First Year Seminar: The Self in the World As students embark upon their life as college students and grow into their roles as citizens of the wider world, questions about their place in that world become more urgent. First Year Seminar invites students to reflect on a question that is fundamental to the humanities, the social sciences, and indeed to our own lives: how does each of us understand and articulate who we are? How does our individual “self” relate to other people and to the wider community?
This year-long course, taken by all Bard first-years, asks students to engage deeply with how writers and thinkers over the centuries have grappled with this question. The Fall and Spring reading lists are underpinned by two major narratives of discovery and (self-) exploration: Homer’s ancient Greek epic, the Odyssey, and its latter-day adaptation, the Afro-Caribbean epic poem Omeros by Derek Walcott (1990). Along the way, we will read — slowly and carefully — a series of touchstone works that grapple with this central question of the place of the self in the world from a wide range of perspectives: from fragments of Sappho’s erotic poetry to the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, and from Dante’s Inferno and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to Rabindranath Tagore’s classic Bengali novel, The Home and the World. The readings in these core works will be illuminated by companion texts, available in a single-volume Course Reader, featuring shorter selections from Genesis, Karl Marx, Virginia Woolf, Sigmund Freud, Toni Morrison, and many others.
Seminar-style discussion and writing-intensive assignments will provide students with a foundation for their work at the College and for life beyond Bard. In addition to their work in the classroom, the whole first-year class will also participate in regular forums—panels, lectures, concerts— to engage creatively and critically with the ideas arising from our readings.