FYSEM II JB Bard College

First-Year Seminar

Course:  First-Year Seminar, Spring 2017

Instructor:  Jim Belk (belk@bard.edu)

Time & Place:  MW 1:30–2:50 pm in Bitó 210

Office Hours:

Writing Tutor:  Lindsay DiNozzi-Houser (jd3873@bard.edu)


Malcolm X Videos

Here are the clips of Malcolm X speaking that we watched in class: Here are a few more clips you might be interested in:

First Essay – Final Draft

The final draft of the first essay is due this Sunday, April 2. Everyone is required to meet with the writing tutor before turning in their final draft.

Office Hours This Week

I will not be having my usual hours tonight. However, I will be having office hours on Wednesday on Thursday night this week: I will also be having some office hours on Friday (T.B.A.).

First Essay

A rough draft for the first essay is due on Sunday, March 12. Here are the guidelines and suggested topics for the essay:

Sermon on the Mount

Here is the text of Christ's Sermon on the Mount. This sermon is arguably the foundation of the Christian moral viewpoint, and you may find it helpful for understanding Nietzsche's and Augustine's ideas:

Writing Tutor

Our writing tutor is Lindsay DiNozzi-Houser (jd3873@bard.edu). All students are required to meet with the tutor after turning in a rough draft for the first essay.


Welcome back to First-Year Seminar. I will be using this course webpage to post all announcements and documents related to the course.


First-Year Seminar is part of the DNA of intellectual life at Bard and has been taught in one version or another since the 1950s. Over the coming semester, the entire class of 2020 will continue to share the endeavor of reading, discussing and writing about the same books at the same time.

Together we will explore the question “What is freedom?”—a topic that could hardly be more necessary today. Why have so many people in so many times and places identified freedom as a self-evident value, but have also excluded many around them from its benefits? How have different civilizations defined freedom at different times? What does freedom mean in a democracy, an empire, or a totalitarian regime? How do we understand the difference between “freedom to” and “freedom from,” between rights and responsibilities? Is scientific or artistic freedom an unqualified good, whatever its consequences? These are just some of the questions we address in First-Year Seminar.

In the fall semester, we asked “What is political freedom?” We read thinkers from Socrates to Gandhi and Hannah Arendt. Now in the spring semester, we consider “What is personal freedom?” in the company of authors from Aristotle to Mary Shelley and Malcolm X.

By studying these texts, discussing their ideas in small seminars, and writing critical papers about them, you will establish a foundation for your learning experience at the college and acquire a shared basis for conversation with fellow students, faculty members, and the world beyond.

Required Texts


Date        Assignment
Feb. 1 Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” in Self-Reliance and Other Essays pp. 29–48
I. Ethics and Evil
Feb. 6 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I
Feb. 8 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book II
Feb. 13 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book III
Feb. 15 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book X
Feb. 20 Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals I: “Good and Evil,” “Good and Bad”
Feb. 22 Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals II: “Guilt,” “Bad Conscience,” and the Like
II. Conversions and Creeds
Feb. 27 Augustine, Confessions, Book I
Mar. 1 Augustine, Confessions, Books II and III
Mar. 6 Augustine, Confessions, Books IV and V
Mar. 8 Augustine, Confessions, Books VI and VII
Mar. 13 Augustine, Confessions, Books VIII and IX
Mar. 15 The Autobiography of Malcolm X, chapters 1–4
Mar. 27 The Autobiography of Malcolm X, chapters 5–8
Mar. 29 The Autobiography of Malcolm X, chapters 9–12
III. Scientific Freedom and the Boundaries of Knowledge
Apr. 3 Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, pp. 1–27
Apr. 5 Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, pp. 28–54
Apr. 10 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, pp. 1–60
Apr. 12 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, pp. 61–108
Apr. 17 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, pp. 108–166
IV. Artistic Freedom and the Boundaries of the Imagination
Apr. 19 Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Selected Works: A Letter from Sor Filotea to Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, pp. 141–150 and Response of the Poet to the Very Eminent Sor Filotea de la Cruz, pp. 151–175
Apr. 24 Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Selected Works: Response of the Poet to the Very Eminent Sor Filotea de la Cruz, pp. 175–209
Apr. 26 James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, pp. 3–67
May 3 James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, pp. 67–146
May 8 James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, pp. 146–210
May 10 James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, pp. 210–277
Conclusion: Rights, Hopes, and Dreams
May 15 Eleanor Roosevelt, “On the Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”; Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream,” Harvey Milk, “The Hope Speech” in History's Greatest Speeches

Course Policies


You are required to write four critical essays (1000–1500 words per essay) on the texts we're reading over the course of the semester. The tentative due dates for these essays are also follows: You can turn in your essays by e-mailing me at belk@bard.edu.

For citations in your essays, you are free to use either Chicago or MLA styles, but, whichever you choose, remember to use it consistently. See this web page for a guide to citations.

Beyond formatting and citation, you may wish to read a style guide; Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (available at the Bard Bookstore, under First-Year Seminar) remains a classic.

Academic Integrity

All work submitted for First-Year Seminar is assumed to be your own, written specifically for this course. All courses at Bard, including First-Year Seminar, follow the Student Handbook rubric on academic honesty. Any student who plagiarizes work for First-Year Seminar (or any course) or otherwise engages in academic dishonesty will fail the course and be referred to the Registrar.

Attendance and Participation

Students are expected to attend and to participate in all classes and “Experience Days.” More than TWO absences from the course (including Experience Days) in a semester will affect your grade for the course. More than FIVE may result in you failing the course. Exceptions to the attendance policy will be made on a case-by-case basis with either (a) a letter from the Dean of Students Office or (b) a documented accommodation plan from the Disability Support Services Office or the Title IX Office. In cases where illness or other exceptional circumstances have caused or are likely to cause a prolonged absence from class (i.e., three or more consecutive sessions), you should liaise as soon as possible with the Dean of Students Office. If you are unsure where to start, you can contact Kevin Dean, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the First-Year Experience (Sottery Hall 108; Phone: 845-758-7454; email: firstyear@bard.edu).

Experience Day

All First-Year Seminar students are expected to participate in the Malcolm X Experience Day in the Fisher Center on Monday, April 3 from 4:45 PM. Attendance will be taken.

Final Grade

The grade will be based on the four essays, attendance, and participation:

First Essay 20%
Second Essay 20%
Third Essay 20%
Fourth Essay 20%
Attendance and Participation 20%