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Academic Bulletin Freshman Tutorials - Course Descriptions - 2009-10

Currently viewing 2009-10 bulletin

FT 09-E Mummies and Monotheists: Egypt in the Age of Akhenaten

Egypt, the first great African culture, enjoyed a remarkably stable society with little change for over 2,000 years. The 14th century BCE, however, saw a revolution in religion, society, politics, and art under the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten, who moved the center of his administration to a new city, established the worship of a single god (Aten), and created new styles in art and architecture. After his death, however, he was so reviled that the Egyptians ‘erased’ all traces of him. Who was this shadowy and controversial figure? What changes did he make in society, religion, and politics, and why did he do so? What sorts of relations did he have with the other powerful kingdoms of the Mediterranean and Near East? Was he influenced by the Hebrews or were other more secular forces at work in his religious revolution? We will explore Egyptian culture in some detail before focusing on the reign of Akhenaten and his successor Tutankhamun. We will look at the remains of his capital city of Amarna and the records of his administration and foreign policy found within. As part of our analysis of the culture and art of the period, we will visit the exhibit of finds from the unrobbed tomb of Tutankhamun at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, where students will adopt an object to serve as a focus for research and writing. Prior to their arrival on campus, students will read Akhenaten: Egypt’s False Prophet by Nicholas Reeves as background to our study.

Day, Leslie P.
Credits: 1

FT 09-Q Film, Photography, and the Internet: Digital Visual Culture in the Past, Present, and Future

We have been using and viewing photographs for one hundred and seventy years, films for one hundred, and the Internet for twenty (to forty). By now, we have developed very sophisticated ways of using these media. But what are they used for? How do they disseminate messages? Why do we love to consume them? How do we take advantage of them or take them for granted?
In this course, we will examine technology and its impact on forms of communication, particularly in popular culture and art. We will examine the influence of photography, Hollywood films, computers, and the World Wide Web on how and what users communicate. Students will complete a number of writing and media projects in conjunction with discussions of essays, films, web sites, YouTube videos, and fiction, to name a few. Over the course, students will maintain a written and photographic blog to chart their own discoveries in visual culture.
Where did digital visual culture come from? Where is it going?

Credits: 1

FT 09-D Alexis De Tocqueville and American Democracy

In 1831, a 25-year-old Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, came to the USA to look at the oldest and most advanced democracy in the world. Upon his return to France, he wrote a 2-volume work, Democracy in America, which has recently been described as the best book ever about America and the best book ever about democracy. Those are extraordinary claims, given the number of books written on those two topics.
In this tutorial, we will spend the semester reading, discussing, and writing about this extraordinary book. Among the questions we will keep coming back to are:
What are the essential elements of a democracy?
What are democracy’s most serious weaknesses?
How can those weaknesses be mitigated, if not completely overcome?
Is democracy compatible with excellence, or does it lead to a broad mediocrity?
What is the role of religion in a democracy?
Is democracy adaptable to societies radically different than America’s?
Since Tocqueville believes deeply in democracy as rising up from localities rather than trickling down from above, we will do some exploring of Crawfordsville to see how democracy is functioning here. This will include visits to government bodies as well as private organizations.

Credits: 1

FT 09-B Making it in the Performing Arts and in Sports

Performing artists and sports stars share a common life that is often perceived as glamorous, but usually entails strenuous training, constant travel, and glaring media inspection. What preparations and conditions pave the way for a successful career in the performing arts or in sports? Why do some careers continue to thrive, even after decades, while others falter? In this tutorial, we will examine the changing circumstances and personal qualities that influence the curves of performers’ careers. Students will investigate the struggles, successes, and failures of outstanding musicians, actors, pop stars, crossover artists, and athletes, past and present, the famous and not so famous. Insights from coaches, playwrights, directors, and film composers will shed light on the lives and trials of well-known artists and athletes. Aspects such as stress management and dealing with performance anxiety will also be considered. This tutorial will include readings from personal accounts by renowned artists and athletes, viewing of pertinent films, and attendance at live performances. Each student will have the opportunity to interview a professional performer or athlete.

Bennett, Lawrence E.
Credits: 1

FT 09-R Exploring the American West


What an impressive variety of literary explorations of the American West writers have created over the past hundred years. This course examines many imaginative texts that identify the cultures of the west—a fascinating mosaic that defies usual depictions of the West as cowboy and Indian country. By examining the various cultures of the West, we will come to know the “frontier” in a more complex way.
We will read a series of novels about the human experience in settling and living in the vast expanse beyond the Eastern forests, an expanse in which the land itself functions as a character playing a major role in shaping the pioneer and settler and explorer experience. The books we read and discuss will show the variety of the human reaction to the frontier and tell us about the complexity of this vast new world and about the cultures the West absorbed and cultivated—with looks at pioneering men and women, Native Americans, Hispanics, environmentalists, and independent malcontents.
“Go West young man” is a directive we all should consider. The novels we read will take us there and deepen our appreciation of this fascinating two-thirds of the country we inhabit.


Cormac McCarthy All the Pretty Horses
Willa Cather A Lost Lady
Edward Abbey   Desert Solitaire
N. Scott Momaday House Made of Dawn
Rudolfo Anaya      Bless Me, Ultima
Norman McLean A River Runs Through It
Owen Wister  The Virginian


Bambrey, Thomas E.
Credits: 1

FT 09-O Afro-Futurism: Portrayals of African Americans in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Afro-futurism is a term coined in the early 1990s by academics, cultural critics, public intellectuals, and science fiction and fantasy writers who wanted to specifically place African Americans in the center of creative works in the science fiction and fantasy genre. For nearly 20 years, African American scientists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, and artists have used science, technology, and science fiction as part of a creative and cultural movement to explore the black experience and re-imagine the lives of African Americans.
In this course, students will explore several examples of the centering of African Americans in science fiction and fantasy in the forms of short stories, novels, artwork, graphic novels, films, music, and television. Students will discuss and critique the similarities and differences raised in science fiction and fantasy storytelling when the focus is primarily from point of view, cultural perceptions, and personal experiences and histories of African Americans.
Students will read Octavia Butler’s Kindred before arriving on campus, but there will be additional readings from other science fiction writers ranging from Harlan Ellison to Ray Bradbury to Frank Miller. Students will watch a diverse mix of science fiction and fantasy films and television ranging from The X Files to Spawn to The Brother From Another Planet. Ultimately, students will be exposed to a wide range of works featuring African Americans in the science fiction and fantasy genre.

Credits: 1

FT 09-N Ancient Astronomers: The Mythological World Views of the Old World and the New

Mythology and cosmology are deeply compelling subjects. When I set up one of the college telescopes on the mall, it draws students like moths to a flame. Even with modern Sci-Fi films and jaw-dropping special effects, nothing beats the real thing. When one of my students sees the moons of Jupiter or Saturn’s rings for the first time through a telescope, it inevitably elicits a conversation about the nature of the universe and humanity’s place within it.
Through our readings and our hands-on work with college telescopes, our Freshman Tutorial, “Ancient Astronomers and Mythologies,” will reenact the moments when our oldest ancestors looked up at the night sky and saw, not just points of light in the dark, but a portal or threshold for understanding the most basic questions of human existence. We’ll study their cosmologies (and what we now, perhaps too easily, call mythologies) and discover that they point in two very different directions. On the one hand, our modern understanding of the universe is rooted in texts, monuments and artifacts left by these ancient astronomers. But these same artifacts also point toward deeply religious and existential questions. Our course explores this fundamental tension between our modern scientific understanding of the universe and the religious/mythological world-views of pre-Colombian America and Iron Age Europe.
In addition to astronomical observation sessions here on campus and at Shades State Park, we’ll read and discuss selections from the following books:
Bauer, Brian and David Dearborn. Astronomy and Empire in the Ancient Andes, University of Texas Press, Austin (1995).
Cobo, Bernabe. Inca Religion and Customs, translated by Roland Hamilton, University of Texas Press, Austin 1990 (1657).
Urton, Gary. At the Crossroads of Earth and Sky, University of Texas Press (1988).
Hetherington, Norris. Cosmology—Historical, Literary, Philosophical, Religious and Scientific Perspectives, Routledge, (1993).
Evans, James. The History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy, Oxford University Press (1998).

Rogers, V. Daniel
Credits: 1

FT 09-M Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons: The Life and Work of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s death in 2007 marked the passing of a unique voice in 20th-century American literature. He liked to think of himself as a latter-day Mark Twain. Like Twain, Vonnegut was a humorist, a satirist, and a lecturer, but he became a cultural icon thanks to novels like Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Breakfast of Champions.
Vonnegut was born and raised in Indianapolis, and though he spent his adult life in New York, he always maintained a spiritual connection to his home state. He often set his novels in a mythical Indiana that is both flattering and insulting to current residents. Vonnegut remains a favorite son of Indiana. Civic leaders in the state even designated 2007 “The Year of Vonnegut” and planned a series of lectures and community readings to honor the Indianapolis native. The landmark event was to be a public lecture by Vonnegut himself on April 28; however, Vonnegut died unexpectedly on April 11 as the result of head injuries from a fall. In this course we will discover his life and work by focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on the novels that made his reputation as a writer. We will read most of Vonnegut’s novels as well as a number of his short stories and essays published in book form (Palm Sunday, A Man Without a Country) and in various print media. Finally, we will broaden our focus to include the history of the Vonnegut family in Indianapolis as a means of understanding questions of identity that are evident in Vonnegut’s work.

Redding, J. Gregory
Credits: 1

FT 09-L Raiding and Invading the North

Despite Jefferson Davis’s claim that “all we ask is to be let alone,” some of the bloodiest and most important battles in the American Civil War occurred when the south went on the offensive, raiding and invading the north—the battles at Sharpsburg (Antietam) and Gettysburg come quickly to mind. In this tutorial we will examine the role played by raids and invasions carried out by the South. We will look in particular at Lee’s Maryland and Pennsylvania campaigns, Sibley’s invasion of New Mexico, Bragg’s Kentucky Campaign, Morgan’s Indiana and Ohio raid, and Early’s raid on Washington. We will examine their strategic and tactical aspects and consider their consequences. Readings will include memoirs and reports written by the participants. In addition to papers, discussions and oral reports, class work will include a film or two and a visit to a nearby battlefield.

Olsen, Robert J.
Credits: 1

The encounter with wilderness helped forge the character of American culture. Since that first raw contact with the wild at Jamestown and Plymouth, our national attitude toward wilderness has changed radically. Instead of being perceived as an alien place that endangers both body and soul, wilderness is now perceived by most Americans as a place of refuge and renewal.
In this tutorial, we will read several texts that reflect the American encounter with the wilderness. We’ll explore these texts and the many questions they raise, questions such as: What is our idea of wilderness today and what is its value to us as individuals and members of a highly technological society? What insights occur to us in the wilderness? Does a wilderness experience change us in some way? If, as Thoreau writes, “in wildness is the preservation of the world,” how can we preserve wilderness when its preservation runs counter to the dominant values of our society? If we do value wilderness, how do we live our lives—individually and collectively as a society—in ways which allow us to draw strength from the gifts of wilderness as well as allow others to enjoy those gifts?
You will reflect on these and other questions in several papers and in the day-to-day class discussions. You will also do some exploring in the field, and some “wildwriting” of your own as you explore the forested ridges and valleys of Shades State Park in a couple of trips. We will together engage in a collaborative project researching the human and natural histories of nearby Shades State Park.
The goals of this course are to make you more active and capable critical readers of both literary and scholarly texts; to develop your skills as writers and thinkers; to improve your discussion skills; to deepen and enrich your understanding of the idea of the wilderness and its relationship to our American culture; to introduce you to some classics of American nature writing; and to learn a bit more about the natural world.

Hudson, Marcus A.
Credits: 1

FT 09-J Doing Without Thinking: The Powerful Unconscious and What it Means for Free Will

How free are you to do what you want to do? Do you really choose what to do and when? Most Americans believe in free will, value freedom and personal choice, and assume that they know why they behave as they do. Indeed, the human ability to think deliberately, critically, and rationally about what we should and should not do seems to be foremost in setting us apart from other animals. On the other hand, scholars have long been fascinated by the possibility of a powerful unconscious, some part of our perception, understanding, and/or knowledge that exists outside of our awareness and that influences our behavior. If such an unconscious exists, does that mean that we are not as free as we thought? Is our behavior really under our control? In this course we will explore the unconscious and its implications. We will read books by contemporary scholars (e.g., Strangers to Ourselves by Tim Wilson; Are We Free? by Roy Baumeister) and popular writers (e.g., Blink by Malcolm Gladwell), consider how the unconscious is portrayed in popular media, (e.g., TV show Lie to Me), and explore our and others’ reactions to the possibility of unconscious influences. In so doing, we will see a new scientific perspective unfolding, discover that the mind is even more impressive than we consciously realize, and will find that it’s not Freud’s unconscious after all.

Horton, Robert
Credits: 1

FT 09-I Founding Brothers & Revolutionary Characters

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.

Himsel, Scott
Credits: 1

FT 09-H The Reality & Art Of War Memoirs: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan

Paul Fussell (WWII veteran, author, critic) defines the war memoir in the following way: “the memoir is a kind of fiction, differing from the ‘first novel’ [crucial youthful experience told in the first person] only by continuous implicit attestations of veracity or appeals to documented historical fact.” Such a definition raises some interesting questions about this genre. How is a memoir different from an autobiography? What can readers of war memoirs learn about the character and life experiences of the writer? What can readers learn about the hearts, minds, and souls of other war participants—battlefield and home front? What can readers learn about the strategies of warfare, historical events of specific wars, and the similarities and differences among wars? What elements of style, structure, theme, and literary conventions does the memoirist borrow from the novelist to heighten the book’s dramatic effect? Is “story truth” truer than “happening truth”? And finally, how does a war experience inevitably change all involved—even readers of a war memoir?
These are a few of the questions we will consider as we read four war memoirs from two different conflicts involving American combatants—Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan. Two of the books are written by journalists who reported on the wars: Michael Herr’s classic Vietnam memoir, Dispatches (1977), and Dexter Filkins’ prize-winning Iraq/Afghanistan memoir, The Forever War (2008). Two of the books are written by soldier-authors who commanded Marine rifle platoons: Philip Caputo’s Vietnam memoir, A Rumor of War (1977), and Donovan Campbell’s Iraq memoir, Joker One (2009). In addition, our sources of information will be documentaries and films about the wars. Class activities will include oral reports, class discussions, student panels, research projects, videos, in-class written responses to the movies and books, out-of-class papers examining themes in the books and films, and a final project chosen by the student. 

Herzog, Tobey C.
Credits: 1

FT 09-C Baseball, America, and the World

In 1903 the Boston Americans defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team from under 600 miles away and claimed the title of World Champion. Last spring, Japan outlasted fifteen other national teams from around the globe to repeat as winner of the World Baseball Classic. Baseball, once called “America’s national pastime,” has been part of US culture from the earliest days of the country, and some think the sport embodies critical features of the American character. But, today, baseball is global. What happens when this “quintessentially American game” is exported to Asia and the Caribbean? What happens when the US is no longer dominant?
This tutorial will explore various aspects of the sport—its history, literature, economics, aesthetics, rules, rites and rituals—in the US and around the world. In addition to reading excellent books about baseball—such as Moneyball, Men at Work, The Natural, The Samurai Way of Baseball: The Impact of Ichiro and the New Wave from Japan, Baseball without Borders: The International Pastime—and viewing documentaries (e.g., Ken Burns’ series, Baseball) and other films (e.g., Field of Dreams), we will attend a major league game in Cincinnati on Sunday October 4.

Butler, Melissa A.
Credits: 1

FT 09-F Men in Tights: Superheroes and Gender

A man gets angry and turns into an inarticulate green monster with unlimited strength. A woman is imbued with psychokinetic powers strong enough to rip apart the fabric of the universe. A young boy cannot speak, even whisper, without unleashing sonic energy equal to the detonation of a nuclear bomb. An Amazon woman with lightning reflexes blends into the North American “society of men,” and only when there’s injustice, does she reveal her true self: a Wonder Woman with a golden tiara and a lasso that she uses to force men to tell the truth. What do all of these fictional characters tell us about societal perceptions of gender? This course will investigate the contemporary fascination with superheroes to show how they express changing ideologies about men and women. What do superheroes tell us about our gendered society? How do superheroes shape how we see our bodies, influence how we communicate or what we perceive as normal? Topics we’ll investigate will include but are not limited to use of iconography, embodiment of Ideology, social construction of idealized male/female bodies, use of language, gazing, and superheroes as rhetorical tropes (metonyms or metaphors). To help in our investigation, we will read some theory such as Peter Middleton’s Boys Will Be Men: Boys’ Superhero Comics, Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, and analyze superheroes in a variety of media, including comic books, literature, film, and video games.

Freeze, Eric
Credits: 1

FT 09-G Flyfishing: The Liberal Art

For some, flyfishing is sport. For others, it is a diversion, a hobby, an art, something of a science. Or even a religious experience, as Norman Maclean wrote in A River Runs Through It, “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.” For students in this Freshman Tutorial, flyfishing will begin an immersion, quite literally, a baptism of sorts, into the liberal arts and a liberal arts education. Beginning with what at Wabash we call an “immersion trip” to Bozeman, Montana the week before Freshman Orientation, this course will use flyfishing as an introduction to the liberal arts experience. In the rivers and streams around Bozeman, students will learn and practice the techniques of fly casting and fishing, enjoy the beauty of the fish and the environment they inhabit, and begin to ask and explore the myriad questions that can wash over and around them as they stand in the middle of a mountain stream waiting for a fish to rise to a fly. Upon returning to Wabash, they will read some of the fine literature written about fly fishing; learn more about the biology and ecology of the sport, hobby, or religion; study aspects of its politics and economics; and consider it from different philosophical and ethical perspectives. In this course the student will experience and examine flyfishing through the lenses of the humanist, the natural scientist, and the social scientist. He will develop skills of observation, careful and critical reading, analysis, and clear and creative communication. This course begins and ends with the premise that in the liberal art of fly fishing, to borrow again words from Norman Maclean, “all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”
To enroll in this Freshman Tutorial, the student MUST be able to participate in the immersion trip. Students will arrive at Wabash on Saturday, August 15, fly with the class to Bozeman on August 16 and return to campus on August 21. No fly-fishing experience or equipment is required. Students will be responsible for paying for four or five evening meals, three or four lunches, and their own incidental expenditures. Travel, lodging, equipment rental, instruction, licenses, and admission fees will be paid for by Wabash College.

Hadley, David J.
Credits: 1

FT 09-P Me, My Self, and My Brain

Imagine you’ve created a machine that is able to make an exact physical copy of any object. However, the process of making the copy requires that the machine destroys the original. So, if you put your iPhone in and turn on the machine, the phone is instantly vaporized. But, in another compartment you find an exact duplicate of your phone. Such a machine would be quite interesting, but we might imagine that it has little practical value.
However, what happens if you step into the machine, and turn it on? You are instantly vaporized (and, let’s assume painlessly!), and out of the second compartment steps your exact duplicate. Who is this duplicate? Does he think he is you? If he does, then are you actually dead? What if the machine malfunctions and you are not vaporized: are you and your duplicate both “you”? If you then kill your duplicate, was there in fact a murder? What if he kills you?
In this class, we will take these types of thought experiments seriously, and use them to look carefully at the problem of self. We’ll try to locate our “I,” our sense of self, using a variety of sources, ranging from philosophical thought experiments, to stories about the lives of humans with brain damage, to science fiction writing and film.
Some of the texts we will read include Ramachandran & Blakeslee’s Phantoms in the Brain, selections from Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Chalmer’s The Conscious Mind and Brok’s Into the Silent Land. We will also watch several films in the course, including The Thirteenth Floor, The Prestige, and The Manchurian Candidate.

Schmitzer-Torbert, Neil
Credits: 1

FT 09-A Adventures on the High Seas

From Odysseus’ tumultuous voyage home in Homer’s Odyssey to Johnny Depp’s outlaw bravado as Captain Jack Sparrow in the recent Disney movie Pirates of the Caribbean, Western culture has been fascinated by tales of adventure on the high seas. Why are we drawn to these stories? What role does the sea—seemingly beyond law or logic—play in our self-definitions? We will explore these questions by examining three overlapping categories of sea-bound adventurers: pirates, navy captains, and nautical explorers. All three operate on the boundaries between law and lawlessness, the knowable and the unknown. Pirates exist outside of normative legal systems, while navy captains try to extend control over unruly and contested waters. Sea explorers, meanwhile, venture beyond the edges of the map.

Readings for this course include Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Rafeal Sabatini’s Captain Blood, Alfred Lansing’s Endurance, and films such as 2003’s Master and Commander. We will also consider relevant current events, such as the issue of the Somalian pirates.


Benedicks, Crystal
Credits: 1