounds and families, their gender and their race. How did experts develop a body of knowledge about at-risk youth, what practices did they put into place, and what spaces did they build to house and contain the children? How have the children themselves responded, developing a sense of their own identity through compliance with or resistance to reformers' intent? Reformers and policymakers adapted their solutions to national and local contexts, but they also participated in an international network of experts from Europe and North America that debated ideas and offered new models for responding to juvenile delinquency. We will explore ideas, practices, and institutions created to save juvenile delinquents, presented in reports and studies as well as fiction and film. Students will encounter a variety of primary and secondary sources from Britain, France, the USSR, and the USA from the early nineteenth century to the present day. Note that the course will sometimes address difficult or distressing subject matter. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 22: Understanding Society through Soccer

Prof. John Lang
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

Beginning in England over 150 years ago, association football, commonly known as soccer in the United States, has evolved from a working-class tradition to a multi-billion dollar global industry. Argentina's World Cup final victory over France in 2022 had a global audience of roughly 1.5 billion people, making it a far larger event than the 2022 NFL Super Bowl's audience of roughly 115 million. Passion for the game connects fans in the legendary arenas of Wembley Stadium (England), Estadio Azteca (Mexico), and Maracanã Stadium (Brazil) among others, to the suburban fields of the United States, and makeshift pitches across the globe. Given its ubiquity, with possibilities to watch the game on television 24/7, not to mention on the small screen of everyone’s smartphone, one wonders, how can soccer be used as a prism for learning about society?


FYS 23: Copyright, Originality, and Theft in Popular Music

Prof. Stephen Hudson
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

In this seminar we will explore recent debates about originality, authenticity, imitation, sampling, and appropriation, within the context of the American judicial system, copyright law, and the history of the American popular music industry. We begin with the earliest forms of American popular music in the 1800s and work up to the present, examining how copyright laws and music industry practices have changed to keep up with evolving technology. Assigned readings span a rich and interdisciplinary mix of scholarly research, newspaper articles, interviews with artists, blog posts, album reviews, legal proceedings, and (of course) music recordings themselves. The culmination of the course will be a research paper in which students examine the stakes and outcome of a recent act of musical larceny. Knowledge of music is not required. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 24: Imagining Freedom

Prof. Season Blake
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

Mariame Kaba, an anti-violence activist and advocate of abolishing prisons and policing, has said, “As a society, we have been so indoctrinated with the idea that we solve problems by policing and caging people that many cannot imagine anything other than prisons and the police as solutions to violence and harm.” This course revolves around Kaba’s insight. To imagine a freer and more just world, we begin by discussing concepts of freedom. Then we use these concepts to discuss the many ways that those in the prison system are denied freedom, as well as the ways that people are manipulated toward complicity in an unjust status quo, even sometimes in our own oppression. Then we will examine how certain social movements have developed practices to resist  social and political coercion, with special focus on how their work enables us to discuss and imagine more freely. At the end of the course, students will engage in a social justice project that will give them the opportunity to envision and work towards a more just world. This course is part of the Humanities for Just Communities curriculum. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 25: Social Documentary Photography: A New Civil Contract

Prof. David Weldzius
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

In this course, we will examine historical and contemporary approaches to social documentary photography—visual anthropology, citizen journalism, and agitprop, among other forms. We will consider the efficacy of photographic images in garnering awareness and persuading actors to enact sociopolitical change. We will draw consensus on our understandings of “the real," both in tandem to and opposition with staged, scripted, and/or verisimilar depiction modes, while examining the ethics of capturing another's likeness. Over the course of the semester, we will delve into critical writings and works by documentarians/collectives that either bring the liberal humanist documentary model into complex new territories or refute its criteria entirely. Together, we will confront our role as image-makers, our ethical relationship to our subjects, and ruminate on the civic value of the social documentary form today. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 26: We the I the People: Individualism in American Literature

Prof. Devin Fromm
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

In "The American Scholar," Ralph Waldo Emerson urged the spirit of a young nation to take control of its literary destiny, so as "to look from under its iron lids, and fill the postponed expectation of the world with something better than the exertions of mechanical skill." Following Emerson’s invocation, American literature more than fulfilled this charge, establishing itself as a unique and prosperous field through meditations on his notion of individuality. This course will look at the development of American letters as it unfolds in the context of Emerson’s call to arms, reading genre’s of romanticism, realism and regionalism, modernism, and more. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 27: City Scenes: The Arts of Urbanism in the Modern Era

Prof. Raul Villa
Section 1: MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55
Section 2: MWF 12:50-1:45 + W 3:00-3:55

This seminar examines the generative relationship between urban experience and creative expression in major metropoli—such as London, Paris, New York, Berlin and Los Angeles—in the 19th and 20th century. We will consider how the material and social aspects of urban life have informed works of literature, painting, photography and film. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 28: Cultural Anthropology and Other/Realities

Prof. Alex Bolyanatz
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

This seminar is essentially a course in cultural anthropology. Cultural anthropology emerged within the past two centuries as a means of coming to grips with the diversity of ways of being human. While cultural anthropology’s history has been tainted by collusion with racist and imperialist programs, it remains the single loudest academic voice on behalf of indigenous peoples around the world—not only in terms of advocacy for such folks, but also in terms of fomenting understanding of people who are not like us. In this course, we will look at a part of the world—New Ireland, Papua New Guinea—that is different, in many respects, from the WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) societies from which most, if not all, of the students in this class come. In so doing, we will discover that non-WEIRD societies have a logic to their ways of being and relating, and that sometimes, WEIRD ways of doing things are, well, weird. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 29: Debates in Sexuality

Prof. Caroline Heldman
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

This course introduces three theoretical perspectives on sexuality: biological, psychological, and social construction. With these perspectives in mind, we address pressing topics involving sex—prostitution/sex work, abortion, pornography, and sexual violence. Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 30: Techno-Orientalism

Prof. Greg Toy
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

This seminar considers how Asian and Asian American artists, filmmakers, and writers have responded to Western fantasies and fears of Asia—its cultural influence, its economic might, and its military ascendance—through the conventions of speculative fiction. We will examine how representations of Asian bodies and landscapes in alternate realities, possible futures, or revisionist histories negotiate what scholars call techno-Orientalism—problematic visions of Asia as simultaneously hypo- and hyper-technological. By exploring contemporary literary (novel, short story, poetry) and cultural production (film, music video, artwork), we will work toward answers to the following questions: why do futuristic visions of North American cityscapes resemble Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, and other Asian megacities? How does techno-Orientalism explain the contradictory origins of COVID-19 in both Chinese wet markets and laboratories? And, how has our understanding of humanity been reoriented amidst the onslaught of aliens, cyborgs, and other nonhuman entities? Open only to first-year frosh.


FYS 31: German Film: Modernity and its Monsters

Prof. Alexander Gardner
MWF 11:45-12:40 + W 3:00-3:55

This course offers a survey of German film from the origins of cinema to the present day. We will focus on questions pertaining to how one can interpret or "read" a film, as well as the relation of German film to contemporaneous developments in art, literature and politics. How is the authoritarianism of the early 20th century depicted and/or confronted in film? What do horror films tell us about the anxieties and prejudices of the societies that produced and consumed them? Throughout the course, we will investigate the ways in which the dilemmas and aspirations of the modern world became legible in film, and continually ask to what extent film is a medium uniquely suited for depicting and attempting to understand modernity's paradoxes. Open only to first-year frosh.

FYS Grade Mode

All FYS courses are graded on an Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (or S/U) basis. Grades of S/U do not factor into a student’s term or overall GPA and students will receive a grade of S if their work is considered to be of passing quality as defined by the course syllabus. This is intended to encourage students to focus on gaining knowledge and skills required to meet college-level critical thinking and writing expectations. The grade mode emphasizes the growth represented by students’ work throughout the course.

Contact the Core Program
Johnson Hall

Room 115

Edmond Johnson
Director of Advising, Core Program Coordinator, Affiliated Faculty in Music
Office: Johnson Hall 108