First-Year Seminars

Note:  First-Year Seminars may not count toward any major or minor.

GOVT 7

The Politics and Culture of Cuba

What does the future hold for Cuba? In order to answer this question, this class plumbs the past for clues. We evaluate the creation and persistence of myths about Cuban history, focusing on the War of 1898, the First and Second Republican periods, and the many phases of the Revolution. As one of the world’s few remaining socialist regimes and the only surviving socialist regime in Latin America, Cuba is unique.  But Cuba is also subject to many of the forces that have shaped other countries in Latin America and the third world: a heritage of Spanish colonialism and slavery, a geography that contains a limited array of natural resources and a system of government that has evolved under the constant shadow of the United States. To that extent we can learn something about Latin American politics—and politics more generally—by studying Cuba. 

Govt 7

Media and Politics

The variety of media sources covering politics has expanded substantially in recent years: online-only news, satire-based news, social media forums such as blogs, and other types of “new media” now exist alongside more traditional media sources such as newspapers and television news hours. In this seminar, we will explore how the media influences the nature of politics and political knowledge in the United States. Some of the questions we will examine include: How does the rise of new media affect the public’s understanding of politics? Are market forces pushing media outlets away from objective, in-depth, fact-based political reporting? How prevalent is partisan bias in the news media? How do journalists and politicians vie for control of the news? How powerful can the media be in anointing (or destroying) candidates? We will spend about two-thirds of our classroom time discussing the media and about one-third of our time discussing writing and associated seminar skills. Students will write and revise two 5-6 page analytical papers during the term; additionally, a class-produced blog about the media and politics will give us the opportunity to contrast formal and informal genres of writing in a hands-on manner.

Govt 7

National in War and Reconciliation

At the heart of political struggles between groups and countries lies identity. Communities create identities — myths, memories, heroes and villains — and manipulate them as the community pursues war or peace. In this seminar we study how nationalism and group identity affects war-fighting and reconciliation. But the other key purpose of this first-year seminar is to introduce students to the academic world of ideas – to the verbal debate and exchange of ideas, to the written expression of ideas, and to the refining of ideas through a process of intellectual development and revision.  At the center of this endeavor is close interaction and the fostering of a sense of intellectual community, both among student colleagues and with the professor.

GOVT 7

The Political Theory of Game of Thrones

Politics is about power - but what is power, exactly, and how should it be used?  This course will explore how these and other fundamental questions of political theory find expression in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”  Our discussion of the series will be informed by several classic works of political theory, including selections from Cicero, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Weber, and Walzer.  Topics will include the nature of political authority, the conditions of political legitimacy, the ethics of war, and dragons.