Manhattanville Reid Castle In the Spring

First Year Program Seminar Topics for 2014-15
Randolph Williams, M.A.

This seminar will explore the history of the arts as a universal language across time and divergent cultures. We will focus on the development of the arts as a parallel vehicle in understanding human communication. In addition to exploring traditional aesthetic concepts we will examine contemporary art and its relationship to contemporary modes of communication. Our aesthetic investigation will include fine arts, music, and drama.  Reading by Rudolf Arnheim, John Berger, Howard Gardner, Michael Kimmelman, Marshall McLuhan, Ben Shahn, and Dai Sijie will provide topics of discussion. The class will also include visits to local museums and museums in New York City. Time and scheduling permitted, we will attend plays and music concerts. We will use the Manhattanville College art community as a learning lab for our aesthetic exploration.

Mohamed Mobdj, Ph.D.

This first-year seminar examines pivotal moments from antiquity to modern times when Africa and Africans encountered non-Africans, both within the continent and outside it.  In these cases, Africa and Africans were the essential others to be assessed then conquered by the West. The course addresses fundamental questions about African and non-African cultural contact and its aftermath through investigations of primary source materials and film.

Anthony Santucci, Ph.D.

This first-year seminar will provide a critical analysis of the risks of brain injuries athletes face when participating in sports.  After an introductory review of the structure and function of the brain, this course will consider how sports-related brain injuries, especially concussions, occur and how such injuries are diagnosed and treated.  Additional attention will be paid to considering the short- and long-term residual effects of head injuries.  Specific emphasis will be devoted to evaluating the neuropsychological consequences produced by sports-related brain injuries, including changes in attention, memory, movement, and emotion.  Students interested in psychology, medicine, sport studies or neuroscience might find this seminar especially appealing.

Courtney Kelly, Ph.D.

What can we learn about ourselves and our society by critically analyzing how we represent our key institutions? This course will examine depictions of schools and schooling across different eras in books, television and film to promote dialogue on topics such as the significance of popular culture, the importance of media literacy and the politics of representation. A primary objective of the seminar will be to help students to develop the ability to view education and images of it through a critical lens.  Another fundamental goal is to foster a sense of community among the course participants based on shared inquiry and mutual respect.

Genevieve Burger-Weiser, M.F.A 

How has genocide happened again and again? How do we hold people accountable for their actions (or for non-action)?  Do we have a responsibility to try to stop genocide if we know it is happening? What can we do to prevent future genocide?  Can we reconcile the idea of God with the human history of atrocity? Is there universal morality? What does it mean to be human?  Is it possible to heal after surviving, or committing, acts of genocidal war?  This seminar will ask those questions and more as we engage critically with a variety of records that relate to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. We will focus on parallel elements from both genocides such as campaigns to dehumanize the victims, premeditation and systematization of killing, portraits of the perpetrators, and attempts at bringing the perpetrators to justice through the courts system. The course will consider the dialectic of the unspeakable and the need for expression in the wake of genocide. Students will read and respond to a spectrum of sources including journalistic accounts, survivor accounts, critical essays, political documents and poetry.        

Gillian Greenhill Hannum, Ph.D. 

Do you have a passion for travel, or have you always wanted to see the world but have not yet had an opportunity to do so? Then, this is the course for you! Through exploring travel essays and artists’ renderings of various journeys, through discussions, lectures and independent and group projects, you will learn what goes into a truly enriching travel experience—one which will broaden not only your physical horizons, but also your mental ones.  You will have a sense of the history of travel, enhanced by examining travel-related art from the 18th through the 20th centuries, and will learn to be a culturally sensitive traveler, guided by ethical and environmental considerations, truly living Manhattanville’s mission to be “ethical and socially-responsible leaders in a global community.”

Shirley Baker, M.A.   

The first thing that we notice when we meet someone is whether that person is male or female. How does that affect our expectations? What assumptions do we make based on a person’s gender? Are men and women more similar than we often imagine – or are we truly miles apart in how we think, feel, and behave? What messages do we receive from family, friends, teachers, the media, and others based on gender - and how do those messages impact our views of ourselves, our choices, abilities, and behaviors? Through this seminar, students will explore the concepts of masculinity and femininity in our own and other cultures and examine evidence to explain whether specific characteristics and behaviors of men and women are primarily the result of nature or nurture. Areas of exploration may include: communication styles, friendships and love relationships, leadership styles, family and work roles (and the division of labor), cognitive abilities, health and body image, and other topics. Students will have the opportunity to explore advertisements, magazines, television, films and popular music related to these topics.

Paul Ellis, Ph.D.

This is geometry, but not like you learned it in high school.  We will start with a careful reading of the first geometry textbook from 300BC, Euclid’s Elements.  Next we jump to the 17th Century to see the kinds of innovations introduced by such great thinkers as Descartes and Newton.  Finally, we end with the mind-bending world of non-Eulidean Geometry, in which the sum of the angles in a triangle is always less than 180° and there are no rectangles at all!  We will also read some short philosophical texts and a modern novel, all of which deal with the real theme of this course: How can we be absolutely certain of anything at all?

Van Hartmann, Ph.D.

We live in an age of comedy.  Stand-up comedians, late night talk show hosts, movies, plays and novels consistently ask us to laugh at things, whether they be politicians, public figures, outdated values, new unconventional values, personal foibles, or basically anyone or anything that is fair game.  We need to be aware, though, that when we laugh, we almost always laugh at someone or something.  In laughing at something, we attack it.  At the same time that we laugh at other people and things, we expect to live together tolerantly and empathetically within a mutually supportive and respectful community.  In fact, Manhattanville’s mission asks us to function as ethically responsible leaders in a global community, in other words, to understand, tolerate, and respect those different from us in our local and international community.   This seminar addresses exactly that apparent conflict by asking what is the relationship between laughing at things and respecting others.  We will examine various forms of comedy, from Greek drama to modern day stand-up comics, in order to explore the relationship between those two seeming opposites, laughter and respect, and the role that laughter plays in a healthy society.  Along the way, we will consider several theories about laughter from classical times to the present.

Paul Kucharski, Ph.D.

Human beings are not satisfied merely with living—we want to live well, or to lead meaningful lives.  In other words, we want purpose and order in the things that we do and in the relationships that we form.  The purpose of this course is to prompt you to consider what makes life meaningful.  To this end, I have assigned texts that seek the meaning to be found in various aspects of human existence (in our work, for example, or in our friendships).  My hope is that these texts will serve as a springboard for your own critical reflections on what constitutes a well-lived life. 

(1) Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning – What does it mean to seek meaning?  How does the search for meaning differ from the search for pleasure?  Can we find meaning even in suffering?
(2) C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves – What are the different types of relationships that we form, and why do we form them?  What makes a friendship meaningful?  A romantic relationship?
(3) Matthew Crawford, Shopclass as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work – Why do we work?  Merely to acquire the necessities of life?  Or can we find genuine fulfillment in our work?  Is all work equally valuable?
(4) Josef Pieper, Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation – How can art enrich our lives?  Is an openness to beauty necessary to find meaning?  What is the purpose of leisure?
(5) E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed– What can we know about ourselves and about the world?  How might knowledge lead to meaning?   


Joseph Fasano, M.F.A.

From its beginnings, the written word has given witness to humanity's evolving hardships, including its violent trials with itself. This course will consider various texts that deal with the theme of war in the 20th century. We will hear from a vast chorus of voices—witness, victim, soldier, rhetorician, protester, and others—and our emphasis will be on the individual's literary response to societal unrest. We will explore how different genres (fiction, non-fiction, and poetry) are equipped to witness, effect, or protest circumstances of violence and upheaval. Students will strengthen their critical reading and thinking skills through an engagement with this material. Authors include Paul Fussell, Ernest Hemingway, Tim O’Brien, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Pablo Neruda.

Nancy Todd, Ph.D.

This First Year seminar will focus on the world around us, the organisms and their environments and how life is interconnected. We will also look at different interpretations and representations of nature and life, including how artists view nature, how the digital age is altering the world around us, and examination of humans among the animals, comparing animal behavior to human nature. The course will include class trips to NYC to museums and other local events and nature-related activities.

Christine Dehne, M.F.A.

In our recorded history, individual people and groups have used forms of Mass and Social Media to incite social change.  This seminar will focus on the history, theory, and current practice of people using forms of mass and social media in social action.  With a global eye, we'll look back in history as well as research current events.  Discussions will include how developing technologies have changed the media used, but that even before computers, the internet, and twitter, methods of mass media such as pamphlets, zines, and public access television were adopted by a minority in order to speak out. Each student will choose a cause to take on (local or global in scope) and launch her/his own campaign to incite some sort of change using blogs/tweets/videos.

Andrew Bodenrader, M.A.

This seminar will examine novels, poetry and artwork that illustrate, embrace and expand our understanding of the seminal twentieth century movements of modernism and postmodernism.  Complementing our analysis of the literature and art will be a consideration of architecture, film and artistic manifestos. A fundamental objective of the course will be to define and understand modernism and postmodernism.  Students will explore the history and social forces that gave shape to these movements, and they will investigate how the concepts have influenced the perception of ideas, language and culture. 

Binita Mehta, Ph.D.

Contemporary France is a multicultural society composed of immigrants from its ex-colonies and overseas departments and territories in North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, and the islands in the Indian Ocean.  For the past thirty years or more, France has tried to integrate this population into its body politic. This course will examine the challenges faced by France in integrating this diverse population in keeping with the French Republican ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. Course materials will include novels, essays, articles, feature films, and documentary films that portray a multicultural, multiethnic, and multi-religious France.  During the course of the semester we will discuss the notion of Multicultural France through the lenses of immigration, ethnicity, education, music, sports, gender, religious diversity, especially Islam, France’s second religion, and the recent rise in anti-Semitism in France today.

Karen Steinmetz, M.A. 

From the earliest known lyric poems to today’s slam poetry, poets address the nature of desire. In the sixth century B.C.E., Sappho writes, “Sweet mother, I cannot work the loom—/slender Aphrodite has overwhelmed me/ with longing for a boy.” In Sappho’s poems, what is best loved is usually another person, and no poet describes longing more achingly. However, human desire defines beauty or what is good in many ways. The absence of what we love pains us, yet desire for what is good or beautiful keeps us going. Contemporary poet Stanley Kunitz writes, “What makes the engine go? / Desire, desire, desire.” This seminar will focus on poetry as the creative impulse to define what we desire, linking the expression of desire across centuries and cultures. Texts will include Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho, Eros the Bittersweet; Helen Vendler’s Poem’s Poets, Poetry; Czeslaw Milosz's A Book of Luminous Things; Susan Wolfman’s John Keats; and The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.

Carmelo Comberiati, Ph.D. 

This seminar will engage the students in listening to musical works from various style periods and, where applicable, pair them with texts and/or discussion of religious, social and political events and their implications. The principal concern of the course is European classical music and its representations in the United States. The main work of the course will be learning how to listen to the works in a meaningful context, including cultural background, insightful musical considerations, and for aesthetic appreciation.

Lawson Bowling, Ph.D.

Homo Ludens, or "Man the Player," written in 1938 by Dutch historian Johan Huizinga, discusses the significance of play in human experience as a means of human expression, conflict, and emotion.  "Work hard, play hard" is a modern cliché that is debatable as well as widespread. This seminar introduces students to thinking seriously about sport and play.  Topics include; classical civilization, sport, and war; cockfighting in Bali: multidimensional meanings; North America’s original game—“the moral equivalent of war”?; The Joe Louis story—“a credit to his race”; the “Woman Question” in sports; sports, education, and values.

James Jones, D. Min.

This seminar explores religious texts and other readings as a way to understand how prejudice influences intrapersonal, interpersonal, group, and intergroup dynamics. In particular, the course will provide opportunities for students to analyze prejudices for and against religions in this regard.

James Bryan, Ph.D.

In this course we will explore elements of human nature: what defines us as Human. With a foundation in both evolutionary theory and an understanding of the interplay of nature with culture and environment, we will consider selected human universals. In our explorations we will attempt to understand a wide range of things, from the pursuit of social status, to mating, to judgments of right and wrong, to competition, to what makes us happy, to the ways in which we make choices, to the narratives we put together in constructing our identities. Our focus will be on human thinking, learning, understanding, and decision-making. From models of the hyper-rational economic man to theories of intuition, gut-feelings and emotions, we will observe human behavior -- humans making decisions, sometimes very deliberately and other times quite unconsciously and automatically.

Sarah Murray, Ph.D.

This seminar will provide an introduction to many of the important themes studied in political science.  Students will be introduced to these themes by reading original source material, secondary sources and fiction.  They will be asked to analyze, evaluate and critically respond to different political perspectives.  For example, we will read Lord of the Flies with excerpts from Hobbes and Locke to examine differing views of human nature and the legitimacy of government.  We will also consider whether the current formation of the American political system should be changed; some argue that institutional change to a multiparty parliamentary system would improve American politics.  Finally, we’ll examine the politics of foreign policy, by reading Thirteen Days and examining the specific institutional form of foreign policy decision-making in the US system.

Jerry Kerlin, Ph.D.      

World Musics: Understanding Peoples Through Their Traditional Music, Song, and Dance takes on looking at music, song, and dance as contexted (situated) phenomena. Students need to consider the question: “Have you wondered about the meaning of street games, singing games? What does “Ring Around the Rosy” tell us? That song, common throughout the Western world, paints a picture of the “black death,” the plague in medieval Europe—the ring-shaped, rose-colored formations on the skin, the ashes from the cremated bodies. What about “The Great Big Ship Went Through the Alley-O”? That wonderful threading game narrates the story of the RMS Lusitania sailing through the English Channel, the Cunard ship known for its speed and for its sinking by a torpedo from a German U-boat, an event that helped bring the United States into World War I. The Suyá of the Amazon place music at the heart of ritual ceremony, and they sing because they are “happy.” Clearly, when we learn songs, music, and dance as part of the expression of a culture group and its social history, we come to know the people that made/make the art, gave/give it value, felt/feel it, and passed/pass it on to their present-day descendants and friends. Songs stay alive, dynamic, because they continue to represent the feelingful self. This First Year Seminar intends to extend student understanding of the meaning of the music, song, and dance they will explore. Music is culture, and the transmission of traditional dance, instrumental music, and song becomes the learning of culture. History, philosophy, current debates, and actual praxis of music, dance, and song will comprise course activities. Native performers, representing the “living tradition,” will be sought either as in-class guests or as field trip experiences. Music literacy skills are not required. 


iAm:  Personal Identity, Digital Technology & Social Media
Brian Snee, Ph.D.

This seminar examines late 20th and early 21st century digital technologies, cultures, and identities.  Students will explore such topics as:  digital identity and privacy, digital relationships and online behavior, digital piracy and intellectual property, digital knowledge and online learning, artificial intelligence and augmented realities, and originality and authenticity in the digital arts.  Students will examine, discuss and challenge recent academic literature about digital technology and social media.  Assignments will include:  class discussions, oral presentations, written reflective papers, and regular contributions to a collective blog or ePortfolio, which the class will use as a social media and information exchange site.  Students will also create a series of identity-themed digital media projects.  

James Jones, D.Min.

Using Gordon Allport’s classic book, The Nature of Prejudice, as a focal point, this seminar explores a variety of readings as a way to understand how prejudice influences intrapersonal, interpersonal, group, and intergroup dynamics. In particular, the course will provide opportunities for students to analyze racism and sexism in this regard. Throughout the course, consideration will be given to Manhattanville College’s mission to “educate students to be ethical and socially-responsible leaders in a global community.”

This seminar will involve students in a critical reflective analysis of how “race” and gender impact the functioning of groups and societies. The intent is to provide intellectually rigorous theoretical frameworks for understanding some of the issues that tend to balkanize groups in the United States today. From nativism to affirmative action, students will be provided with tools to think logically and argue persuasively about these “hot button” issues.

Colin Morris, Ph.D.

This Freshman Castle Scholars Honors seminar investigates the causes, course and consequences of the infamous witchcraft crisis that swept through Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.  Students will critically analyze and evaluate primary source evidence and varying historical, psychological and socio-economic interpretations as to how and why the Puritan community of colonial Salem fractured so catastrophically, and with such deadly consequences.  Students will pay close attention to understanding Puritan religious beliefs, legal institutions and social and economic dynamics in the context of the trials.  Students will also investigate their treatment in selected works of fiction and poetry.  Students will visit Salem to critically evaluate the ways in which the events of 1692 are remembered, commemorated, forgotten, (mis)interpreted and/or exploited today.

FYP.1002.01 (2 credit – completion of former required program):

Carleigh Brower, M.F.A.

The enduring popularity of horror films and Gothic literature begs the question: why are we drawn to the macabre and the grotesque? In this seminar, we will read, analyze, and discuss several influential American Gothic authors and auteurs, including Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, George A. Romero and John Carpenter. We will first study American Gothic literature, discussing the themes, motifs, and style of the genre.  Additionally, we will examine the relationship between this literature and the real horrors that cast a shadow over American history.  We will then turn to the evolution of the American horror film, uncovering how some of the most influential films in the genre reflect our collective nightmares.  Ultimately, horror films and literature resonate because they tap into our culture’s deepest anxieties and fears, fears that persist in American life today.  Readings will include "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving, and "The Uncanny" by Sigmund Freud. Films studied include Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Psycho and Night of the Living Dead.