First-Year Seminar (FP0003)

Fall 2018

First-Year Seminar fulfills the Seminar in Composition requirement and includes Academic Foundations (FP 0001).  Due to this, additional meetings and activities will occur outside of scheduled class times.  FP 0001 is designed especially for first-term students as an introduction to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Through class work and out-of-class activities, students will gain knowledge of the educational opportunities at the University, the cultural events on and off campus, and an understanding of what it means to be a liberal arts student.  All students who enroll in this course will receive a free academic planner on the first day of class.

Class Number Day(s) Time Topic
16516 Monday and Wednesday 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Writing the Spiritual
22680 Monday and Wednesday 1:00 - 2:15 p.m. Writing Food
18711 Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 - 10:45 a.m. Writing on Art and the Body
11430 Tuesday and Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.  Cinema and Memory
11429 Tuesday 6:00 - 8:30 p.m. Idle Hands: Devil's Workshop?
11428 Tuesday 6:00 - 8:30 p.m. Science Fiction and Myth
11431 Wednesday 6:00 - 8:30 p.m. The Urban Idea
11621 Thursday 6:00 - 8:30 p.m. Risky Business

Writing the Spiritual 
Class Number 16516
Monday and Wednesday
11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.

In this course, we will explore the question, “How do you write about what you cannot see?” We will examine how the spiritual life—an inner dimension of life that has to do with our relationship with our own selves and/or the divine—is represented in writing while exploring the following inquiries: How do authors write about spiritual experiences/beliefs/questions/doubts that others cannot see? How do they push beyond religious rhetoric to convey their inner lives in language that others can understand? How can you write clearly and creatively about your own faith or skepticism? To investigate these questions and more, we will read writers from various disciplines (including neuroscience) and religions, visit several religious landmarks in the city of Pittsburgh, and write a series of essays designed to embody spirituality. This course welcomes students who want to use writing to explore their own spiritual lives and learn about the spiritual lives of others. Writing the Spiritual also includes an introduction to mindfulness meditation.

Writing Food 
Class Number 22680
Monday and Wednesday
1:00 - 2:15 p.m.

They say you are what you eat--but is there more to that adage than meets the eye? Through a series of reading and writing assignments, accompanied by food experience exercises (such as restaurant outings, shopping excursions, and tastings), students will explore culture and their own positions in the world, using food as a lens to examine their own observations and experiences, and as a subject to think critically about. Our primary tasks in this course will be to investigate intelligent, creative ways of writing, and to engage in critical inquiry. We’ll surround and infuse these tasks with our multilayered explorations of food and drink. Questions we will explore in this course include: What do our ways of preparing food and eating reveal about our senses of self and about culture? How are our assumptions and values revealed through our writing about food? How are our beliefs and views about ourselves and the world expressed in our ways of acquiring, consuming, and representing food and drink? How do places of food gathering (restaurants, markets, events) both express and produce particular sets of cultural values and practices that bind some people together, and separate others? How does writing about food—reviews, menus, advertisements, etc.—shape our ideas? As writers, how can we use gastronomy figuratively to reach fuller understandings of our ideas?


Writing on Art and the Body
Class Number 18711
Tuesday and Thursday
9:30 - 10:45 a.m.

We live so much of our lives in our heads and on our phones, remembering the past and dreaming of the future. It’s a virtual life, a life lived in the ether. Yet our experiences are shaped by the bodies we inhabit: a body that is seen, defined, and received by others. In this course, students will explore—through writing that is critical and creative—what it means to move through the world embodied. How does living in a female, male, black, trans, young, or differently-abled body shape our perspective? How are science and technology (chimeras, AI) challenging the way we think about the human body? We’ll take in the 57th Carnegie International, an exhibit of contemporary art from around the world, and there explore the way bodies show up in the art being made now. We’ll also venture downtown for a performance or gallery trip. 

Cinema and Memory
Class Number 11430
Tuesday and Thursday
11:00 a.m. - 12:15 a.m.

In this course, we will consider the ways that our memory and storytelling come together in different genres and styles in film. We will think about how media helps to shape our understanding of history and ourselves. In addition to reading critical articles, we will watch American and international films (such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Stories We Tell, After Life, and Badlands) to consider how we make narratives about our lives from our memories. This is a composition course with a film focus: in addition to our primary investment in writing, work-shopping and revising then, this class requires that students develop the vocabulary and skills to critically read films, literature, and theoretical texts.

Idle Hands: Devil’s Workshop?
Class Number 11429
6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Most of you are in college with the goal of getting “good” jobs. We all must rise and work, and we expect to work eight hours a day, if not more. But why? The answer isn’t as simple as “That’s the way it is.” Why do we Americans work as hard as we do? What makes a wage “fair”? What makes a job meaningful or menial? Are people right to look down at layabouts? In this first-year seminar, we will discuss your experiences and the roots of your beliefs, and we will dig deeper into the politics and culture of work by reading essays, oral histories, and short stories. You, too, will write essays that argue, explore, and narrate. In your own oral history project, you will interview family members, friends, and perhaps strangers about what work means to them.

The Urban Idea
Class Number 11431
6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

This is a discussion-based course, designed specifically for first-term students, that poses a series of provocative questions which investigate the nature of urban places, including questions regarding race/class/culture, history and politics, planning and architecture, sustainability and environment, etc. Those questions will be asked through a sequence of reading/writing assignments and supplemented with regular experiential explorations of the city of Pittsburgh. We will consider the urban idea in its past, present, and future incarnations. Through individual and group research that combines the use of digital technology and physical interaction with our urban environment, we will develop and explore our interests and curiosities about cities. The result should be an opportunity to connect our academic community to the diverse communities around us and leave us understanding the city and our place within it in potentially novel and enlightening ways.

Risky Business
Class Number 11621
6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Ichthyologist Eugenia Clark writes, “People come to me and say, ‘What’ll I do if I go in the water and see a shark?’ You don’t have to do anything. The chance of that shark attacking you in any way is so remote … when you see a shark underwater, you should say, ‘How lucky I am to see this beautiful animal in its environment!’” Swimming in the ocean can be risky business, but so, too, can be the beginning of your university career. What happens if you change your major at the end of your first term? How will new people influence you in the coming years? What if a research interest leads to an entirely unexpected change to your career goals? Instead of focusing on fear, what if we heed Dr. Clark’s advice and appreciate the unknown? This seminar is designed to make you a versatile writer, one who is capable of using writing to engage with the unknown. Through discussions of formally inventive texts including graphic novels, poems, and memoir, we’ll ask what it means to take risks with writing. What forms of writing serve us well in what kinds of settings—scholarly, research-based, or personal? When is it appropriate for us to risk applying these different forms in different kinds of academic settings? How will these new forms empower you to discover your own voice? Writing might not answer all, but it may lead to new questions that help you clarify your perception of yourself and the world around you.    

This First-Year Seminar is part of the Gods and Androids Academic Community.

Science Fiction and Myth
Class Number 11428
6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

The work of this seminar considers science fiction and its use of myth and religion in its narratives.  Mythology here is understood as a body of beliefs that seeks to answer questions about the relationship of humans to the divine. Science fiction expands our understanding of myth and religion and questions our relationship to technology and science as well.  Through a variety of readings and viewings, we will consider the way science fiction uses myth to complicate our understanding of the past, the present, and the future. Through essay writing, we will examine the language of speculative fiction, and how it provides a way to understand ourselves, our world and other worlds, and the universe and the univers-ity.  Because science fiction is so much a part of our experience in the 21st century, it provides a unique, metaphorical, and speculative language to engage with the expectations of college-level writing and to go beyond the structures of high school writing. You should have a strong interest in science fiction and mythology, a familiarity with religious traditions, and have a desire to boldly explore new worlds in reading and writing.

Students in this course will also enroll in CLASS 0030 - Mythology in the Ancient World (Class Number 11336) scheduled on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.