FYS Curriculum & Courses
Every Barnard first-year student is required to take a First-Year Seminar during her first or second semester at Barnard. Transfer students are not required to take First-Year Seminars.
First-Year Seminars initiate students into the academic life of the College by offering intellectually engaging experiences in which students and faculty from a wide range of home departments work through challenging material, often across disciplinary lines. Each one-semester seminar is designed to develop essential skills for college work, such as the ability to read critically and analytically, to speak clearly and effectively, and to write logically and persuasively.
First-Year Seminars vary in content and format, and fall into two categories: Special Topics and Reacting to the Past.
These seminars are developed individually by faculty from a wide range of departments in the College to investigate interdisciplinary themes.
Seminar titles have included:
Ethnicity & Social Transformation
The Enchanted Imagination
The Beautiful Sea
Culture, Ethics and Economics
Revolution: Locke to Luxemburg
Animals in Text & Society
Equality Between the Sexes
How Do We Know What We Know?
Modernism in the City
Texts of Protest in the Americas
On Dreams and Nightmares
Arts of Adaptation
Taboo and Transgression
Literature and Justice
The American Middle Class
Violence and Justice
The Hudson: America's River
Thinking Latin America
Ethical Theories & Practice
Art, Sex and American Culture
Unburied/Undead: Memory, Trauma and the Cultural Imagination
Exploring the Poles
Classics Over Time
Shapes and Shadows of Identy
Legacy of the Mediterranean
Reacting to the Past
In these seminars, students play complex historical role-playing games informed by classic texts. After an initial set-up phase, class sessions are run by students. These seminars are speaking- and writing-intensive, as students pursue their assigned roles’ objectives by convincing classmates of their views.
Examples of games played in First-Year Seminar Reacting classes include:
1) The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C. explores a pivotal moment following the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War, when democrats sought to restore democracy while critics, including the supporters of Socrates, proposed alternatives. The key text is Plato's Republic.
2) Confucianism and the Succession Crisis of the Wanli Emperor examines a dispute between Confucian purists and pragmatists within the Hanlin Academy, the highest echelon of the Ming bureaucracy, taking Analects of Confucius as the central text.
3) The Trial of Anne Hutchinson revisits a conflict that pitted Puritan dissenter Anne Hutchinson and her supporters against Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop and the orthodox ministers of New England. Students work with testimony from Hutchinson’s trial as well as the Bible and other texts.
4) Greenwich Village, 1913: Suffrage, Labor and the New Woman investigates the struggle between radical labor activists and woman suffragists for the hearts and minds of "Bohemians," drawing on foundational works by Marx, Freud, Mary Wollstonecraft, and others.
Visit reacting.barnard.edu for more information about the course.