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A Message From Patricia Tarantello, Director of First Year Seminar

The First Year Seminars (FYS) we offer at Marist combine academic skill development with an expansive approach to learning. They are designed with you—a brand new college student—in mind. These classes not only broach topics, ideas, theories, systems, ideologies, cultures, time periods, and literary genres that you may never have had the opportunity to explore in high school, but they also provide support to you as you adjust to a new set of academic standards and expectations. 

With your active participation, the FYS faculty create a dynamic classroom environment to stimulate curiosity and enhance your knowledge, skills, and level of comfort in your new community. 

This class may take you in unexpected directions, and it will surely be a sturdy foundation upon which to build your academic career at Marist. Make the most of it!

Spring 2024 First Year Seminar Courses

Sections, Titles, and Descriptions

Greta Gerwig’s record-breaking blockbuster shocked the world with its popularity and has generated a wide range of reactions and interpretations. On one hand, its content appears comedic and familiar, drawing on a mainstream toy that has been popular for over sixty years. On the other hand, it offers an overtly feminist message, particularly in its identification and critique of "patriarchy,” which first emerged in radical feminist tracts in the 1960s and 1970s. In this FYS we will explore the history of Barbie–from the development of the doll in the late 1950s to the 2023 film. We will delve into post-war consumer culture, gender, race, girlhood, toys, and feminist theory. Our goal as a class will be to examine the entire Barbie phenomenon, placing it in an historical and global context.

In her 1969 song, “Woodstock” singer/song writer Joni Michell repeated “we have to get ourselves back to the garden.” What does getting back to the garden mean? Where can we find examples of people looking toward the land or gardens for answers? Which individuals and groups have done it and why? This FYS will explores the economic, therapeutic, utopian, political, cultural, and religious impulses that have inspired people to look for answers in a life organized around a close relationship to the land. We’ll also spend time in the Marist Garden to explore what cultivating vegetables and plants stirs in us.

For some people, Africa is a country. For others, it is a country filled with poverty, diseases, warfare, and corruption. Some who identify Africa as a continent, including Welsh journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley, have named it the “Dark Continent.” The goal of this FYS is to disrupt these misconceptions, demonstrate what the continent is really about, and highlight the dangers emanating from these misconceptions for both Africans and non-Africans. Ultimately, students who take this class will be challenged to engage with the African continent in a way that makes them emphatic citizens of the world in the twenty-first century. Even though no single course can cover any more than the tiniest sliver of the complexity and variety of this largest continent on earth, we will watch films/documentaries and read readings that show that the African continent has 54 countries with over 1.4 billion people who speak over 2,000 languages. We will also read fictional and non-fictional stories that show that the continent does not have a single narrative of pain. Students completing this course will be able to write upon, discuss, and present major themes in African history with contextual sensitivity to that past as well as the issues that arise in the present. 

Travel through the life of an entrepreneur, as your instructor gives you a firsthand look at the adventures of his own “Entrepreneurial business ownership,” and how you can learn to free yourself of corporate ownership by breaking through and becoming your own boss. Additionally, we will utilize a computer simulation (Entrepreneur) allowing you and your team to develop and operate your very own retail store.

Have you ever heard the expression “men are from Mars, women are from Venus”? This expression originates from the title of a book written by a relationship counselor in 1992 that sold an astonishing 50 million copies. But the success of this book, and the adoption of its title phrase as popular wisdom, posed a troubling question for American society at the end of the 20th century: after a nearly 100-year period that saw major advancements in social and political equality, why did such a large number of Americans see the opposite sex not as fellow human beings but as something akin to aliens from outer space? What were the interpersonal effects of this mutual alienation? And does this sense of gendered alienation carry on into the 21st century?

Students in this First Year Seminar will explore questions about gender definitions and roles both historically and today through study of what is commonly termed “speculative fiction.” These speculative works (novels, stories, films, and other cultural products) will provide us strange and often provocative lenses through which to examine gender issues in American society. By introducing us to alien peoples, genderless cultures, advanced technologies, alternate histories, and both utopian and dystopian worlds, this literature will reveal to us the potential detriments of a rigidly gendered society as well as the possibility of a future free from gender's restrictive influence. Readings extend from the early 20th century to the present, with selections from major speculative authors like Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Joanna Russ, Octavia E. Butler, James Tiptree, Jr., and Carmen Maria Machado.

This seminar will focus on the recurring motif of madness and mental illness in literature, film, television, and society in general, and address the question of how madness challenges traditional assumptions regarding individual identity. Through an interdisciplinary approach, we will explore the nature of the human mind and cultural representations of madness in a variety of contexts. Students in this course will consider how madness is a very ordinary human possibility which can be creative and/or destructive, which can be a breakdown and/or a breakthrough. We will examine the significant presence of madness in the stories we read and question how central madness is to human life.

We will consider how a range of American writers frame human interactions with “Nature,” and explore their various representations with the natural world. How has “wilderness” been imagined? How do authors construct language to shape the way readers think about the environment? What vision do these texts offer about the relationship of individuals to society, and about progress, industrialism, and technology? We will examine Native American stories, early accounts of natural history, diverse representations of plants, animals, and insects, memoirs of the local, as well as narratives of exploration and essays on urban nature. Nature writing often combines rhapsody and science and runs the gamut of the scientific, philosophical, psychological, aesthetic, ethical, and spiritual. We will explore how authors depict a range of diverse habitats and places, from oceans to deserts to rainforests. In this class you will construct essays based on meaningful places, on course readings, and on your classmates’ presentations.

Whether you have lived in the area for some time, or have recently moved here, you will find there is much to learn about the Hudson Valley. It is rich with history, culture, and environmental activities, all of which you will have an opportunity to explore in this course. You will have an opportunity to investigate a number of resources, including museums, libraries, and local monuments, just to name a few. You will demonstrate your findings through written and oral assignments, thereby fulfilling the objectives of the course as outlined in the First Year Seminar curriculum.

While classical music is often stereotyped as a form of music that “only old people enjoy,” the music of composers like Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms is played every season in most major orchestra programs. If classical music is only popular with a limited audience, then why does it continue to be played so frequently throughout concert halls. This FYS will consider the place of classical music in today’s society. In addition to considering the style of music itself, the class will think about the contexts in which it is played, examining things like stage setups, orchestra attire, and audience attire. Ultimately, we will explore how orchestras have (or have not) adapted over time to consider changing musical interests, the impact of social media, the influence of the COVID pandemic, and more for modern audiences.

How are our identities formed? What do they mean for us individually and collectively? How are we to imagine and build alternative forms of social and political community? To understand who we are, we must consider the social understanding and perception of various kinds of identity. To understand how social change is possible, we must cognize alternative forms of social life. This course will focus on several important categories of identity (race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and nationality), as well as on how those identities overlap, intersect, and influence each other. We will consider what they are, and how they structure the world we live in. We will survey theoretical accounts of the concepts of race, class, and gender, as well as their interrelatedness, and examine their practical application to various contemporary social and political issues. We will read works about identity and utopia by philosophers, sociologists, political theorists, psychologists, artists and economists. We will also read fiction and personal essays, watch films, and analyze current forms of media that reflect our different identities and utopias. Along the way, we will develop our own theories concerning the nature, meaning and value of identities as well as deepen our appreciation of the necessity of utopian thinking for practically addressing the 21st century challenges that confront us all (challenges surrounding social justice, economic insecurity, climate change, political power, and more).

The search for happiness gives rise to humanity’s basest behaviors and its noblest pursuits. This religious studies and philosophy course examines the connection between happiness, identity, and belonging through the lens of the active human body. We examine how our physicality influences religious depictions of human excellence and the construction of our relationships and groups. More specifically, we will discuss topics ranging from gender and sexuality to martial arts, communal prayer, and ritual practice. While this course focuses on examining religious and philosophical texts, students in this class will also be invited to participate in physical forms of experiential learning, such as breath meditation or taichi. As a course capstone experience, students will be invited to participate in a flashmob at the end of the semester.

In this First Year Seminar course, we will read, discuss, and do research about Female Gothic literature, a subsection of Gothic literature concerned with issues of gender. In addition to learning about the conventions of the genre, we will examine the social and historical issues that women writers have used dark, mysterious tales to expose and critique, particularly ideas about gender. Throughout the class, we will examine the ways women writers have problematized common literary stereotypes of women, such as the monstrous mother, the wicked wife, and the love-crazed lunatic. We will explore how the Gothic genre is both popular and entertaining, but also a useful vehicle for social critique. We will have an exciting opportunity this semester to attend the Supernatural Studies Conference, which will be held at Marist in March.

This course will expose students to oral and written argument through appellate advocacy. The foundation of this course draws from law, policy, philosophy, as well as other aspects of society found within caselaw. Relying on the collegiate Moot Court model, we explore U.S. Supreme Court caselaw relevant to recent intercollegiate Moot Court competitions. Students will be prepared to compete in intercollegiate Moot Court by the end of this course. The readings in this course primarily revolve around improving research, writing, and oral communication skills.

Creativity is often thought of as a trait that we are either born with or not. It’s long been thought that some of us have the ability to think imaginatively, while others are more practical-minded. Creativity, which has been defined as the ability to produce original ideas that have value, is increasingly becoming an essential skill for success as our information economy evolves into a creative economy. It is no longer enough to just store, process, and analyze information. The workforce of the 21st century will need to be able to transform knowledge and information into something new and useful. But if creativity is so important where does come from and how can we foster more of it? Is it a rare and elusive quality or is it a skill that can be learned and nurtured? Are there certain conditions that are needed for creativity to flourish? What can you do to increase your own creative ability? In this class, we will examine these questions, along with others related to creativity. We will read texts from authors who have explored these questions from multiple perspectives and engage in activities that help us expand our own creative potential.

This course will explore the intersections of human anatomy with the arts, wellness, and culture. Anatomy has long served as an underpinning of societal progress, reaching new heights during the renaissance as great artists like Da Vinci and Michaelangelo dedicated years trying to gain a deeper understanding of the human form. Modern science continues to make new discoveries regarding the centuries-old study of the human body in an effort to advance our lives and well-being. Students in this class will discover how anatomical knowledge shapes contemporary perspectives on health, creativity, and social frameworks through research, writing, and creative work.

This course will introduce you to key moments and issues pertaining to Black identity, liberation, and social justice through film.  A nuanced and interdisciplinary approach to understanding global Black experiences is foregrounded.  We are concentrating on power as a concept and considering literary, cinematic, historical, and sociological narratives.  Critical Race Theory, Afrofuturism, and Black Feminism are among the paradigms and theories that will guide our analyses.  Power to the People! also centers your own empowerment journeys as first year students.  By the end of this semester, you will be equipped with strategies for success and efficient tools to further your academic progress at Marist College and beyond. Keywords for this course include agency, power, politics, freedom, and representation.

What does it mean to be both Black and Latino? This course will explore the ways in which Afrolatino authors, artists, scholars, and activists are revealing the anti-Blackness inherent in many contemporary representations of Latino identity. In this course, students will analyze the intersections of Blackness and Latino identity in a variety of cultural products from the US and Latin America, including literature, film, music, and social media posts.  

Spring 2024 First Year Seminar: Honors Courses

Sections, Titles, and Descriptions

This seminar will focus on the recurring motif of madness and mental illness in literature, film, television, and society in general, and address the question of how madness challenges traditional assumptions regarding individual identity. Through an interdisciplinary approach, we will explore the nature of the human mind and cultural representations of madness in a variety of contexts. Students in this course will consider how madness is a very ordinary human possibility which can be creative and/or destructive, which can be a breakdown and/or a breakthrough. We will examine the significant presence of madness in the stories we read and question how central madness is to human life.

In the Common Read, Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer introduces us to the multiple strands of relationships that humans can have with nature, which create the tight bonds present in a braid. She also describes where and how the strands have frayed.

What do our braids look like? How do we connect to other species, to non-human life? Using Kimmerer’s book as our primary text, we will explore various ways that individuals and communities relate to the living and non-living natural world. How can the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, info tech, business, fashion, sports, recreation and other interests & activities influence how we perceive, use and safe-guard nature? We will explore how different cultures relate to the natural world and how some have suffered disproportionately as it has been despoiled. We will delve into some essential knowledge about the natural world, with the goal of becoming better informed on how to be responsible partners with our fellow species, to be stewards of life on earth. Class time and special field trips will include exploring outdoors.

We all have families, be they adoptive, biological, or chosen. We have relationships to our parents or caregivers, as well as siblings of various sorts, and many face the question of whether to start families in the future. Although we don’t always consider them, families raise a host of philosophical questions, which we will explore in this class. Should one have children? How is parenting affected by race, sexuality, and poverty? Is it best understood as a collective or individual endeavor? Who should do the caretaking and how should children be raised? What obligations do grown children and parents have to each other? Does having children change the world? Does it make life more meaningful? Through reading and discussing Revolutionary Mothering and The Philosophical Parent, along with your own research, this course will challenge and enrich your thoughts about parenthood and family.