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.


College Course: I. Introductory

100a and b. 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.

Not offered in 2014/15.

Two 75-minute periods.

101a and b. Civilization in Question (1)

(Same as GRST 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).

Not offered in 2014/15.

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

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. Taught by the Posse Faculty Mentor.

Open to freshmen Posse veterans.

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

184a. The Great War and Literary Modernism (1)

The First World War is the watershed moment of the 20th Century, a period of history with which we have yet to come to terms and which continues to haunt our global culture. In this course we read and write critically about several works of literary modernism to understand how each in its own artistic terms represents a struggle to find and apply new literary devices capable of adequately depicting the conflict's fragmenting effect on the consciousness of countless shell-shocked survivors of the trench horrors. Aided by selections from the work of some of the great First World War poets, novelists, and memoirists, we explore the idea that literary modernism is WWI set to fiction.

Our primary concern is to explore our individual identities as readers, thinkers, and writers in order to deepen our knowledge of how we write-knowledge that will aid us throughout this course, our academic programs, and professional careers. To gain this insight, we work to develop a strong foundation in the elements of rhetoric that govern all communication (e.g., audience, purpose, occasion, community, and context). Mr. Schultz.

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

Two 75-minute periods.

College Course: II. Intermediate

214b. Process, Prose, Pedagogy (1)

(Same as ENGL 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.

Prerequisite: Freshman Writing Seminar. 

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.

290b. Field Work (1/2or1)

298b. Independent Research (1/2to1)

College Course: III. Advanced

301b. 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.

Not offered in 2014/15.

One 3-hour period.

302b. Adaptations (1)

(Same as ENGL 302 and MEDS 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. Ms. Mark.

Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. 

One 3-hour period.

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

(Same as INTL 384 and WMST 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.

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

By special permission.

Not offered in 2014/15.

One 3-hour period.