First-year Seminar Descriptions

After reading the descriptions below, please return to the Advising Questionnaire to list which seminars interest you the most. Please note that the meeting time for all seminars is Tuesday and Thursday from 10:30-12:00.

ART 197F: Pirate, Princess, Prioress: Uppity Women in the Middle Ages (4 credits)

Despite the male-dominated society that Game of Thrones evokes, individual women in medieval Europe did exercise power as political and religious leaders, as artists and writers, as patrons of the arts, and as shoppers. This seminar will think about the lives of ordinary medieval women but will focus on the standouts like Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hildegard of Bingen, and Isabella d’Este. We will be thinking about social history and art history, using texts and works of art from the Middle Ages, but we will also look at how medieval women have been interpreted in our own time in literature, film, and television. The core of our class will be student-led discussions. (f, w, x, r)

Instructor: Professor Nolan  |  Student Success Leader: Dylan Bingham


ART 197F: Theories of Color: Beyond Red, Yellow, and Blue (4 credits)

Is the red you see the same color as the red I see? Why is red a primary color, and who decided, and when? In this class we’ll investigate the multiple conflicting theories of color and the social significance of particular pigments, from precious Lapis Lazuli blue to “mummy brown” (made from real mummies!) We’ll experiment in the studio with paint and pigment, we’ll encounter color as physical effect of light on our retinas, and we’ll discuss color as a philosophy composed of our biases and ideals. $20 course fee includes book and materials. (o, r)

Instructor: Professor Schweitzer  |  Student Success Leader: Laura Carden


CLAS/THEA 197F: Great (and not so great) Greek Tragedies (4 credits)

Murder? Revenge? Intrigue? Fate? The Tragic Hero? What makes a Greek tragedy great? What makes great tragedy? Why do we enjoy tragedy if it is tragic? How is tragedy relevant today? This course will engage students in the study of the unique nature and enduring significance of Greek tragedy in western culture. Students will read tragedies by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, as well as related texts on the theory of tragedy, including Aristotle’s Poetics and comedies of Aristophanes. Various productions on DVD will enhance the study of these great plays. Students also will present scenes from Aristophanes. When considering this course as one of your choices, please keep in mind that ancient male Athenians explored tensions in their democracy through myths of families destroyed by murder, suicide, incest, sexual violence, and sacrilege. At times these topics will be discussed in this class. (r, AES, PRE)

Instructor: Professor Franko | Student Success Leader: Shannon Ciccarello


COMM/GWS 197F: Steppin’ Up and Speakin’ Out: The Rhetoric of Women Leaders (4 credits)

This course spotlights influential U.S. leaders and celebrates their contributions to a variety of social movements and campaigns. Students will read primary texts from historical women speakers to learn about the benefits women leaders experience and the demands they face. Students also will research and present speeches about women leaders. (o, r)

Instructor: Professor Weber  |  Student Success Leader: Dani Raymond


COMM 197F: “Women Hold Up Half the Sky”: Women’s Work and Popular Culture  (4 credits)

What does it mean to be a working woman? What constitutes women’s work? Is women’s unpaid labor seen as less significant than paid? Women make up 51.3% of the working population of the United States; however, how we view and value women’s work remains problematic. This course will explore how popular culture constructs and represents women’s work through examination of films, television shows, photography, poetry, and other cultural symbols. A final project will include a campus exhibition of student work depicting their views and understandings of women’s work. (r)

Instructor: Professor Joseph  |  Student Success Leader: Erika Goad


ECON/ES 197F: Incompatibles? Economics, Nature, and Globalization (4 credits)

This seminar offers students an opportunity to learn basic principles of economics and to understand the interaction between economics and global environmental distress. Students will encounter cross-discipline approaches and the execution of tasks in a team environment. Finally, the course gives students an opportunity to learn the very basics of how to conduct scholarly research. Group discussions and team presentations based on assigned readings are the regular learning catalysts. Experiential learning through a short day trip to a state park and a think tank in Washington, D.C. will help students sharpen their presentation and oral communication skills. (o, r, MOD)

Instructor: Professor Hernandez |  Student Success Leader: Gabby Turner


ENG 197F: Edible Poetry (4 credits)

Close reading and discussion of poems that deal with food, its raising, gathering, preparation, sharing, and eating. As we explore these works in class, in our essays, and through experiential means, many questions will emerge, among them some of the following: On a global level, what is the role of food in our lives? What is our responsibility to the land from which we gather our food? How do our food choices impact larger cultural and ecological realities? On the local level, of the page, can the poem be a plate, a table, a cutting board, a loaf, a soup? Can we taste words? How might sentences, their pacing, nourish us or make us hungrier? Is an adjective more fruit or grain? To which food group do prepositions belong, if any, or to more than one? Are nouns milk? What about verbs? Is the ear a kind of mouth? Could the mind, heart, mouth, and belly be more unified than we know? Are some words, like some ingredients, more local; if so, are they necessarily more wholesome and nourishing than others? How does food, in poetry, spark taste buds of memory, community, illness, health, the senses, tradition, fantasy, feeling, form, the spiritual, the heathenish, and the romantic? (f, w, x, r)

Instructor: Professor Moeckel  |  Student Success Leader: Olivia Dierker


ENG 197F: Tales of Distant Lands (4 credits)

Maps, dream-visions, halls of mirrors, roads of words: this is a course for people who like to read strange narratives—true, false, fictive, historical, poetic. Most are from China or the British Isles, some from Europe, some from the Americas. Many tell of travels on the old Afro-Eurasian trade routes, but you should plan to go at least as far from home as the planet Aka.

We’ll think about these questions: What can other people’s writings teach us about our lives and values? How is the teller altered by the tale? Is the reader a teller too? Are maps realities? Are poems and stories maps?

Also: How are the varied cultures of planet Earth affected, and connected, by those who fare forth into The Land of Somewhere Else, by swapping stories, by making art from language and by reading / hearing / savoring those things? Does inter-cultural contact destroy people’s identities, or create them? What can old texts teach us about life on our web-netted earth today?

Lots of reading. A little literary forgery. Magical poems and books. (f, x, r, AES, GLO)

Instructor: Professor Larsen  |  Student Success Leader: Taylor Humin


ES/INTL 197F: Consuming French Culture (4 credits)

Food is a window into the culture and values of any society, and for the French, food and culture are inseparable. Their passion for food is reflected in literary works and in luminous paintings which record an appetite for life, food, and conviviality. Whether whipping up a savory quiche or creating a canard en croûte, the French are feverishly passionate about their food. What was French cuisine like before bœuf bourguignon, coq au vin, and molecular cuisine? We explore the idea and reality of French cuisine through critical reflection on menus, recipes, cookbooks, cooking shows, restaurant guides, culinary history, film, cooking, and tasting. The goal of this seminar is to develop a cultural perspective on the French connection to food, on the socioeconomic conditions that made cuisine French, and on recent food issues. What is the French paradox? Is French baguette dying? Is French cuisine losing the race for excellence? Who are the celebrated women chefs in France today? We examine France’s complex relationship to food and the enduring importance of the culinary in French culture. Discover how terroir, the geographical characteristics of an area, or as a food critic once said, “location, location, location” contributes to the cuisine of each region. This class is a virtual (alas!) gastronomical excursion across France and a celebration of the French culinary landscape; however, we will cook and eat together and hopefully plant our own vegetables or herbs! (o, r, GLO)

Instructor: Professor Sampon-Nicolas |  Student Success Leader: Liza Davis


Film 197F: Organic Filmmaking (4 credits)

When thinking of the term “organic”, one might envision natural food or something to study in biology. Curiously, if you scroll down the Oxford English Dictionary definition to section 6.d., you will find that “organic” is also defined as “Designating a work of art in which the parts seem naturally or necessarily coordinated into the whole.” Filmmakers sometimes embrace this term as a process or methodology that captures and presents their subject matter in an almost instinctive way. Students will produce two film projects in class that incorporate this “organic” approach to the art of filmmaking.  Course work will consist of film and video shooting assignments, research techniques, oral presentations, critique sessions, and screenings. Access to a smart phone with video recording capability is recommended. (o, r, CRE)

Instructor: Professor Gerber-Stroh  |  Student Success Leader: Leiana Valenzuela


GWS 197F: bell hooks: rage, love, and creating beloved community (4 credits)

“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” (bell hooks, Killing Rage: Ending Racism)

Racism. White supremacy. Classism. Sexism. Homophobia. Capitalism. Imperialism. These pressing social issues are explored and analyzed in the work of Dr. bell hooks — feminist author, cultural critic, public intellectual, and social justice activist — and serve as the focus of this First-Year Seminar. From Ain’t I a Woman: Black women and feminism, written when hooks was 19, to Writing Beyond Race: living theory and practice, hooks has published nearly 40 books, including five for children. hooks’ writing is grounded in personal experience and self-reflection, and she writes for a broad audience, making her theoretical and critical analyses both accessible and engaging. She is fond of provoking transformational thinking through dialogue, evidenced in her conversations with people like Laverne Cox, Emma Watson, Hari Kondabolu, Gloria Steinem, Cornel West, and Darnell Moore. Watching and reading some of these recorded conversations, reading and analyzing selections from hooks’ writing, and engaging in our own storytelling (orally and in writing), we will explore social identities, intersectional systems of oppression, and how to “dialogue across difference.”

Inspired by bell hooks, I approach teaching as a “liberatory practice of freedom”, and in this course we will take her assertion that “feminism is for everybody” seriously. I invite students to actively participate in an inclusive, feminist classroom characterized by “radical openness” and deep listening that seeks to challenge each one of us not just to think, but also to practice social justice and beloved community in our everyday lives. Together we will engage in collaborative scholarship and inquiry and explore some contemplative practices (silence, reflection, ritual) as foundations for the transformation of both self and society. We will immerse ourselves in hooks’ writing and ideas and share those ideas with the Hollins community and beyond through the creation of a “Quoting bell hooks” Tumblr page and the planning and execution of a campus “Breaking Bread” event. This focus on experiential learning will culminate in a field trip to the bell hooks Institute at Berea College in Kentucky where we will have the incredible opportunity to meet and dialogue personally with Dr. hooks about her life’s work. (o, r, DIV)

Instructor: Professor Costa  |  Student Success Leader: Whitney McWilliams


HIST 197F: History Rocks! (4 credits)

From Sam Cooke to Bob Dylan and from Rage Against the Machine to Public Enemy, music has provided the soundtrack for modern American history. Whether garage, pop, Indie, southern, punk, grunge, metal, cowboy, or hip-hop, music says volumes about who we are as a people. While much of American culture has fought to wall itself off from foreign influences, the music has embraced those cultures from the British invasion to Bob Marley and from Shakira to German death metal. Music about race, war, poverty, gender, and social alienation has fed the social critique and engaged generations of Americans to work for a better world. This class will use that soundtrack as historical evidence to analyze recent American history. (f, x, r, DIV)

Instructor: Professor Coogan  |  Student Success Leader: Meika Downey


HIST 197F: What is a Nation? (4 credits)

Though the division of the world into nation-states may seem natural, this form of identity and political organization is a relatively recent development. In this course, we will explore the “nation” as a distinct type of community and form of identity. When, where, and why did the concept of the nation first emerge? How do nations secure the loyalty of their citizens? Why are people willing to die for their nations? How do nations determine who belongs and who doesn’t? What is the relationship of nationalism to revolution, war, and violence?

The course will begin with a general exploration of terms and concepts (nation, nationalism, patriotism, citizenship, etc.). We will use a case study approach and explore the emergence and development of nationalism in specific contexts, drawing especially on primary sources, from speeches, laws, novels, and memoirs to films, paintings, and propaganda posters. Individual research projects will help students further develop their ability to read and analyze primary sources and to make persuasive, evidence-based arguments. (f, w, x, r, MOD, GLO)

Instructor: Professor Nuñez  |  Student Success Leader: Katie Taylor


INTL 197F: Science Fiction, Politics and Society: A Critical Introduction (If you think this universe is bad, you should see some of the others.) (4 credits)

The American Astronaut Mae Jameson once commented that, “Science fiction helps us think about possibilities, to speculate – it helps us look at our society from a different perspective.” In this class, students will critically engage and analyze texts of visual science fiction (television and film). Students will learn tools of critical analysis used in cultural studies and sociology and apply them to works of science fiction and fantasy. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to develop their own creative works of science fiction to present to their classmates. The course takes popular science fiction seriously as a location for students to engage issues of contemporary politics and society. For example, how are issues of race/class/gender/sexuality portrayed in The Hunger Games? What does Gattica suggest to the viewer about issues of medical ethics and genetic testing? What does Blade Runner suggest about issues of human rights and cybernetic beings? (o, r)

Instructor: Professor Bohland  |  Student Success Leader: Monica Doebel


MUS 197F: Taking the Crooked Road Through Virginia’s Musical Heritage (4 credits)

“Taking the crooked road” is a phrase for playing a particular type of fiddle melody. These tunes are thought to be among the oldest in Appalachia. The tunes are surprising, breaking the “rules” of musical composition. In recent times, The Crooked Road refers to a stretch of highway that connects the Blue Ridge Mountains to the coal fields of the Cumberland Mountains. The music along this road speaks of every aspect of mountain life – coal mining, farming, dancing, describing love and loss, recounting the Civil War, enduring poverty, building railroads, and expressing spirituality and faith. We will explore this heritage through in-class lectures and research projects and by traveling on the Crooked Road to attend live performances, visit instrument makers, and interview musicians. (o, r, AES)

Instructor: Professor Krause  |  Student Success Leader: Jadrian Williams


PHIL 197F: Biff! Bam! Kapow!: The Philosophy of Superheroes  (4 credits)

Have you ever found yourself chasing after a runaway bus full of schoolchildren while your evil arch-nemesis threatens the life of your beloved by dangling her from a rooftop? If so, you just might be a superhero. In this class, we’ll consider thorny philosophical questions by looking at how they arise in the lives of superheroes. We’ll scour comic books, TV shows and movies to find stories of superheroes that address questions of good and evil, moral responsibility, personal identity, the relationship between the individual and the state, human nature, and what it takes to be a superhero. We’ll learn how these questions also apply to the lives of ordinary individuals, and we will explore special bonus content: Supervillains! (f, w, x, r)

Instructor: Professor Gettings |  Student Success Leader: Erin Harrover


POLS 197F: How to Be a President (4 credits)

This course will step back from the daily “noise” of the 24-hour news cycle and examine just what goes on in a presidential campaign and in the first months of a presidential term. Students will “adopt” either a presidential or vice presidential candidate (including candidates from a prominent third-party campaign, if there is one) and take part in a number of hands-on, collaborative projects designed to capture the essence and the spirit of trying to become president. These projects will include, but not be limited to, designing campaign materials, scheduling your adopted candidate in a key “swing state,” counting likely Electoral College votes, and preparing for the first months of the new presidential term. The course will also make comparisons with other nations’ methods of choosing heads of government. Whether or not you’d like to be president yourself someday, this course will help you to understand the men and women who do enter that unique arena. (r)

Instructor: Professor Lynch |  Student Success Leader: Dade Hundertmark


PSY 197F: Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness (4 credits)

Students in this course will explore the field of positive psychology—the scientific study of strengths and virtues. Positive psychology emphasizes mental wellness by focusing on factors that help individuals thrive. In this course on positive psychology, students will learn about a variety of factors that contribute to happiness. Using scientific studies, validated tests, and interventions with demonstrated effectiveness, students will reflect on happiness in their own lives and learn skills for enhancing their positive experience during college and beyond. Students will also gain an understanding of scientific research methods used by positive psychologists. (o, r)

Instructor: Professor Pempek |  Student Success Leader: Rose Franzen