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First-Year Seminar

332G Milbank Hall  
Department Administrative Assistant: Susan Campbell

This program is supervised by the First-Year Seminar Committee:

Director: Elizabeth Hutchinson (Associate Professor, Art History)
Associate Provost: Hilary Lieberman Link
First-Year Class Dean: Lisa Hollibaugh
Professors: James Basker (English), Flora Davidson (Political Science), Helene P. Foley (Classics), Herbert Sloan (History)
Senior Lecturers in English: Pamela Cobrin (English), Patricia Denison (English), Laurie Postlewate (French), Margaret Vandenburg

Instruction in the First-Year Seminar Program is provided by the following regular members of the Barnard College faculty:

Professors: Taylor Carman (Philosophy), Mark Carnes (History), Lisa Gordis (English), Alfred Mac Adam (Spanish and Latin American Culture), Robert McCaughey (History), Stephanie Pfirman (Environmental Science), Richard Pious (Political Science), Herbert Sloan (History),  Patricia Stokes (Psychology)
Associate Professors: Mindy Aloff (Dance), Hilary Callahan (Biology), Meredith Davis (Art History), Kristina Milnor (Classics)
Assistant Professors: Daniel Barber (Architecture), Mona El-Ghobashy (Political Science), Hossein Kamaly (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies), Jenny Labendz (Religion), John Magyar (Chemistry), Elliot Paul (Philosophy), Sonia Pereira (Economics), Alexandra Horowitz (Psychology), Rebecca Stanton (Slavic), Claire Ullman (Political Science)
Lecturers and Other Faculty: Laura Ciolkowski (English), Collomia Charles (Classics), Patricia Denison (English), Margaret Ellsberg (English), Georgette Fleischer (English), Lisa Hollibaugh (First-Year Dean), Walter Johnston (English), Gale Kenny (Religion), Katherine Levin (English), Linn Cary Mehta (English), John Pagano (English), Stefan Pedatella (English),  Cary Plotkin (English), Laurie Postlewate (French), Jennifer Rosenthal (English), Judith Shapiro (Anthropology), Timea Szell (English)


Every Barnard first-year student is required to take a First-Year Seminar during her first or second semester at Barnard. First-Year Seminars are designed to develop further the essential and prerequisite skills a student brings to Barnard in critical reading and analysis, writing, and effective speaking. First-Year Seminars are intellectually challenging interdisciplinary courses which explore important issues through significant texts ranging across genres and historical periods. Seminars also serve to initiate students into the intellectual community of the college.

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Students in First-Year Seminars will develop their skills in critical reading and analysis, writing, and effective speaking.
  2. They will assess and use textual evidence in support of oral and written arguments.
  3. Students will explore important issues through significant texts ranging across genres, disciplines, and historical periods.

First-Year Seminars fall into three categories: Reinventing Literary History, Reacting to the Past, and Special Topics.

Reinventing Literary History seminars explore literary history through a range of lenses. They are grouped in four clusters: Seminars on the Legacy of the Mediterranean feature classic texts representing key intellectual moments that have shaped Western culture, as well as excursions to the opera, the theatre, and museums. Offering revisionist responses to the constraints of canonicity, seminars on the Americas, Women and Culture, and Global Literature cross national boundaries, exploring the literary history of the Americas, the role of women in culture, and various approaches to global literature.

In Reacting to the Past seminars, students participate in role-playing games that enable them to relive important intellectual debates in three separate historical moments. In The Threshold of Democracy: Athens in 403 B.C., studentsdraw on Plato’s Republic as well as excerpts from Thucydides, Xenophon, and other contemporary sources to debate the prospects for Athenian democracy in the wake of the Peloponnesian War. In Confucianism and the Succession Crisis of the Wanli Emperor , students study the Analects of Confucius and apply Confucian thought to issues of governance during the Ming dynasty. The final semester’s final game varies by section. Some sections explore seventeenth-century Massachusetts, drawing on the Bible, Calvin's Institutes, and colonial trial testimony to participate in The Trial of Anne Hutchinson. Other sections draw on texts by Marx, Freud, and Wollstonecraft to explore the contest between women's suffrage advocates and labor activists for the hearts and minds of "Bohemian" Greenwich Village in the spring of 1913.

Special Topics seminars reflect the variety of faculty interests and expertise, and thus vary in topic from year to year. They offer students and faculty opportunities to explore topics of interest across disciplinary lines, genres, and historical periods.