College Courses

The college course program was established to ensure that students can have direct exposure in their years at Vassar to some important expressions of the human spirit in a context that is both multidisciplinary and integrative. The aim of a college course is to study important cultures, themes, or human activities in a manner that gives the student experience in interpreting evidence from the standpoint of different fields. The courses relate this material and these interpretations to other material and interpretations from other fields in order to unite the results of this study into a coherent overall framework. The interpretations are expected to be both appreciative and critical and the artifacts will come from different times, places, and cultures.

I. Introductory

100a. The Theater of Chekhov and Stanislavski: Higher, Lighter, Simpler, More Joyful (1)

This course is designed to explore the major works of late nineteenth-century playwright Anton Chekhov. Through careful reading, discussion, writing, and occasional performance of these works students will discover the ways in which this Russian dramatist has come to shape what’s thought of as modern drama. By looking at each play act by act,SeagullThree SistersUncle Vanya, and The Cherry Orchard the class will explore the links they share to one another as well as to theatrical tradition at large. The work of Constantine Stanislavski, first to stage these works (as well as the artist to develop the process of “method” acting, and to define the role of the modern stage director), will be used to better understand these plays and their performance. Though this course will be of particular interest to students of theater, non-theater students are encouraged to enroll. Mr. Grabowski.

Open only to freshmen; satisfies college requirement for a Freshman Writing Seminar.

Two 75-minute periods.

101. Civilization in Question (1)

(Same as Greek and Roman Studies 101) This course undertakes to question civilization in various ways. First, by looking at texts from ancient, medieval, and renaissance cultures, as well as texts and films from our own; it introduces students to major works of the Western tradition and asks how they bring under scrutiny their own tradition. In particular we examine how the individual, community, justice and the divine are imagined in these texts. Second, because the course is team-taught by faculty from different disciplines, we explore the ways a text is interpreted and how different meanings are found in it because of the different perspectives brought to the class by its faculty. Finally, we reflect on the role questioning plays in the process of a liberal arts education and the different kinds of attitudes and intellectual outlooks we learn to bring tot he study of any text, which impels us to consider the ways we allow the past to inform and question the present and the present to inform and question our understanding of the past. Readings for the course vary from year to year, but have included GenesisExodus, and texts by Homer, Plato, Nietzsche, Foucault, and Walcott. Ms. Friedman (Greek and Roman Studies), Mr. Schreier (History).

Two 75-minute periods and one 50-minute discussion period.

Not offered in 2013/14.

183. 183a. Vassar For Veterans (1/2)

This course is designed to help Posse veterans acclimate to Vassar and introduce them to the array of campus resources available to them. It gives Vassar veterans the opportunity to explore the issues and challenges they face as non-traditional students at a residential liberal arts college, and it identifies strategies for making the transition to college and succeeding within Vassar's rigorous academic environment. Open to freshmen Posse veterans. Taught by the Posse Faculty Mentor.

One 2-hour group meeting and one 1-hour individual meeting per week.

II. Intermediate

214b. Process, Prose, Pedagogy (1)

(Same as English 214) This course introduces the theoretical and practical underpinnings of writing and teaching writing. Students interrogate writing's place in the academy, discuss writing process from inception to revision, and share their own writing and writing practices. The course offers an occasion to reflect on and strengthen the students' own analytical and imaginative writing and heighten the ability to talk with others about theirs. Students are asked to offer sustained critical attention to issues of where knowledge resides and how it is shared, to interrogate the sources of students' and teachers' authority, to explore their own education as writers, to consider the possibilities of peer-to-peer and collaborative learning, and to give and receive constructive criticism. Texts may include Roland Barthes' The Death of the Author, Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Stephen King's On Writing, as well as handbooks on peer consulting.

Students who successfully complete this class are eligible to interview for employment as consultants in the Writing Center. Mr. Schultz (English; Director, Writing Center)

By special permission.

Prerequisite: Freshman Writing Seminar.

283a. The Theater of Crisis: 1985-1995 (1)

Hit hard by AIDS in the early days of the epidemic, The New York theater community was at the forefront both creatively and politically in its response to the sudden crisis. Beginning with Kramer’s The Normal Heartand Hoffman’s As Is, and culminating with Larson’s Rent and Vogal’s The Baltimore Waltz this course examines the myriad responses to the AIDS crisis and its cultural fall-out. The protests of ACT UP, and efforts of BROADWAY CARES/EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS are examined as a response outside the realm of new plays, that still nonetheless had a great impact on the theatre community. Mr. Grabowski.

Two 75-minute periods.

284a. A Taste of Terroir: French Methodologies for Experiencing the Earth (1)

(Same as French 284) The uniquely French concept of “terroir” explains how the physiographic properties of the origin of a food or wine can be detected in its taste. Yet, although the French have “tasted the earth” through foods for more than 500 years, the idea remains problematic: some believe terroir to be more myth than science. This seminar queries the intersection between the science and myth of terroir, mapping the latter’s evolution from Antiquity to the Renaissance and the French Revolution to the modern-day Parisian Restaurant. Along the way, we discover what terroir can tell us of French political theory, aesthetic appreciation, and an Epicurean philosophical movement subverted but never extinguished by Cartesian dualism. Other themes include: food and satire, the birth of connoisseurship, landscape theory, and the evolving dialect between nature and culture. Just as Proust used the flavors of the Madeleine to travel in time, we learn how the French use the “psychogeographics” of terroir to revisit forgotten places. Tastings accompany texts as we savor the fine line between science and figments of the French imagination. Taught in English. A $35 enrollment fee for the tasting component will be charged to enrolled students. Mr. Parker.

Two 75-minute periods.

285a. The Chemistry of Cuisine (1)

(Same as Chemistry 285) Cuisine is a characteristic manner or style of preparing food that often involves cooking. Food preparation evolved from a need to acquire calories and nutrients from the environment but it is also likely that humans evolved to rely on cooking to satisfy nutritional needs. Many culinary practices involve chemical or biochemical reactions that have a variety of outcomes including changing the nutritive value of foodstuffs, preserving them, and enhancing their flavor. This course explores the chemistry and biochemistry of cuisine. Topics are explored through lectures, student presentations, readings from popular and scientific literature, laboratories, and field trips. Laboratories explore some of the basic science behind food preparation and field trips feature local culinary products and practices. Laboratory experiences include the chemistry of emulsification in the production of Hollandaise sauce; the molecular gastronomy of spherification; using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream; and others. Emphasis is placed on fundamental topics in biochemistry, chemistry, and microbiology of cuisine. Mr. Jemiolo and Ms. Rossi.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2013/14.

290. Field Work (1/2 or 1)

298. Independent Research (1/2 or 1)

III. Advanced

301. History, Memory, and Legacies of the Holocaust (1)

After WWII the Holocaust emerged as a universal evil that holds lessons beyond the boundaries of Western civilization. While scholars have been relying on different theoretical models to understand the Holocaust, reflection on this unprecedented genocide itself has shifted theoretical discussion in many disciplines. This course looks at the legacies of the Holocaust from a variety of different disciplines by discussing texts, films, and memorials with German students at the University of Potsdam. The exchange takes place at two different levels in the course of the semester: together with their German partners, students discuss readings and work on research projects in the MOO, our online learning environment at Vassar; and in a second phase, Vassar students travel to Berlin and German students to New York to complete on-site research for their projects. Ms. Höhn, Ms. von der Emde, Ms. Zeifman.

By special permission.

One 3-hour period.

Not offered in 2013/14.

302b. Adaptations (1)

(Same as English and Media Studies 302) If works of art continue each other, as Virginia Woolf suggested, then cultural history accumulates when generations of artists think and talk together across time. What happens when one of those artists switches to another language, another genre, another mode or medium? In the twenty-first century we may reframe Woolf’s conversation in terms of intertextuality—art invokes and revises other art—but the questions remain more or less unchanged: What motivates and shapes adaptations? What role does technology play? Audience? What constitutes a faithful adaptation? “Faithful” to what or whom? In this course we consider the biological model, looking briefly at Darwin’s ideas about the ways organisms change in order to survive, and then explore analogies across a range of media. We’ll begin with Virgil’s Georgics; move on to Metamorphoses, Ovid’s free adaptations of classical myths; and follow Orpheus and Eurydice through two thousand years of theater (Euripides, Anouilh, Ruhl, Zimmerman); painting and sculpture (Dürer, Rubens, Poussin, Klee, Rodin); film and television (Pasolini, Cocteau, Camus, Luhrmann); dance (Graham, Balanchine, Bausch); music (Monteverdi, Gluck, Stravinsky, Birtwistle, Glass); narratives and graphic narratives (Pynchon, Delany, Gaiman, Hoban); verse (Rilke, H.D., Auden, Ashbery, Milosz, Heaney, Atwood, Mullen, Strand); and computer games (Battle of OlympusShin Megami Tensei). During the second half of the semester, we investigate other adaptations and their theoretical implications, looking back from time to time at what we’ve learned from the protean story of Eurydice and Orpheus and their countless progeny. M. Mark.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

One 3-hour period.

384. Transnational Queer: Genders, Sexualities, Identities (1)

(Same as International Studies and Women's Studies 384) What does it mean to be Queer? This seminar examines, critiques, and interrogates queer identities and constructions in France and North America. In what ways do diverse cultures engage with discourses on gender and sexuality? Can or should our understanding of queerness change depending on cultural contexts? Through guest lectures and discussion seminars, the course examines a broad range of queer cultural production, from fiction to cinema and performance. Topics include such diverse issues as queer bodies, national citizenship, sexual politics, legal discourse, and aesthetic representation. All lectures, readings, and discussions are in English. Mr. Swamy.

By special permission.

Prerequisites: Freshman Writing Seminar and one 200-level course.

One 3-hour period.

Not offered in 2013/14.