First-Year Seminar is a two-semester course taken by all first-years. 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.”
2023–24 Theme: The Commons
After years of pandemic-induced social isolation and as pressing global and national challenges, from climate change to racial justice, demand collective action, we are confronted anew by the perennial problem of how to live together—how to build a life in common. This year’s First-Year Seminar takes up these questions through a year-long exploration of the theme of “The Commons.” We will read important works from across history—drawn from literature, philosophy, political theory, science, and the arts—that have shaped how people think about the commons across time and space. Debating and questioning the ideas in these texts, we will think through what this shared repository of knowledge and thought can offer to our own lives and our own time. In the process, students will develop the core skills needed to succeed at Bard, from how to engage in active, critical reading and seminar-based conversations, to how to write strong and thought-provoking essays. In the fall semester, we will focus on the commons as a way of organizing society and political life, with readings that include the Therigatha (the first poetry of early Buddhist nuns), Euripides’ Bacchae, Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto, and Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. In the spring, we will turn our attention to the commons as it helps to inform our relations to the natural world, science, and the built environment.
Acquiring a shared basis for conversation.