These small, seminar-style courses are open only to first-year students (like you!), and offer narrowly-focused topics to introduce you to the inner workings of a field of interest or an area of potential major. Through significant interaction with a dedicated faculty member and a group of like-minded students, you will gain a rewarding academic experience by digging deeply into a topic with some of the Mount’s best professors, while forming a lasting bond with students of similar academic interests that will serve you well in the years to come!
The Freshman Seminar will fulfill a Core Curriculum or major requirement in either the humanities or social sciences.
FSEM 101 – CAUGHT IN THE RYE: J.D. SALINGER
In this course, we will read and discuss some of Salinger’s finest works, seeking to better understand what he had to tell us about love, loss, family, fame, alienation, art, and God. We will cover the Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters, and The Catcher in the Rye. The written assignments will contain a creative option—a chance for students to write their own work of short fiction for credit.
FSEM 117 – SERVICE LEARNING AND SOCIETY
This course is designed to connect students to the College of Mount Saint Vincent community, as well as to service opportunities throughout the Bronx and Greater New York City area. Poverty and related issues, such as homelessness, hunger, and inequality, are explored in depth through both classroom activities and hands-on, community-based, and service-learning opportunities in NYC, including Habitat for Humanity, the Midnight Run, and many others.
FSEM 118 – ADVERTISING, POPULAR CULTURE, AND CELEBRITY
Advertising and popular culture have always gone hand in hand. How many pop stars have you seen in commercials? How many brands are endorsed by your favorite athletes? This is not a coincidence. Today, advertisers are trying even harder to get our attention by using celebrities and social media. In this seminar, we will analyze the advertising strategies of the past and present so that we can better understand the complex interplay of advertising, media, celebrity, and popular culture.
FSEM 119 HONORS – COMEDY, ROMANCE, HEARTBREAK, AND CHANGE
This course will examine comedy in different countries and different times, from ancient to modern. It will ask some of these questions about the texts: How does comedy “work?” What is the social and psychological functions of comedy? How does comedy grow out of heartbreak, embarrassment, or trauma and produce change? What is the relationship between comedy, romance, and community? Why is the Romantic Comedy such a sturdy genre? How do different forms (plays, novels, movies, TV, essays) change comedy requirements? We will read lots of funny material, but we will also try to discern how it is built, which as we’ll see, is no laughing matter! Materials to review include short pieces by Woody Allen and Steve Martin, modern movies and television shows, and, finally, the classic comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces.
FSEM 123 – A WHOLE NEW BALLGAME: BUSINESS OF SPORTS
Students will be introduced to the wide-ranging applications of sports business. Topics include the ever-increasing career opportunities in sport, understanding the sports fan, planning major sports events, and the rapid globalization of sport. We’ll also look at how a stadium/arena is financed, the professional and ethical responsibilities of the sports agent, the sport economy, and how sport and the media have a mutual need for cooperation.
FSEM 134 – GIVING VOICE TO THE VOICELESS: IMMIGRANT NARRATIVES IN FRANCE AND ITALY
This course focuses on the voices of immigrants in France and Italy through an analysis of their own personal narratives in literature and film. From the pages of these memoirs, we will learn about the lives of refugees, undocumented immigrants, and expatriates who made their way to France and Italy in search of belonging—writers who found their voice in a new language and culture. Their narratives, in turn, give voice to the struggles, hopes, and aspirations of the millions of refugees and immigrants. They are the stories that remind us of our common humanity, our moral and ethical obligations to one another, and the need for solidarity across borders. This course is especially ideal for students interested in present day Italian and French literature, culture, and society.
FSEM 139 – THE LITERATURE OF PROTEST
This seminar explores how literature can resist injustice, register dissatisfaction with the status quo, and give voice to those who are oppressed. Through close readings of poetry, prose, drama, and music (including contemporary rap lyrics), we will examine how literature could function as a form of protest throughout history. Our discussions will consider what literature has to say about the possibilities and the limitations of dissent, paying special attention to the potential for protest in our own historical moment.
FSEM 142 – LISTENING TO WOMEN FROM THE FRENCH CARIBBEAN AND AFRICA
What do women writers from sub-Saharan Africa and from the Caribbean have to say about their cultures, the traditions of their country, the impact of colonization on the local society, and, most importantly, on their family? What do women have to say about being a woman in postcolonial societies in French speaking Africa (Senegal and Cameroon) and the French Caribbean (Haiti and Guadeloupe)? Their relationships with men, with older generations, or with their former colonizer? One has to listen to their voices and messages through their novels in order to understand the realities and the dilemmas of their existence.
FSEM 149 – THE CARIBBEAN THROUGH LITERATURE, THEATER, AND FILM
This course is designed as an introduction to Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican literature and film. The literary and film texts will be examined within their social, political, cultural, and historical context to explore the responses of the writers to issues associated with their respective societies. We will discuss such topics as race, class, neo-colonialism, gender, and identity.
FSEM 150 – ALL THE WORLD’S A (DIVERSE) STAGE
Theatre artists have always been called to hold up a mirror to society, yet if most of the canon is from only one perspective, that mirror is distorted. We will focus on writers and characters from underrepresented groups, with central attention to voice and monologue: What happens when a character is given the stage, uninterrupted, to speak? And, equally importantly, what happens when YOU are given that stage? In response to the study of the course texts, students will develop their own voices, by writing and performing a monologue of their own.
FSEM 151 HONORS – LET FREEDOM RING: THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT IN AMERICAN LIFE
Few movements in American history have shaped our current events as has the 20th-century Civil Rights Movement. This mass movement, organized by grassroots activists throughout the entire country, challenged America’s racial inequalities in ways that few events in our country’s history have. In this course, we’ll look at the roots of that movement, in the Jim Crow south and the racially segregated north; how the movement changed and responded to national events; how the movement expanded into a larger organized force in the 1950s and 1960s; how the Black Power movement rose out of Civil Rights; and how the movement collapsed in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
FSEM 152 – ART, PROPAGANDA, AND ENTERTAINMENT
Every day we are surrounded by a constant barrage of images and information, from news media, social media, streaming services and television, all connected and all part of the mass media environment we live in. How do we begin to understand and process the ways in which mass media influences our lives, shaping our relationship to social and political reality? One important strategy is to explore how we got here— explore the history of mass media! Students will study and discuss the overlapping social, cultural, and political connections between art, propaganda, and entertainment by exploring a series of provocative historical case studies. Historical case studies include: the invention of the poster and the graphic print; crime and criminality in American popular culture; photographic “truth” and the documentary film; and subliminal messaging in television commercials.
FSEM 153 – ART AND POLITICS IN WORLD CINEMA
In this course, we will watch post-World War II films from Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Beginning with Rome, Open City (1945) and ending with Parasite (2019), we will be examining films closely to understand what makes them “art.” What are the different cinematographic choices that directors make? What effects do these choices have on us, the audience? Our approaches to the films will be framed by the various genres and movements as well as by each film’s historical contexts. How are films responses not only to other films but also to other genres and movements? How do films engage with the social and political issues of their particular times and places? What do films from the past communicate to us today? How do films both reflect and shape society?
FSEM 155 – WRITERS AND POLITICS IN EASTERN EUROPE
Eastern European literature is often invisible due to language, geography, economics, and decades of Soviet suppression. Poland is called a land of poetry, nevertheless, and, among Czechs, poets are known as a “privileged caste,” yet their names may not be recognized, despite the many Nobel Prizes they have won. From Albania to Belarus, from Ukraine to Lithuania and beyond (all of the countries embroiled in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), this class will help to encounter many of the most pressing issues Eastern Europe presents us with: authoritarianism, war, human rights, nuclear disaster, mass conformity, and the concentration camp. The fiction, drama, and poetry considered are profoundly human, powerful, and brave, whether the style is realistic, tragic, comic, or Kafkaesque. Authors include: Bertolt Brecht, Václav Havel, Eugène Ionesco, Franz Kafka, Milan Kundera, Czesław Miłosz, Tom Stoppard, and Wisława Szymborska.
FSEM156 – SHAKESPEARE’S COVER SONGS (HONORS)
Shakespeare’s plays are rife with music, including many popular songs that were adapted to fit the mood of particular scenes. Relative to the comedies, the tragedies contain fewer songs, and notably, female characters sing the most dramatically significant songs. In this class, we will study three major tragedies, Othello, Hamlet, and Macbeth, with a particular focus on the role of song in each play. We will consider how women’s performance was regarded as transgressive, potentially even lascivious, in Shakespeare’s time, something done by witches, the melancholic, and the mad. As well, we will try to determine how the histories—sometimes comic—of the songs inflect the scenes in Shakespeare’s tragedies in which they appear. Throughout, we will refer to contemporary productions of the plays, examining how the songs are adapted in modern contexts and what response they might evoke for a modern audience that does not have the same cultural context as original audiences.