First-Year Courses

The First-Year Course

A seminar for first-year students

In your first semester, you must take a First-Year Course. There are many options for you to choose from, on a wide-variety of topics, representing diverse disciplinary perspectives. Some students choose this course based on the topic; others because they want to explore a department in which they might major or minor. Either approach is fine. Because this is only one course out of four, and it only lasts one semester, there are plenty of opportunities throughout the first year to explore majors or interest areas beyond the First-Year Course.

Some First-Year Courses are designated as residential courses. Students who enroll in one of these courses live near one another in the same residence hall, usually on the same floor. This facilitates discussion and group work outside of the classroom. Many courses also utilize student writing preceptors to provide additional writing support and peer mentoring.

Abbreviations Key

  • R = students in the class will live near each other and, in most cases, will have a roommate who is also in this class
  • TR = Tuesday, Thursday; MWF = Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • WA = Argumentative Writing, WC = Writing as Craft, WP = Writing as Practice

First-Year Course Offerings for Fall 2015

DepartmentTeacherCourse NameResidentialWriting Designation
American Studies Karin Aguilar-San Juan AMST 103-01:  The Problem of Race in US Social Thought and Policy R WA
Anthropology Arjun Guneratne ANTH 194-01: Sustainability and the Modern World WA
Art & Art History Megan Vossler ART 130-01:  Drawing I R WP
Biology Lin Aanonsen BIOL 118-01:  The Heart and Soul of Biology R WA
Biology Elizabeth Jansen BIOL 117-01/WGSS 117-01:  Women, Health and Reproduction WA
Biology Sarah Boyer BIOL 194-01: Creatures and Curiosities None
Chemistry Susan Green CHEM 111-03 and Lab 1: General Chemistry I R WA
Classics Brian Lush CLAS 194-01:  The Ancient Greek Polis: Real and Idea WA
Computer Science Susan Fox COMP 123-03:  Core Concepts in Computer Science:  Turtles, Data, Images, and Robots R None
Economics Peter Ferderer ECON 119-01:  Principles of Economics R None
Economics Gary Krueger ECON 119-02:  Principles of Economics None
Educational Studies Tina Kruse EDUC 194-01:  Motivating Learners WA
English Daylanne English ENGL 125-01:  Ecstasy and Apocalypse: Literature of the Extreme WA
English Peter Bognanni ENGL 150-02: Introduction to Creative Writing WC
French Juliette Rogers FREN 194-01: La Belle Epoque? The Best and Worst of France, 1880-1914 WA
Geography Laura Smith GEOG 242-01:  Regional Geography of the  U.S. and Canada R WA
Geography Holly Barcus GEOG 294-01/ ASIA 294-01:  Contemporary Mongolia: Livelihoods, Economies and Environments R WA
Geology Karl Wirth/Jeff Thole GEOL 160-02 and Lab 3 / ENVI 160-02 and Lab 3: Dynamic Earth and Global Change R WA
German and Russian Studies Brigetta Abel GERM 194-01: Vampires—from Monsters to Superheroes R WA
German and Russian Studies Linda Schulte-Sasse GERM 255-01:  German Cinema Studies: The Nazi in Cinema R WA
Hispanic Studies Galo Gonzalez HISP 171-01:  Susurros del Pasado:  Whispers Toward the 21st Century WA
Hispanic Studies Molly Olsen HISP 305-01:  Introduction to Hispanic Studies: Nueva Orleans como Ciudad Afro-Latina R WA
History Yue-himTam HIST 140-01/ASIA140-01: Intro to East Asian Civilization WP
International Studies Ahmed Samatar INTL 110-01:  Introduction to International Studies: Globalization– Homogeneity and Heterogeneity WA
Math Chad Topaz MATH 135-03:  Applied Multivariable Calculus I: Death, Devastation, Blood, War, Horror, and Mathematics R None
Media and Cultural Studies Morgan Adamson MCST 128-02:  Film Analysis and Visual Culture WA
Music Mark Mazullo MUSI 155-01:  Music and Freedom R WA
Philosophy Geoffrey Gorham PHIL 100-01:  Introduction to Philosophy: Philosophy of the Future WA
Philosophy Janet Folina PHIL 111-01:  Logic None
Physics James Heyman PHYS 194-01: Nanotechnology R WA
Political Science David Blaney POLI 120-01:  Foundation of International Politics WA
Political Science Andrew Latham POLI 194-01:  The Politics of the Great War R WA
Political Science Patrick Schmidt/ Brian Rosenberg POLI 294-05/EDUC 294-02:  Civic Ideals and Higher Education in America WA
Psychology Joan Ostrove/ Anastasia Kayiatos PSYC 194-01/RUSS 194-01/WGSS 194-01: Minding the Body WA
Religious Studies Brett Wilson RELI 100-02:  Introduction to Islam None
Religious Studies Jim Laine RELI  238-01:  Catholics: Culture, Identity, and Politics WC
Sociology Erik Larson SOCI 190-01: Criminal Behavior/Social Control WA
Theatre and Dance Harry Waters, Jr. THDA 105-01: Theatre in the Twin Cities: Dreaming the World Forward WC pending

Course Descriptions

AMST 103-01:  The Problem of Race in US Social Thought and Policy (R)
Karin Aguilar-San Juan, American Studies Department

In this discussion-based and residential course, we will explore the hypothesis that 21st century racism has morphed from simple and evil formulations of bigotry and exploitation into more decentralized and seemingly benign systems of cultural camouflage and ideological control. We will focus particularly on the ways that “structural” inequalities inform complex racial formations, and consequently, individual life chances.

Our interdisciplinary and integrative approach will employ multiple methods of inquiry and expression, including: self-reflective essays and maps; a scavenger hunt along University Avenue; library research; and deep, critical analysis of arguments about race/ethnicity/assimilation/multiculturalism in the novel Americanah and the film "Crash."

We will hone writing and speaking skills through highly structured assignments paired with open-ended conversations in order to discover the questions that truly matter to us. The semester will culminate with a short (8-10 pages) college-level paper shaped by the Green Line light rail along University Avenue.

  • Class meets MWF, 1:10 pm – 2:10 pm in Neill Hall 217.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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ANTH 194-01: Sustainability and the Modern World
Arjun Guneratne, Anthropology Department

In the summer of 1989, the economist Julian Simon and the ecologist Garret Hardin faced off in an auditorium at the University of Wisconsin over the fate of the earth. Where Hardin was gloomy about the prospect, predicting that the demands of an increasing population would place natural resources under stress, Simon was unabashedly optimistic, arguing that human ingenuity would find solutions to the problems of human civilization. This course critiques both these sets of ideas, within an analytical framework that draws on anthropology, history and politics. The relationship of human populations to their environment is mediated by their culture, which shapes how, how much, and what we consume. Although human ingenuity can find technical solutions to the problems that face us, technology itself is ordered, managed and utilized by social and political systems. The trajectory of human societies throughout history is to develop increasing political, social and economic complexity over time, which in turn shapes how technology is developed and deployed to transform nature and help reproduce society. However, we live in a world that is more tightly integrated than ever before, which makes environmental stresses that were once localized in their impact into global problems, even as the complexity of our social and political organization, both locally and globally, militates against easy solutions.

The emergence of agriculture led to the development of centralized political systems and to an exponential increase in the human population, and eventually to an economic system based on perpetual growth requiring in turn a cultural-ideological system to generate a constant expansion of wants. By examining four inter-related factors that have shaped our modern condition—the rise of states, population growth, industrial food systems and the emergence of a ‘culture of consumption’—this course introduces students to a model through which to understand the modern world as an integrated whole based on inter-locking economic, political and socio-cultural systems. Given the tremendous stress placed on the environment by the operation of the global system, can the world political and economic order endure in its present configuration, how might its transformation be achieved and what might that transformation look like? This course promises no answers, but will raise crucial and complex questions, and introduce students to a way of thinking synthetically and holistically (i.e, anthropologically) about them.

  • Class meets MWF, 9:40 am – 10:40 am in Carnegie 05.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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ART 130-01: Drawing I (R)
Megan Vossler, Art & Art History Department

Drawing 1 is an introduction to a variety of drawing media and techniques, designed for students of all skill levels (including absolute beginners). Students explore a wide range of themes and subjects, including still life, architecture, figure drawing, portraiture, and imagination. Formal elements of drawing are covered in depth, including: line, value, volume, space, proportion, perspective, mark-making, and texture. Work is evaluated through individual meetings, written feedback, and group critiques. In evaluating artwork, we consider composition, use of formal elements, representational accuracy, expression, content, and intention.

The ability to thoughtfully describe artistic intent, and to articulately evaluate the quality of the end result, is practiced through frequent, loosely structured exercises in reflective writing. These exercises ask the student to think more deeply about their choices during the creative process. Students will also practice reflective writing in order to evaluate and constructively critique the work of other artists, including their peers.   

  • Class meets MW, 8:30 am – 11:40 am in Art Commons 302.
  • Writing designation:  WP
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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BIOL 118-01:  The Heart and Soul of Biology (R)
Lin Aanonsen, Biology Department  

The study of life and the great questions of life can be pursued from many different disciplines and approaches.  For many, the desire to study biology is sparked by the wonder and beauty that permeates all living beings, and often, also, a search for meaning.  In this course we will attempt to not only discuss and explore life through the study of biology but also explore how science and spirituality can be seamlessly entwined.  Fundamental principles of cell biology and physiology will be covered primarily through study of the endocrine and nervous system.  We will specifically explore the role of meditation and sleep on the brain/body through reading and discussion of research articles, and also through the practice of meditation.  In addition, we will examine the differences and intersections between science and religion/spirituality through discussion of readings by noted scientists and theologians.  This is a writing intensive course that does not require a strong science background, and is appropriate for students interested in pursuing either science or non-science majors.  It is especially intended for students who are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of biology and also willing to discuss the bridge between science and spirituality and belief.  It is not part of the biology major’s required core curriculum and will not count towards the major.

  • Class meets MWF, 9:40 am – 10:40 am in Olin-Rice 205.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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BIOL 194-01:  Creatures and Curiosities
Sarah Boyer, Biology Department  

This course deals with unfamiliar, mysterious, beautiful, grotesque, and overlooked animals all around us: the invertebrates.  We will explore animal evolution and focus on the biology of creatures such as jellyfish, insects, starfish, spiders, and corals.  In addition, we will discuss the cultural role of animals as curiosities – as specimens in cabinets and museums, or the subjects of phobias and urban legends – and the history and significance of the visual arts in zoology.  Drawing on topics in marine biology and entomology, students will learn about the ecology, life cycles, and anatomy of major groups of animals through lectures, observation of live animals, and dissections.  Two 1-hour lectures and one 1-hour lab per week.  We will take several field trips outside of class time to Macalester’s field station and local natural history and art museums – these will be scheduled to ensure that every student can participate in at least two excursions.  This course is appropriate for biology majors and non-majors alike, but it is not part of the biology major’s required core curriculum and will not count towards the major.  

  • Class meets MWF, 1:10 am – 2:10 pm in Olin-Rice 301.
  • Writing designation:

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BIOL 117-01/WGSS 117-01:  Women, Health and Reproduction 
Elizabeth Jansen, Biology Department  

This course deals with topics in human anatomy and physiology of special interest to women, especially those relating to sexuality and reproduction. The biology of menstruation, sexuality, pregnancy, contraception, infertility, abortion, menopause, cancer, and HIV/AIDS, plus advances in reproductive technologies and genetic engineering, prepare a foundation for discussion of sociocultural, ethical and legal considerations.  This course is appropriate for biology majors and non-majors alike, but it is not part of the biology major’s required core curriculum and will not count towards the major.

  • Class meets MWF, 9:40 am - 10:40 am in Olin-Rice 101.
  • Writing designation:  

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CHEM 111-03: General Chemistry I and Lab 1 (R)
Susan Green, Chemistry Department

Chemistry 111 offers a rigorous, foundational treatment of atoms and molecules.  We study the nature of chemical bonding and how bonding gives rise to the three-dimensional structure of matter.  We explore how the macroscopic properties of substances can be interpreted in terms of atomic and molecular structure.  We also learn mathematical and conceptual tools for quantifying chemical equilibrium, with an emphasis on acids and bases.  Laboratory work reinforces concepts in lecture, and also provides a review of fundamental topics, such as stoichiometry, gas laws, and solution-phase reactions, that are essential for future coursework in chemistry.  This FYC version of Chemistry 111 will attend to writing issues as well and carries the WA writing designation. Laboratory work also allows students to learn the writing of reports and keeping of a lab notebook.

This course is especially appropriate for students interested in majoring in chemistry, biology or neuroscience or interested in fulfilling pre-medical requirements.

  • Class meets MWF, 9:40 am – 10:40 am in Olin-Rice 301; lab T 8-11:10 am in Olin Rice 343.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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CLAS 194-01: The Ancient Greek Polis: Real and Idea
Brian Lush, Classics Department

A millennium and a half before the emergence of the nation-state, the ancient Greeks developed a model of governance from which our word “politics” and (in many ways) our conception of political participation grew:  the polis, or city-state.  The form became so fundamental to Greek conceptions of identity and human nature that Aristotle would claim that every human being is a politikon zōon, a political animal, an animal of the polis.

This course will examine the political model that became emblematic of Greek civilization during the Classical period.  We will begin with a brief look at Minoan and Mycenaean roots, and examine the remarkably rapid birth of the polis out the chiefdoms described in the poetry of Homer.  Having discussed the birth of the polis during the late Dark Age and the Archaic period, we will read about and critically examine the Greek polis (and Athens in particular) through two distinct but related lenses.  We will discuss the historical polis through exposure to such authors as Herodotus (The Histories), Thucydides (History of the Peloponnesian War) and Aristotle (Constitution of the Athenians).  At the same time, we will explore the Greeks’ own depictions of an ideal (and idealized) polis by discussing a broad range of literary and philosophical texts, including Aeschylus’ Persians, Sophocles’ Antigone, Aristophanes’ Birds, Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics.  Secondarily, this course will seek to provide students with a “tool box” of crucial Greek authors and perspectives upon which they can draw throughout their time at Macalester.

As we explore and formulate an understanding of the Greek history, literature and ideas, students will devote substantial effort to strengthening their abilities in analytical writing, scholarly inquiry and dialogical communication – skills that will prove crucial to their further academic endeavors at Macalester.  Additionally, course assignments will emphasize both mastery of our sources internal logic and approaching those same sources critically.  Further, course meetings will depend heavily on open-minded and constructive discussion sensitive to the perspectives and interpretations of all participants.

  • Class meets MWF, 10:50 am – 11:50 am in Old Main 009.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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COMP 123-03: Core Concepts in Computer Science:  Turtles, Data, Images and Robots (R)
Susan Fox, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Department

At its core, Computer Science is about information and process. Information becomes data that a computer can manipulate; a process describes in a standard way the steps to solve a given problem. The computer and the Internet have transformed our lives by allowing us to store and manipulate data in unprecedented ways, and by automating incredibly complex processes.

Computer science is also fundamentally about the interplay of design, creativity, technique, and experimentation. Creating complex systems or ways to represent complex data requires us to plan carefully (design), and to know how to use the computer’s tools (technique), but we also experience inspiration and build something beautiful out of our imaginations (creativity), and often we just have to get our hands dirty trying things out (experimentation).

This course will introduce you to computer science, including central concepts of the field such as design and implementation of algorithms and programs, testing and analyzing programs, and the representation of information within the computer. Our exploration of these central ideas will be organized around several major topics, including turtle graphics, text and data analysis, image processing, robot control, and graphical user interfaces used to create games and other programs. We use turtle graphics as a tool to learn basic programming skills. We learn the kinds of questions we can ask and answer with computer analysis of texts, like books or web pages, or datasets stored in spreadsheets. We explore techniques for manipulating images, to understand the representation of digital images and algorithm patterns. We build basic robot control programs, and graphical user interfaces. We will use the popular Python programming language and a number of supporting software systems.

This course is suitable for students who are considering a major in computer science, and also for students who are just interested in learning about computer science to support other interests. There are no prerequisites for this course; no background in computing or programming is required.

  • Class meets MWF, 2:20 pm – 3:20 pm in Olin-Rice 256.
  • Writing designation:  none
  • Living arrangements:  Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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ECON 119-01: Principles of Economics (R)
Peter Ferderer, Economics Department

This course provides an introduction to economics.  The first part covers microeconomics, which focuses on the economic decisions of individual households and firms and how these decisions interact in markets.  We explore cases where the "invisible hand" of the market works well to coordinate the activities of individuals for their mutual benefit, as well as cases where "market failures" justify government intervention.  The second part of the course covers macroeconomics--the study of economic aggregates (e.g., national income, inflation, unemployment, etc.) and the forces that cause them to change over time.  Why have incomes risen so dramatically in some countries over the past century while not in others?  Why do economies experience business cycles and to what extent can they be moderated by monetary and fiscal policy?  This is a good course for students who only intend to take one course in economics and desire a general overview, as well as those who are thinking about majoring in economics and wish to lay a foundation for further study in the field.   

  • Class meets MWF, 10:50 am – 11:50 am in Carnegie 305.
  • Writing designation:  none
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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ECON 119-02: Principles of Economics
Gary Krueger, Economics Department

This course provides an introduction to economics.  The first part covers microeconomics, which focuses on the economic decisions of individual households and firms and how these decisions interact in markets.  We explore cases where the "invisible hand" of the market works well to coordinate the activities of individuals for their mutual benefit, as well as cases where "market failures" justify government intervention.  The second part of the course covers macroeconomics--the study of economic aggregates (e.g., national income, inflation, unemployment, etc.) and the forces that cause them to change over time.  Why have incomes risen so dramatically in some countries over the past century while not in others?  Why do economies experience business cycles and to what extent can they be moderated by monetary and fiscal policy?  This is a good course for students who only intend to take one course in economics and desire a general overview, as well as those who are thinking about majoring in economics and wish to lay a foundation for further study in the field.  

  • Class meets MWF, 1:10 pm – 2:10 pm in Carnegie 305.
  • Writing designation:  none

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EDUC 194-01:Motivating Learners
Tina Kruse, English Department

This course explores the critical yet complex area of educational psychology that addresses human motivation: What motivates us to learn, to change, and grow? Why do some students give up while others prosper in response to specific circumstances or environments?  What can teachers, mentors, and students themselves do to support and sustain active engagement in learning?

We will study the overarching psychological theories of human motivation with specific attention to academic achievement. We will examine developmental and individual differences in motivation, as well as differences by context and group membership. Other topics include attribution theory, student self-beliefs, effects of grades and testing on achievement motivation, effects of reward or praise, and student empowerment in schools and community-based youth development programs to enhance motivation.

  • Class meets TR, 1:20 pm – 2:50 pm in Neill Hall 215.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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ENGL 125-01: Ecstasy & Apocalypse: Literature of the Extreme
Daylanne English, English Department

In this first-year course, we will study how literature represents extreme human experiences and feelings. As we read a wide range of texts, we will ask ourselves aesthetic, and even political and ethical, questions: Must literary form stretch itself to represent an individual's or a family's joy or misery? How can an author show us and help us to understand the end of a world or of a people? Must writers invent new forms when faced with unprecedented traumas? Can apparently opposed extremes, such as joy and misery, have common sources? How might utopia become dsytopia? We will read primarily fiction, but also poetry and nonfiction to investigate whether other genres and literary modes work differently at, and with, the extreme. We will also view some films and videos and listen to some music to discover if other media may offer alternative, or possibly better, ways to represent ecstasy and apocalypse, joy and misery. Texts, among others, that we will study: Blue Highways, The Road, Herland, Never Let Me Go, Silent Spring, the Bible, the Koran, MAUS, and Fun Home.

  • Class meets TR, 9:40 am – 11:10 am in Old Main 001.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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ENGL 150-02: Introduction to Creative Writing
Peter Bognanni, English Department

In this first year course we will dive right into the study of creative writing by reading and writing poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and personal essays. We will study how published authors craft their pieces, how they convey sensation and emotion, and how they artfully tell a story. Along the way, you’ll try your hand at each literary form we study. This is the basic template you can expect on a day-to-day basis. But, beyond this relatively simple pattern, what I hope will happen this semester is that you’ll lose yourself entirely to the daring act of creating literature. I hope you’ll disappear into what John Gardener calls the “vivid and continuous dream.” I hope you’ll use your growing knowledge of writing technique and literary history to say something fearless and artful about the world around you. And I hope you will see that what you write matters. Great creative writing aspires to more than just a pleasant diversion from life. At its best, it directly engages with life and even tries to change it. I hope this class will be a doorway into that experience for you.

  • Class meets TR, 9:40 am – 11:10 am in Old Main 011.
  • Writing designation:  WC

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FREN 194-01: La Belle Epoque?  The Best and the Worst of France, 1880-1914
Juliette Rogers, French and Francophone Studies Department

In this course, we will study the time period in France known as the “Belle Epoque” (1880-1914).  This era was one of the richest in modern French cultural history, and we will examine the rise of the Impressionist and Cubist movements in art, the development of modern music by Debussy and Satie, and the expansion of French literature by authors Colette, Gide, and Proust.  In popular culture, nightclubs such as the Moulin Rouge became major gathering places for artists, and the farce dominated popular theater. We will also briefly review the major technological and scientific advances of the time period, including the discoveries by Marie and Pierre Curie and the invention of cinema, the metro, and the automobile.  However, we must also remember that this “beautiful” time included a darker side, and we will study several key causes that led to damaging or destructive events, such as the anti-semitism that spurred the Dreyfus Affair, the racist policies that promoted the continuing colonization of Africa during the period, and the political events leading up to World War I in 1914.  At the end of the course, we will examine how developments during the Belle Epoque have affected contemporary French society a century later.

  • Class meets TR, 1:20 pm - 2:50 pm in Neill Hall 402.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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GEOG 242-01: Regional Geography of the U.S. and Canada (R)
Laura Smith, Geography Department

What is it?  Where is it?  Why is it located there?  So what?  Geography is much more than a collection of facts about capital cities and mountain ranges; the essence of geography is to study why locations and features matter.  Geography is the study of spatial organization of human activity, and of people’s relationships with their environment – whether in an urban or a rural setting.  How have human activities in a place been shaped by the landscape, and in turn, how has the landscape been shaped by human activities?

In Regional Geography of the United States and Canada, we tackle relevant and engaging questions such as:

  • Are fast-growing western cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix sustainable?
  • What characteristics give “The South” a stronger regional image than other areas of the U.S. and Canada?
  • What are the economic and cultural effects of language in French Canada?

Throughout the semester, we explore the ways in which diverse groups of people interact with the natural environment to produce the contemporary landscapes and regional differentiation of the U.S. and Canada.  The course emphasizes patterns of human settlement, economic activity, and land use, with special focus given to the development of Native American lands.

This course is designed to be interactive.  We use a variety of projects and media to incorporate both concept and region into our discussions.  We often draw on classmates’ “regions of expertise” to learn from each other.  Within the discipline of geography, fieldwork is central to improving our understanding of places and regions and to developing our skills of observation and analysis – so we will also head into the field for some first-hand experience with regions in Minnesota.  We will visit the Boreal Forest region of northern Minnesota to examine the “reinvention” of a natural resource-based economy and issues of environmental sustainability in areas of continued primary industry.  Specifically, we will study the impact of iron ore mining on cities and populations of Minnesota’s Iron Range, the forestry and paper industries of the Boreal Forest Region, and the urban redevelopment strategies of the international port of Duluth on Lake Superior.  Our visit to the Heritage Center of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa and stay at the tribal casino hotel will allow us to experience and explore cultural history and contemporary Native American economic development issues.

In addition to short writing assignments throughout the semester, you will also complete a final research paper on a regional geographic question of your choosing (with the help of your writing assistant). Geographers are broadly trained to analyze and synthesize, and are well prepared to study contemporary issues from urban to rural and from local to global.  Come explore the U.S. and Canada with us!

  • Class meets TR, 1:20 pm – 2:50 pm in Carnegie 107.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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GEOG 294-01/ASIA 294-01: Contemporary Mongolia:
Livelihoods, Economies and Environments (R)
Holly Barcus, Geography Department

The “land without fences” has long existed in the traveler’s mind as a place of extensive landscapes and nomadic cultures. After emerging from more than 60 years of communism, Mongolia transitioned to a democratic form of governance and capitalist economy in 1989 and by 2013 the Economist listed Mongolia as having the fastest growing economy in the world (The Economist 2013). Along with these monumental changes in governance structure and economy, Mongolia’s peoples witnessed profound changes in their livelihoods and experienced a rapid transition to new and emerging economies. This course takes a thematic, geographic perspective on the contemporary issues facing Mongolia and its citizens and bringing together such themes as development, gender, environment, migration, ethnicity and culture in this rapidly changing region of the world. Our task for the semester will be to consider the multiplicity of changes occurring across Mongolia and contextualize these within broader debates within the discipline of geography.

J.A. 2013. “The fastest growing economies in 2013: Speed is not everything.” The Economist, 2 Jan. Accessed 15 December 2014. http://www.economist.com/blogs/theworldin2013/2013/01/fastest‐growing‐economies‐2013

  • Class meets MWF, 10:50 am – 11:50 am in Carnegie 105.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements:  Single gender rooms, single gender floor.

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GEOL 160-02 and Lab 3/ENVI 160-02  and Lab 3:  Dynamic Earth and Global Change (R)
Karl Wirth, Geology Department, and Jeff Thole, Geology Department

This course provides a framework for understanding natural processes and global change on a dynamic planet.  We will examine the origins of mountains, the eruption of volcanoes, and the drifting of continents in the context of the unifying theory of plate tectonics.  We will also learn about surface processes, including landscape evolution, river systems, groundwater, desert environments, and coastal processes, all of which have profound effects on the human condition.  In this course, you will use a variety of approaches to learn, including: lecture, readings, laboratory activities, group projects, and field trips.  In particular, the course will emphasize problem-based learning in which students work in groups to address important societal questions.

  • Class meets MWF, 10:50 am – 11:50 am in Olin-Rice 187.  Lab meets R, 9:00 am – 11:10 am in Olin-Rice 187.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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GERM 194-01: Vampires—from Monsters to Superheroes (R)
Brigetta Abel, German Studies Department

Vampires are cyclical.  Just a few years ago you ran into them anytime you walked into a bookstore or turned on the TV—just like in Victorian times when Bram Stoker’s famous work emerged from a vampire craze.  Vampires have always been popular fodder and will continue to be so, even if and as the image of the vampire shifts dramatically over time.  The popularity of vampires has waxed and waned for over a hundred years, partially because vampirism can be used as a metaphor for almost anything—from the plague to sexuality to addiction.  We will spend the first portion of the semester looking at “classic” tales of vampires as monsters (Bram Stoker, John Polidori, Sheridan Le Fanu, Nosferatu, Bella Lugosi) and then look at the more recent generation of vampires (Buffy & Angel, Anne Rice, Twilight, True Blood, Let the Right One In).  What happened to change our imagination of vampires from monsters into hip, outsider superheroes?  And what can the examination of vampires tell us about the context in which they were created?

Course Requirements:  Students are required to come to class prepared and to participate actively in the classroom discussion.  As preparation for class, students will read novels and articles and/or view films and TV shows; please note that many of the screenings will be outside of class time.  In addition, students will complete weekly writing assignments, including class blogs, responses to blogs, and several shorter essays that will prepare for a final paper.

This is a residential first-year course that satisfies the WA General Education Requirement.  It is designed for non-majors and requires no prior knowledge of vampirism or German.

  • Class meets MWF, 9:40 am – 10:40 am in Neill Hall 214.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements:  Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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GERM 255-01: German Cinema Studies:  The Nazi in Cinema (R)
Linda Schulte-Sasse, German Studies Department

The movies love to hate the Nazi, but what exactly is a “Nazi”?  Whether glamorized by Third Reich propaganda, vilified by allied propaganda, dramatized by historical thrillers, or caricatured by Hollywood fantasies, the cinematic Nazi is always a construct.  This is not to say there may not be some historical, psychological, or sociological truth in the depiction of Nazis, but their filmic portrayal, like that of any historical group, necessarily involves construction or representation.  And representations tend to tell us more about the era in which they were concocted than about the “real” thing.  Consciously or unconsciously, they serve a purpose: to educate, to entertain, to complicate or (over)simplify our understanding of history, to thrill, disturb, or affirm us as viewers.   The course will examine the questions of representation using the example of the cinematic Nazi—one case among hundreds, but an important one, as the Nazi has become the symbol of evil over the past half-century.

The first part of the course will focus on films from the historical period of the Third Reich.  We will examine how the Nazis represent themselves in documentaries like Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will or Fritz Hippler’s The Eternal Jew, as well as feature films like Hitler Youth Quex.  We will then turn to U.S. counter-propaganda in dramas like Tomorrow the World, in comedies like Chaplin’s Great Dictator or Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not To Be and in Disney cartoons.  Later we will explore postwar representations; likely examples will include Billy Wilder’s A Foreign Affair, Lina Wertmueller’s Seven Beauties, Mel Brooks’s The Producers, Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Downfall, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

Student obligations: a series of short papers and one longer research paper; at least one oral presentation. Two exams and in-class free-writing.   Hopefully the Twin Cities will offer some cultural events relevant to our theme that we can visit as a class.

N.B.: The course is taught in English and films are subtitled; no German language skills required. However, the course has much to offer students with an interest and background in German.  

  • Class meets MWF, 10:50 am – 11:50 am in Neill Hall 401, plus evening film screenings; usually Tuesday evenings.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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HISP 171-01/LATI 171-01: Susurros del Pasado: Whispers Toward the 21st Century
Galo Gonzalez, Hispanic Studies Department

The course “Susurros del Pasado:  Whispers toward the 21st Century” will explore the definition of “Indigenous peoples” and its implication within the context of the Americas, and provide a forum for discussion of the suffering, oppression and discrimination experienced by this particular population. The course will also outline continuing struggle for freedom, for cultural and even their physical survival, by examining specific literature and cultural production authored by 20th and 21st century indigenous and non-indigenous authors from North, Central and South America.  The chosen literature and cultural texts will illustrate trans-cultural and de-colonization processes, and resistance to assimilation.

The following authors and films will be the source of our readings and class discussion:  Sherman Alexie (The Toughest Indian in the World, 2000), Jose Maria Arguedas (Yawar Fiesta, 1941), Victor Montejo (Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village, 1987; and Sculpted Stones, 1995), Rigoberta Menchú (I Rogoberta Menchú. An Indian Woman in Guatemala, 1983), and Subcomandante Marcos (Questions And Swords. Folktales of the Zapatista Revolution, 2001); among the films, "Spirit:  The Seventh Fire (2005)," "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007)," "Cabeza de Vaca (1993)," "The Mission (1986)," and "A Place Called Chiapas (1998)."  Students will also read and discuss theories proposed by Erica-Irene Daes (United Nations Human Rights Prize 1993), Ronald Niezen, Walter Mignolo, Jeffrey Sissons, among others.

This course fulfills the WA (Argumentative Writing) requirement.  Students will have the opportunity to learn how to construct a solid argumentative assay.  They will receive instruction on the various steps of the processes of writing and revising an essay.  Through the use of a variety of resources, students will practice methods of selecting themes, setting up solid arguments based on solid evidence, and reaching relevant conclusions in relation to the argumentative intention of the essay.

Goals

The goals of the First Year Course are the following:

  • To introduce students to critical inquiry in the field of Hispanic and Latin American Studies.
  • To provide some instruction in college level writing (including multiple drafts and appropriate citation of source materials) and library skills.
  • To help students adjust to Macalester's academic life.  To connect first year students with a faculty member who serves him/her as an advisor.
  • To provide a supportive community of other first year students with shared interests and experiences to help in the transition to college.

Evaluation:

The work for this course consists of:  extensive readings, research exercises, writing essays, and a combination of lectures, group and individual presentations, and class discussions.  Students will be evaluated on the basis of:

1.  Class participation/group presentations: 25%

2.  Midterm Essay (7 pages in length): 20%

3.  Final Term paper (10 pages) and presentation (10 minutes): 35%

4.  Short essays (Two 3- page papers): 20%

  • Class meets MWF, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in Neill Hall 213.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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HISP 305-01: Introduction to Hispanic Studies: Nueva Orleans como Ciudad Afro-Latina (R)
Margaret Olsen, Hispanic Studies Department

This course is designated as a WA writing requirement.

This course is taught in Spanish and requires that students have attained proficiency at the Spanish 305 fifth semester level through high school coursework, or have tested into that level via the WebCape placement test.

The content of this First Year Course will focus on literary and cultural expression surrounding the relationship of New Orleans to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and on the city’s Afro-Latino identity. We will read theoretical writings from prominent Caribbean thinkers and will analyze written texts, films and performative expression from the region.  Like all FYCs, the course will focus on academic reading and writing skills and will help students develop critical thinking skills, specifically in the humanities. Finally, the course will help students transition to college life by providing strategies for time and stress management and by helping students to understand how to intentionally plan their program of study as part of a holistic learning process integrated with campus life, study away and engagement in the community. This will be a residential First Year Course.

  • Class meets MWF, 10:50 am – 11:50 am in Neill Hall 213.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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HIST 140-01/ASIA 140-01: Introduction to East Asian Civilization
Yue-him Tam, History Department

This course introduces the cultures and societies of East Asia from the earliest times to the present day from an historical perspective. Primarily an introductory course for beginners, this course considers a variety of significant themes in religious, political, economic, social and cultural changes in the region with emphasis on China and Japan. To a lesser degree, significant changes in Korea and Vietnam will also be examined.

ASSIGNMENTS & ASSESSMENT:

  • Map Exercise: 5%
  • Attendance & Discussion Participation: 20%
  • 1 oral report (20 minutes) on assigned topic: 20%
  • Mid-Term reflection on readings & lectures (8-10 pages): 25%
  • 1 research paper (10-12 pages) on topic of your own choice: 30%
  • [No final exam]

REQUIRED READINGS:

  • Required readings are mostly assigned from the following books: John K. Fairbank, Edwin 0. Reischauer, Albert M. Craig.
  • East Asia: Tradition and Transformation.(Houghton Mifflin). Conrad Schirokauer, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations. (Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovich).
  • Also, the following books are recommended: Frederick  W. Mote. Intellectual Foundations of China. (Alfred A. Knopf). John Naisbitt. Megatrends Asia: Eight Asian Megatrends That Are Reshaping our World. (Touchstone).

Other readings will be assigned from other publications and journals from time to time.

  • Class meets MWF, 1:10 pm – 2:10 pm in Neill Hall 227.
  • Writing designation:  WP

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INTL 110-01: Introduction to International Studies: Globalization – Homogeneity and Heterogeneity
Ahmed Samatar, International Studies Department

Globalization is upon us, resulting in unprecedented cultural interpenetrations and civilizational encounters. Most of what animates this condition is old. However, the contemporary velocity, reach, and mutations of these forces suggest a new “world time,” full of contradictions, perils, and promises. This course introduces students to globalization by posing the following questions: What is globalization, and how does one study it? What are the paramount ecological, cultural, economic, and political factors that shaped and propel it? What are the consequences, and how do we respond?

  • Class meets TR, 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm in Carnegie 404.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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MATH 135-03: Applied Multivariable Calculus I: Death, Devastation, Blood, War, Horror, and Mathematics  (R)
Chad Topaz, Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science Department

We adopt a mathematical framework to better understand catastrophic phenomena crucial to human existence, including global population growth, disease immunology and epidemiology, warfare, climate change, and more. At the core of this course is an applied mathematical viewpoint. As a student applied mathematician, you will come to view mathematics not as system of formulas to be memorized and manipulated, but as a flexible and powerful toolbox of ideas that can help solve real problems in diverse disciplinary fields including biology, economics, geoscience, physics, chemistry, medicine, and more.

The mathematical topics covered include differential and integral calculus of multiple variables, dimensional analysis, Fermi estimation, and introductory differential equations. For all of these topics, we place a strong emphasis on developing scientific computing and mathematical modeling skills.

This course serves students who might envision focusing on mathematics in college and students who wish to have solid quantitative skills to support work in another field. Only basic high school math (through algebra and trigonometry) is required as a prerequisite. Nonetheless, even if you have extensive experience with calculus (including advanced placement or similar) you may find new and challenging material in this course because of its emphases on applications, modeling, computation, and multivariate models. For further information on calculus placement at Macalester, see:

http://www.macalester.edu/academics/mscs/wheredoistart/entrycourses/

Math 135 counts towards the Natural Science and Mathematics distribution requirement. Additionally, as it carries a “Q1” designation, Math 135 partially satisfies the Quantitative Thinking general education requirement. Students enrolling in this course are required to simultaneously enroll in an argumentative writing (WA) or writing as craft (WC) course towards fulfillment of the college writing requirement.

This is a residential first-year course.

  • Class meets TR, 9:40 am – 11:10 am in Olin-Rice 245.
  • Writing designation:  none
  • Living arrangements:  Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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MCST 128-02:  Film Analysis and Visual Culture
Morgan Adamson, Media and Cultural Studies Department

We live in a world populated by images. These images, still and moving, can tell us a good deal about who we are, what we desire, and what we value as a culture—they both reflect and transform the realities of everyday life. Learning to analyze the power of images requires understanding the ways that they are produced, disseminated, and consumed; it requires looking at the ways that images are constructed and reading the codes and conventions that give them meaning—meaning which is always subject to change and contestation. Over the course of the semester, we will develop skills for examining the images that surround us, applying the tools and insights of visual analysis to television, advertising, art, and new media. However, the main focus of the course will be on the cinema (arguably one of the most important ‘new media’ of the twentieth century). Exploring a wide range of styles, geographies, and theories of cinema, this course will give you the tools and vocabulary necessary to more systematically analyze films. We will look at the evolution of the moving image, studying the transformations the cinema has undergone over the past century, as well as the ways that we, as spectators, have been transformed along with it. Alongside these questions, we will address issues of ideology, race, gender, colonization, nationalism, class, and surveillance as they occur in and are produced by visual culture, working to understand these issues not simply at the level of content, but at the level of form. Though our central focus will be to develop your close reading and writing skills, students will also have the opportunity to make a short video project.

  • Class meets TR, 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm in Neill Hall 402.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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MUSI 155-01: Music and Freedom (R)
Mark Mazullo, Music Department

The concept of freedom both lies at the heart of human rights discourse and provides the spark that ignites any number of musical movements. Intended for students with strong interests in the intersection between the performing arts and the humanities, this seminar serves as an introduction both to the concept of freedom as it has developed in Western thought since the late 18th century, and to the history of music in the cultures that have fostered such ideals. It intends to introduce students to the study of music (and, by association, the arts in general) from social, cultural, and critical perspectives, using the framework of human rights as a common theme. It also aims to contextualize the discourse of human rights within the history of arts and ideas, providing students with a sense of the term’s changing meanings and emphases over time and across space.

We will explore traditions in both Western art music (opera and symphonic music from the late eighteenth through the twentieth century) and twentieth-century popular music (from the mid-1940s to the present) in a search for the ways in which music has served socio-political ideologies – overtly through the aims of its composers, and unintentionally through the conditions of its reception. Readings on the concept of freedom from a variety of disciplinary perspectives (history, philosophy, political science, critical theory) will introduce students to several of the most influential thinkers on the subject and to the central concerns of the discourse on freedom. In a semester-long course project in several stages, students will devise their own topics on the intersection of music and freedom and/or human rights in contemporary or historical musical contexts of their choosing.

No prior background in music is required for this course, although it is assumed that any student taking it will have a true interest in a variety of musical traditions, including not only familiar popular styles, but opera and symphonic music as well. I take “freedom” to signify a number of ideals, which span real-political and abstract-aesthetic realms. Music can represent, convey, and “mean” freedom in infinite ways, in other words, and it is the intention of this course to expose students to this diversity, opening more questions about music’s relationship to this idea than providing answers.

This course is designated as a WA (argumentative writing) course and thus partially fulfills the College’s General Education Requirement in writing. It also counts towards the Concentrations in Critical Theory and Human Rights and Humanitarianism.

  • Class meets MWF, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in Music 228.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements:  Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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PHIL 100-01: Introduction to Philosophy: Philosophy of the Future
Geoffrey Gorham, Philosophy Department

We all hope for a better future, even if we sometimes fear the worst. But for what sort of future should we strive? In this class we explore the philosophical underpinnings of the ideal of ‘sustainability’ in the following modules.

  1. What is Philosophy? We begin with the central problems of philosophy itself: what is real? What do I know? What is good? What really matters?

  2. What is the Future? We then consider the puzzling nature of the future, which we care so much about even though it is not fully real. But are the past and present more real than the future? And what is time anyway? How is it different from space? Can we travel in time?

  3. Ethics of the Future. We next consider our ethical relations to the future: Do we have obligations to generations (including non-humans) that do not yet exist? Might we have an obligation to ensure that someone does (or does not) exist? What sacrifices are we required to make for future beings?  Is it acceptable for future humans to colonize other planets as past humans have colonized other continents?

  4. The End of the World. There are a number of threats that may prevent a human future altogether: war; climate change; disease. In the very long run we face the inevitable expansion of the sun and the un-inhabitability of the universe itself. How do we gauge these threats and act accordingly? If humanity will eventually be extinct, is this a bad thing? Is it worse if humanity itself comes to an end (extinction) than that each human life comes to an end (death)?

  5. Enhancement and Transhumanism. Even if we survive, human nature is likely to undergo significant change with the rise of technologies like artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and medical enhancement. Are these ‘enhancements’ good for us and the world? Are we ready to become ‘trans-human’?

  6. Ensuring a Worthwhile Future. Finally, how do we (in the present) act reasonably and effectively to ensure a worthwhile future for those who follow?

Our class will explore and discuss a number of classic (Plato, Descartes, Nietzsche, Kant, Mill, etc.) and contemporary (Parfit, Nagel, Searle, Thomson, etc.) philosophical texts and themes. We will also use fiction and film (especially science fiction) to help us reflect on these difficult but important problems. This is a WA class, which means there will be considerable emphasis and instruction on ‘argumentative’ or ‘analytical’ writing. Evaluation will primarily be through writing (paper) assignments as well as reading responses and class participation. There is no co-habitation requirement for this FYC class but there will be numerous extra-curricular activities and outings.

  • Class meets TR, 9:40 am – 11:10 am in Neill Hall 110.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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PHIL 111-01: Logic
Janet Folina, Philosophy Department

Every day we hear, read, make and assess arguments.  These occur in political rhetoric, advertising campaigns, and among friends and family.  Many arguments are persuasive.  But some persuasive arguments are incorrect (some of these abuse statistics, some are actually fallacies); and some correct arguments are not very persuasive (at least not immediately).

Logic is the science of correct reasoning and argumentation, and symbolic logic is the use of symbols and formal rules to codify this correctness.  Our approach is formal – symbolic logic depends only on the form of arguments rather than their content.  (This course is thus somewhat abstract and theoretical; it is not a course on applied critical thinking.)  We will focus on formal properties of deductive arguments; our tools and methods constitute the fundamental methods of contemporary symbolic logic.  In symbolic logic symbols represent types of sentences, and rules are cited for each inference.  Thus, proofs in this course are somewhat like proofs in geometry:  they both depend on clear criteria for correctness and incorrectness.

The course divides into the following standard topics:

  1. Formalization of arguments in propositional logic.

  2. Natural Deduction: learning and applying formal rules of proof.

  3. Truth tables and semantic trees.

  4. Formalization of arguments in predicate logic.

  5. Natural Deduction:  proofs in Predicate Logic.

The immediate aim of this course is to provide you with some formal methods for (i) determining whether or not an argument has a correct form, and (ii) proving a conclusion from a given set of premises.

In addition to learning a formal system, the tools acquired in this course can be applied to real arguments, and logic helps students distinguish good arguments from bad ones, and to justify such distinctions.  Logic also helps students improve their writing, as it assists in articulating the logical structure of an argument.  Finally, logic is central to mathematics as well as philosophy.  This course provides a good foundation for both majors, and indeed any discipline that emphasizes correct, clear thinking, reading and writing.

  • Class meets MWF, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in Carnegie 206. 
  • Writing designation:  none

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PHYS 194-01: Nanotechnology (R)
James Heyman, Physics and Astronomy Department

Nanoscience is the emerging field of science concerned with the control of matter on the atomic and molecular scale.  This interdisciplinary field sits at the convergence of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Materials Science and Electrical Engineering.  Our course will introduce science at the nanometer length scale, the fabrication of nano-scale systems and some of their technological applications.  This quantitative course will use mathematics at the introductory calculus level and high-school physics and calculus are recommended. Assignments will include problem sets, short papers and a research paper.

This will be a residential course. This course will satisfy the distribution requirement WA.

  • Class meets MWF, 2:20 pm – 3:20 pm in Olin-Rice 270.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements:  Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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POLI 120-01: Foundation of International Politics
David Blaney, Political Science Department

This course has multiple goals.  Some revolve around introducing the understandings, protocols, terrains of debate, and inchoate confusions that constitute the field of international politics/relations. For example, the course materials

  1. introduce students to different perspectives or intellectual frameworks for making sense of what conventionally has been called international relations  (though many prefer terms like international, transnational, global, or world  politics) and to cultivate skills in applying perspectives in aid of understanding events, processes, and/or practices;

  2. introduce some of the multiple forms of social science research and some of the debates about the nature of the social sciences;

  3. introduce competing notions of power and explore their implications for analyzing world affairs;

  4. help students see international relations as an important study of a more general set of issues: the relations of self and other and the problems and possibilities of living with difference;

  5. help students think about what kind of subject we are hailed to be by the  different authors/perspectives.

  6. In sum, I hope that the lessons learned from the class will be (a)  sociological/theoretical, in that we will better understand how the world works;  (b) meta-theoretical, in that we will reflect a bit on how we study the world; and  (c) practical, in that we will think about who we are and how we are to live in the world as it is and might be.

The course also emphasizes the development of skills necessary to intellectual inquiry (and perhaps life), particularly deepening reading, thinking, and writing skills.       

  • Class meets MWF, 9:40 am – 10:40 am in Carnegie 06A. 
  • Writing designation:  WA

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POLI 194-01: The Politics of the Great War (R)
Andrew Latham, Political Science Department

The First World War – referred to simply as “The Great War” by contemporaries who had no idea that it would be followed by an even more catastrophic Second World War a mere two decades later – set the stage for global political life in the twentieth century.  Indeed, it is impossible to understand the political, social, cultural and economic developments of the period stretching from 1918 until today without grasping the world-historical impact of the conflict unleashed by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 (one hundred years ago last summer).  In this course, we explore the causes, character and consequences of the First World War.  Among the questions we address are:

  1. Why did the war break out, and what does this tell us about the causes of war more generally?

  2. Who was to blame for the war, and what does this tell us about the morality of war?

  3. What was the character of the war?  How was it fought?  How did it end?  And

    1. what does this tell us about the relationship between economics, culture, technology and war?

  4. How did the war transform the societies that fought it?  And what does this tell us about the relationship between war and political development?

  5. How did the war transform the international system?  How did the First World War set the stage not only for the Second World War, but also the various conflicts in the Middle East (the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Gulf War, etc.) and Europe (the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo)?  And what does this tell us about the impact of war on global political life?

  • Class meets MWF, 9:40 am – 10:40 am in Carnegie 204.
  • Writing designation:  WA
  • Living arrangements: Single gender rooms, co-ed floor.

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POLI 294-05/EDUC 294-02: Civic Ideals and Higher Education in America
Patrick Schmidt, Political Science Department and Brian Rosenberg, President

What is college for? What should college be? Though many people today might first think of higher education as the launching pad for individuals seeking successful careers--and indeed, that's one thing that can result--throughout American history these questions have inspired many other possibilities. Beginning with history and philosophy, this course examines complementary ideals such as the development of good citizens, the progress of knowledge, and the creation of an orderly society. From that foundation we will explore and debate many concrete questions facing colleges and universities: ensuring access to college, promoting diversity, restricting campus speech, and more.  A number of guest speakers will help us explore the problems at the cutting edge, including the future of residential liberal arts education.  Writing assignments will include reform proposals that address the challenges faced both at a national level and from Macalester's perspective.

  • Class meets TR, 1:20 pm - 2:50 pm in Theater 205.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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PSYC 194-01/RUSS 194-01/WGSS 194-01: Minding the Body
Joan Ostrove, Psychology Department and Anastasia Kayiatos, Russian Studies Department

This course is an interdisciplinary examination of the body primarily from the perspectives of psychology, disability studies, and feminist studies, with a strategically split focus primarily on the United States and Russia/Eastern Europe. We will rely on analysis of theoretical and empirical research, personal narrative, and film to explore such questions as: What is a “normal” body? A “beautiful” body? How does the media inform how we feel about our bodies?  How are bodies – especially women’s bodies – objectified, exploited, commodified, and regulated?  How and why do we discriminate against people with non-normative bodies?  How do people represent the experience of having a disabled body? How can we think critically about the various ways in which people change, regulate, and enhance their bodies (e.g., via body building, cosmetic surgery, diet, etc.)?  How do sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression influence how different bodies are viewed, treated, educated, and experienced? And how does all this change when we travel in time or across space?

The course’s cross-listing with Russian Studies will give students a comparative context for thinking about how the body is built – and minded – differently depending on cultural, political, and economic considerations.

This will be a writing-intensive course in which students will write (and re-write) personal essays, analytical and reflective essays, and a research paper.

  • Class meets MWF, 1:10 pm – 2:10 pm in Olin-Rice 300.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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RELI 100-02: Introduction to Islam
Brett Wilson, Religious Studies Department

This course charts the formation of Islam and the expansion of Muslim peoples, from the life of the Prophet Muhammad to the Mongol conquest of Baghdad. It will examine Muslim institutions, beliefs, and ritual practices in their historical contexts. In addition to the basics of Muslim practice and belief, the class will introduce students to mystic traditions (Sufism), Islamicate statecraft, and intellectual/legal traditions as well as cultural trends including art, architecture, and literature.

  • Class meets TR, 3:00 pm - 4:30 in Old Main 003.
  • Writing designation:  

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RELI 238-01: Catholics: Culture, Identity, and Politics
James Laine, Religious Studies Department

The study of Christian traditions in general, and Roman Catholicism in particular, has often emphasized the study of theology and the history of the institutional Church.  Scholars studying non-Western religious traditions, however, have in recent decades given close attention to the culture of which any given religious tradition is a part, studying as much the popular culture as elite and institutional expressions. This course is an attempt, in part, to apply the approaches developed by comparative historians of religion and anthropologists to the study of some of the cultures influenced by Catholicism, and to understand current issues and debates on, for example, sexual politics, liturgy, or theology and Church authority, in that context.  We will begin with a consideration of the place of Catholicism within American culture, some of the conflicts between American and Catholic values, in light of the long history of the Catholic Church in the West.  We will then turn to particular cultural and ritual expressions of Catholic faith.  There will also be opportunities to study various aspects of Catholic culture in Minnesota through field trips, and independent projects. Here some of the ethnic diversity among Catholics in Minnesota --Germans, Irish, Latin Americans, Native Americans, Poles, African-Americans, Vietnamese, Koreans—may be considered.  We’ll begin with a visit to a big lefty church that meets in a school gym with a stage full of old hippies playing electric guitars at mass. Then we’ll attend a conservative Latin mass with full orchestra and choir performing one of Mozart’s masses.  Are these two churches part of the same religion? The theologian might say yes, the anthropologist might disagree.

  • Class meets  MWF, 1:10 pm – 2:10 pm in Old Main 002.
  • Writing designation:  WC

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SOCI 190-01: Criminal Behavior/Social Control
Erik Larson, Sociology Department

The use of imprisonment as a form of criminal punishment is only about as old at the United States. Currently, 1 in 100 adults in the United States are in prison or jail. How should we understand the growth of this form of criminal punishment? How is it similar to other methods to react to and to attempt to control unwanted behavior? What are the social consequences of these formal institutions of social control? In this course, we examine these developments in the processes and organization of social control, paying particular attention to criminal behavior and formal, legal responses to crime. We study and evaluate sociological theories of criminal behavior to understand how social forces influence levels of crimes. We examine recent criminal justice policies in the United States and their connections to inequality, examining the processes that account for expanding criminalization. Finally, we compare the development of formal, bureaucratic systems of social control and informal methods of social control, paying attention to the social and political implications of these developments.

  • Class meets MWF, 2:20 pm – 3:20 pm in Carnegie 105.
  • Writing designation:  WA

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THDA 105-01: Theatre in the Twin Cities: Dreaming the World Forward
Harry Waters Jr., Theatre and Dance Department

The goal of this course is to introduce first-year students to live performance in the exciting arts scene of the Twin Cities!Students in this class learn approaches to studying theatre and performance events and texts, and begin to practice the vocabularies of scholarship in the field of theatre, dance and performance studies. We attend performances at professional theatres, and at Macalester College. There is an opportunity to participate either onstage or backstage connected to our fall production of AS YOU LIKE IT, directed by guest artist Barbra Berlovitz. In this process, students learn how to critically attend, discuss, and write about theatre and performance events, learning the vocabularies of the field.  This course will count toward the major and minor in Theater and Dance.

  • Class meets TR, 9:40 - 11:10 am, in the Black Box
  • Writing designation:  WC pending

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