First-Year Seminar is a two-semester course taken by all first-years at Bard. Its goal is to create a basis for shared conversation among the first-year class and build foundational skills for success in college – attentive close reading of challenging texts; respectful and inclusive dialogue with others; the ability to ask profound and interesting questions about what you read; and developing your academic voice through writing. During First-Year Seminar, students develop a clearer sense of their own intellectual goals and priorities, which will inform their work during the rest of their time at Bard. A shared reading list addresses a specific theme for the year; recent themes include “What Is Freedom? Dialogues Ancient and Modern” and “What Is Enlightenment? The Science, Culture, and Politics of Reason."
2020-21 Seminar Theme
The Self in the World
As you embark upon your life as college students and grow into your roles as citizens of the wider world, questions about your place in that world become more urgent. First Year Seminar invites you 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? The year-long course, taken by all Bard first-years, asks how writers and thinkers over the centuries have grappled with this question. The Fall and Spring reading lists are underpinned by two 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 self in the world from a wide range of perspectives: from the fragments of Sappho to the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, and from Dante’s Inferno to Rabindranath Tagore’s classic Bengali novel, The Home and the World. The readings in these core works will be illuminated by companion texts from Genesis to Marx and Freud. Seminar-style discussion and writing-intensive assignments will provide you with a foundation for your work at the College and for life beyond Bard. In addition to your work in the classroom, the whole first-year class will also participate in regular forums to engage creatively and critically with the ideas of the course.
Acquiring a shared basis for conversation.