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Academic Bulletin Freshman Tutorials - Course Descriptions - 2008-09

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FT 08-I Aesthetics in Science and Mathematics

Esteban Poffald, Department of Mathematics

“The scientist does not study nature because it is useful. He studies it because he takes pleasure in it and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful. If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing” (Poincare)

The study of the platonic solids by the early Greeks, the revolutionary Copernican model of the solar system and the discovery of the Theory of Relativity by Einstein are just a few examples of the work of great minds that were to a great extent guided by a sense of an aesthetically pleasing universe. In this tutorial we will explore the aesthetic values and sensibilities of some of the most influential scientists and mathematicians through the ages. We will analyze their descriptions of the pleasures of the scientific endeavor and ways their aesthetic intuitions led to some of the most important breakthroughs in the advance of scientific knowledge. This tutorial is not a science course, but it is an attempt to look at one aspect of the world of science.

Poffald, Esteban I.
Credits: 1

FT 08-J Survival Horror: I am Legend to Resident Evil

Lon A. Porter, Jr., Department of Chemistry

You and a small group of friends are suddenly isolated and confronted by horrific circumstances beyond your control or understanding. Unprepared, low on supplies, and on the verge of mental/physical breakdown, you must somehow fight and escape to safety. In this seemingly hopeless situation, where the fallibility of human nature is amplified, only decisive action and resourcefulness will allow you to fend off the seemingly endless enemies that hunt you. This is survival horror, an immensely popular subgenre of fiction, which critiques the human condition and illusion of safety provided by modern society. Although it is a largely contemporary style of storytelling, survival horror is rooted in classical horror and science fiction. Beyond numerous novels and short stories, survival horror elements are prevalent in film and games (both electronic and board games).

Students will explore several examples of survival horror in the form of short stories, novels, films, and games in order to identify the defining characteristics of the subgenre, while revealing and deconstructing the social commentary and themes central to each work. Course assignments and activities are aimed to help students develop critical reading, writing, discussion, and oral presentation skills that are essential to success at Wabash College. For example, students will form small peer reading and writing groups. In addition, the class will host a survival horror film festival in October, where small student groups will introduce each film and moderate an audience discussion at its conclusion. The class will collaborate to create a survival horror wiki (i.e. Wikipedia). As a final assignment, students will work to craft original short stories that will be compiled into a publication for distribution on campus. Other activities may include a behind the scenes tour of Indianapolis haunted house attractions and a Halloween community service project.

Among the survival horror work we will explore are: (Texts) Richard Matheson’s, I am Legend, Stephen King’s, The Mist, Scott Smith’s The Ruins, and Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale; (Films) Pitch Black (2000), Alien (1979), Evil Dead 2 (1987), John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982); (Games) the Resident Evil series, BioShock, Last Night on Earth, Zombies.

Porter, Lon
Credits: 1

FT 08-K Brains and Fictions: Literature and the Human Mind

Isabel Jaén, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

Why do we enjoy stories so much? Why is fiction so powerful in human culture? And what happens in our minds when we dive into fictional worlds? This is a course on Cognitive Theory, a fascinating field that looks into neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, anthropology, and other disciplines, in order to explore the role of fictional literature both in the brain and in the human species. Some of the themes discussed are literariness (What is literature? Is literary language different from everyday discourse? Is our mind literary by nature?), emotion (Why do we empathize with literary characters? Why do we feel with and for them?), intentionality (Is literature a sophisticated form of pretense play?), purpose (Is literature just pleasurable or is it also useful? Does it give our species any advantage?), and means (What are the differences between reading fiction and watching it through a play or a movie?). Case studies include Don Juan Manuel’s Count Lucanor, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Calderón’s Life is a Dream, Stanislaw Lem’s Futurological Congress, Borges’ Fictions, Auster’s New York Trilogy, and other exciting stories.

Credits: 1

FT 08-L Men and Masculinities

Warren Rosenberg, Department of English

What does it mean to be a man in today’s world? Can men really be friends? Are sports overemphasized for boys? What makes a good father? Are men naturally violent or is violence learned? How do we know when we’ve found the right life partner? These are some of the questions we will consider as we study the array of cultural messages beamed at us from birth that have shaped our gendered identities. Our main purpose will be neither to celebrate nor to denigrate maleness (although both will occur), but rather to examine the conflicting definitions and demands of masculinity so that we can more freely choose the kind of men we wish to be. We will read books like A Separate Peace, Shane, and Black Boy, see films like A Bronx Tale, Fight Club, 3:10 to Yuma, Smoke Signals, and High Fidelity, consider the shaping role of television and music, and discuss and write about our shared experiences as men. From time to time we will have common activities (readings, films, discussions) with Professor Calisch’s tutorial on fathers and sons.

Credits: 1

FT 08-M Telling Lives

Tom Stokes, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

“Telling Lives” centers on autobiography and memoir, which are among the most interesting and varied literary forms of our time. Writing about one’s own life is a venerable and time-honored pursuit. Examples of it exist from the ancient world, from the Middle Ages, and from the Renaissance, but modern autobiographical writing found its true model in Rousseau’s Confessions.

We will read several books together in this tutorial. Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir, The Woman Warrior, chronicles life as a Chinese-American girl, and Paul Monette’s Becoming a Man is the story of a gay man’s social and emotional adjustment. In The Periodic Table, Primo Levi, an Italian Jew who was a chemist before World War II, writes about his ancestors and about his own experiences using the metaphor of the chemist’s periodic table. Also included will be Karen Fisher’s novel A Sudden Country and the book and film versions of Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer).

In the tutorial, we will explore what it means to write about one’s own experience. "Tell all the Truth, but tell it slant/Success in Circuit Lies," Emily Dickinson wrote. That is a good starting point for considering such issues as lies, truth, candor, self-understanding, and memory in the accounts that writers of autobiography and memoir give of themselves.

Credits: 1

FT 08-N Alternative Energy Resources

Ann Taylor, Department of Chemistry

With crude oil prices over $100 per barrel, rising food prices and increasing concerns about global warming, alternative and renewable energy resources are becoming more important. This Freshman Tutorial will explore the scientific, economic, political and social ramifications of the implementation of various alternative energy sources, including solar, wind, nuclear, biodiesel, and ethanol. The course will include a variety of activities, including a field trip to the ethanol plant in Linden, evaluating alternative energy companies and stocks, doing several labs and a service project, and assessing ways Wabash College could use energy resources more efficiently.

Credits: 1

FT 08-O Encroachment?: College Football as a Window on American History, Society, and Culture

Paul Vasquez, Department of Political Science

There are many different ways to study the history of the United States. As college football teams on campuses around the country embark on another season this autumn, we will explore American history in the late 19th and 20th centuries by examining developments related to this popular pastime and form of entertainment. In some cases, the points of examination will be ways in which the American experience influenced activities related to college football. At other times, we will also study some ways in which college football shaped the course of American history, society, and culture. 

We will begin by examining the cultural origins of college football in the United States and its spread across the country, including factors related to popular interest in the sport. Next, we will examine how reforms made in collegiate football during the Progressive Era attempted to reform the game out of concern for the health of the players. As we move deeper into the 20th century we will examine college football with regards to mass media and public perception of the game, the decline of amateurism in the sport and rise of big business as well as the influence of American wars on the sport. Finally, we will examine the sport with regard to race and gender relations, the integrity of higher education, and recent debates regarding identity politics and political correctness. Note: As part of this course, students will be required to accompany a class field trip to the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana, on a Sunday to be determined. The trip will conducted on either October 26 or November 2.

Credits: 1

FT 08-R The Blues Experience: Exploring Blues Music, Cultures, and Literature in the U.S. South and the Global South

Ravyn Wilson-Bernard, Department of English

What do Nigerian Elvis impersonators, Appalachian farm women, Billie Holiday, and Billy Bob Thornton have in common? Surprisingly enough, the answer to this question can greatly impact the way we view ourselves in the context of a global community. When people typically think of “the blues” they tend to focus only on the musical genre. In this course, we will experience a blues aesthetic that has a much larger scope. Through a study of the blues in cultures of the United States South and the Global South, we will reveal a maze of curious roots that bind seemingly disparate cultures. We will explore blues aesthetics in film, music, art, and literature.


Credits: 1

Agata Szczeszak-Brewer, Department of English

Can a nation of migrants define itself clearly? If so, what do we gain or lose by arriving at a clear-cut definition of national identity? Why is immigration such a contentious issue? This tutorial will focus on legal and illegal immigration in the U.S., as well as global migration of people. We will research and discuss economically-motivated migration, political exile, a relatively new concept of eco-migration (caused by global warming and climate change), and other forms of resettlement. We will investigate problems faced by immigrant communities (e.g. racism, xenophobia, abuse of power in U.S. institutions, inhumane treatment in detention camps, attempts to maintain tradition on the one hand, and to assimilate on the other), problems within the immigrant communities, and issues raised by anti-immigrant movements and legislation. A part of the course will also be devoted to exploration of immigration and exile in literature, film, and art. Prior to their arrival on campus, students will read Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. This fall, we will also discuss other novels, journal and newspaper articles, documents, and documentaries. The course will include guest lectures and a service-learning component. 


Credits: 1

FT 08-D Color

Karen Gunther, Department of Psychology & Stephen Morillo, Department of History

This course is an interdisciplinary study of color. Color is, of course, a large component of art, but what do other disciplines have to say about color? Neuroscience explains why we see color (photoreceptors through cortical color processing). Genetics has played an increasing role in understanding color vision - what exactly does it mean to be colorblind? The history of the chemical dye and pigment industry is also fascinating - from early restrictions on who could use which colors of dye, why some medieval art personifies devils in blue rather than in red, and the invention of synthetic pigments. Nature is filled with color, so we will also explore what makes such things as rainbows and iridescence. Color terminology across languages will be discussed.

We will explore these topics by discussing a variety of readings, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as through experiential projects involving both observation-based analysis and creative experimentation. No previous artistic training or experience is required or assumed.

Credits: 1

FT 08-A From Dungeons to Azeroth: a History of Role-Playing Games

Michael Abbott, Department of Theater
Humans naturally engage in role-playing from early childhood, immersing ourselves in imaginary worlds, pretending to be superheroes, and playing games like Cops and Robbers. We retain this powerful impulse as adults, and for many years designers and developers have built interactive games that engage this creative part of our nature, enabling us to experience complex stories, create compelling characters, and explore vivid worlds.

This course will consider the historical arc of RPGs, reflecting their origins and evolution from early pen and paper games like Dungeons and Dragons through the development of computer and console games. Special focus will be directed at games that made a notable impact or illustrate important transitions in the evolution of the medium. Students will play and analyze a wide range of RPGs encompassing a variety of gameplay and design variations. We will also read a wide assortment of books, essays, and online texts that consider RPGs in their historical, artistic, and cultural contexts.

Among the games we will examine are: Rogue, Wizardry, the Ultima series, the Final Fantasy series, Earthbound, Planescape: Torment, Fallout, the Legend of Zelda series, Deus Ex, the Elder Scrolls series, Mass Effect, and World of Warcraft.

Credits: 1

FT 08-E Chicago: Its History, Arts, Politics, People, and Places

Tobey C. Herzog, Department of English

Carl Sandburg described Chicago as “Hog Butcher for the world, / Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, / Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler, / Stormy, husky, brawling, / City of the Big Shoulders.” Frank Sinatra sang about Chicago that “Bet your bottom dollar you’ll lose the blues in Chicago, Chicago, the town that Billy Sunday couldn’t put down.” The Chicago of 2007 retains some of the distinctive Midwest features and spirit described in Sandburg’s poem and Sinatra’s song. But the “second city” (a label Chicagoans seem to embrace as a badge of honor), with its world-class architecture and museums, striking skyline, stunning shoreline, and Millennium Park’s public art, has become a “city in a garden” with an international reputation. (Chicago’s reputation is enhanced by its recent selection as the U.S. entry to be the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games.) However, “the Windy City” today is also defined by its past—people and events. These include Jane Addams, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Ida B. Wells, Al Capone, Louis Armstrong, Studs Terkel, Saul Bellow, Mike Royko, Richard J. Dailey, and Harold Washington; the “Great Fire of 1871,” the Haymarket Riot, the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the Pullman Strike, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the first controlled atomic reaction, the 1968 Democratic Convention, the 1992 “Great Chicago Flood,” and the White Sox sweep of the 2005 World Series. In this tutorial devoted to Chicago’s history, arts, politics, people, and places, we will first read Robert Spinney’s City of Big Shoulders to establish our historical framework. Then, we will read selections about Chicago written by famous authors, such as Dreiser, Sandburg, Lardner, Bellow, Maya Angelou, and others. And we will read selections about famous and not-so-famous Chicagoans. We will also view documentaries about Chicago’s history and architecture, as well as films set in Chicago. Finally, students will select particular areas of interest related to Chicago and pursue their own reading and research. The tutorial is taught by an English professor who just happens to be a part-time resident of Chicago, a life-long White Sox fan, and a Chicago flaneur.

Credits: 1

Fall Semester

FT 08-C Fathers and Sons

Doug Calisch, Art Department

Fathers and Sons: if you are a male, then one or both of these labels describes you. But what do those descriptions mean, and how have they developed? From Oedipus and Laius to the Presidents Bush, the relationships between fathers and sons are historically charged with intensity and passion.


Love/hate, caring/competition, respect/irreverence, presence/absence, and the coming of age/fear of growing old are dichotomies that can characterize this relationship between males. This class will examine the variety of ways that fathers and sons are depicted in our culture through film and literature. Our journey will involve looking at cultural stereotypes, human nature, and personal experiences. In addition, students will reflect on their roles in this powerful and ever-changing relationship through writing, and discussion. The course, like all Freshman Tutorials, will focus on improving communication skills. The theme of Fathers and Sons will be our vehicle to develop critical observation skills, while cultivating talents as readers, writers, and speakers. Because Professor Rosenberg’s Freshmen Tutorial section shares a similar theme (Men and Masculinities), the two FT groups will combine for several readings, film viewings and discussions.

Credits: 1

FT 08-F Founding Brothers & Revolutionary Characters

Scott D. Himsel, Department of Political Science,

Aaron Burr shot and killed his arch-rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel—Burr loved conflict. Thomas Jefferson hated conflict--indeed, he settled a dispute over the national debt and the location of our national capitol during a dinner party. James Madison was so gentle and shy that he often achieved amazing feats without offending anyone. John Adams was so talkative and blunt that he offended almost everyone and sometimes defeated his own purposes. We often worship our Founders, forgetting that they were real people with gifts and faults like our own. By treating the Founders as real people and drawing on their dramatic experiences, we will seek help in answering questions that still challenge us today. How should we deal with people whose values or personalities differ from our own? Should we collaborate to get the benefit of differing views? Or should we fight because our principles demand no less? We will also ask whether this entire enterprise makes any sense. Can the Founders of the Eighteenth Century help us resolve our battles in the Twenty-First Century over religion, taxes, and wars in foreign lands? Should our past guide—or even control—our future? We will search for answers in the Founders’ own words, the words of their critics, portrayals of them in film and television, and with the help of their very best biographers. Their answers may surprise you.


Credits: 1

FT 08-G The Supreme Court

Todd McDorman, Department of Rhetoric

The Supreme Court is one of the most revered and respected American institutions. It represents justice, it preserves the Constitution, it serves as a co-equal branch of government in America’s system of checks and balances. However, it is also an institution that few people spend much time studying—or even thinking about. In this freshman tutorial we will study the history, the personalities, and the cases that have made the Supreme Court what it is. We will study the Court’s humble beginnings when it had little power and even less prestige. We will discuss and examine some of the dominant personalities of the Court—John Marshall, Roger Taney, Earl Warren, William Brennan, William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O’Connor, Atonin Scalia, and others. And we will consider and debate some of the cases that have made the Supreme Court, from Brown v. Board of Education to Roe v. Wade. Course assignments will include an essay and speech on a Supreme Court justice, an essay and speech critiquing a Supreme Court decision, and participation in a moot court style appellate argument.

Credits: 1

FT 08-P Christianity and Popular Culture

Steve Webb, Department of Philosophy and Religion

The relationship between Christianity and popular culture is rich with historical and theological issues. Christian churches were once one of the main sources of education and entertainment in America, but by the early 20th century popular culture and religion began going their separate ways. The newest trend, however, for the fastest growing churches in America is a marriage between theology and the latest entertainment technology. Is this a marriage of convenience, or is something deeper going on? Many Christians today want to integrate films, sports, and fashion into a holistic religious lifestyle. Yet questions remain: Can popular culture carry the weight of theological messages? Are sports an appropriate venue for religious expression? What happens when rock and Christianity meet? Can Christianity adopt popular culture without losing its soul? We will look at all of these issues from the perspective of historical Christian faith, and we will ask how popular culture has changed Christianity as well as how Christianity has changed, and perhaps should change, popular culture.


Credits: 1

FT 08-Q Dragons, Giants, and Tigers: Asian and the World Economy

Kealoha Widdows, Department of Economics

Why have Asian economies grown so phenomenally? Why have some succeeded and not others? How will that growth affect the US and the global economy in the 21st century?
Beginning with the emergence of the Asian Tigers (Singapore, S. Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) as world economic powers in last quarter of the 20th century, many Asian economies have transformed themselves into powerhouses on the global economic stage. These events have caused economists to rethink standard models of economic development and have spawned new prescriptions for growth out of poverty. In this tutorial, we will look at the economies of China and India, as well as those of several smaller Southeast Asian nations (such as Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand). We will also study the factors responsible for their success and the effects of their growth on the rest of the world in the 21st century. In addition to readings and some analytical work with data using Excel, students will have substantial responsibility for researching individual countries and presenting their results. 

Credits: 1

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