2013-14 Senior Tutorials

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

There’s a story that a college professor’s son told his dad he was dropping out of college because he was disengaged, uninspired, at loss. His father told him he could do whatever he wanted to, but he asked his son if before he did so, would he just read The Brothers Karamazov. The son agreed; he read it in a single setting; he went back to college intellectually hungry and morally reinvigorated. This is one of the great novels of all time, about family, murder, religion, treachery, spiritual crisis, forgiveness. This is a book that changes lives.

Can You Apply Game Theory To Jane Austen?

Last year, Michael Suk-Young Chwe wrote a book arguing that Jane Austen was the first game theorist. This claim has opened up an interesting and provocative conversation. In response to critics who have resisted his argument, Chwe commented, “Audiences unfamiliar with game theory are often wary at first, but usually once we get past superficial impressions and start talking about specific examples, we are able to engage in the moderately heated process of give and take, agreeing and disagreeing.” We want to enter 2 this conversation and explore the validity of Mr. Chwe’s claims by considering how much of a game theorist Jane Austen actually was. Because we, ourselves, don’t know the answer to this question, we want your help and are eager to engage with you in this new field of knowledge with our collective interdisciplinary skills. In this tutorial, students will be presented the basic tenets of game theory, which explore the strategic interactions between agents whose decisions affect one another. In addition, we will read one of Jane Austen’s novels, examining her work both as a literary text and through the lens of a game theorist.

Creative Writing (Fiction)

We have all been spellbound by stories, drawn inexorably on their current towards conclusions that move and delight. Or maybe we have read or listened to poetry and been captivated by its vivid language and musical thought. But how do such masterpieces come into being, how are they made, and how do they work? Literary criticism gives one answer, and writing creatively gives another. In this tutorial you will gain deeper insight into our literature’s “magnificent fictions” by creating some of your own. You will find that such writing challenges and develops your entire writerly self: your powers of imagination, intellectual agility, linguistic resourcefulness, precision of expression, and depth of feeling. Junot Diaz told us that “writing is thinking in slow motion,” and that, to learn to write, we must learn to “endure ourselves thinking.” My hope is that students will emerge from this tutorial several steps farther along towards this goal than they were when they started.

Dance Journalism: "CAPD Magazine"—The Critique, Analysis and Performance of Dance

This course will take an in-depth look into the performance, analysis and critique of dance. Students will research, write and publish their own dance magazine. Working through four sections, they will incorporate learning choreography, researching a choreographer, analyzing dance technique, writing dance articles and interviewing working professionals. Students will act as journalists for CAPD Magazine. In each section of the course students will research a prolific choreographer. They will learn to perform a dance piece in that choreographer’s style, write a critique of the piece, and ultimately publish that piece for CAPD Magazine. Students will also write two columns for CAPD in which they interview a professional dancer or choreographer in the field of dance as well as review a live performance from a professional dance company.

Dreams, Nightmares and Reality

Dreams, something we all have, can be what delineates a hero from a madman. Some use their dreams in a positive manner in order to serve humanity. There are others, unfortunately, who are far more calculating and sinister in bringing their dreams to fruition. This is where a conundrum seems to exist. How can two such divergent perspectives exist in conjunction with one another? Which one has the greater ability to move others to support such dreams/goals, and do the ends justify the means?

Many before us have contemplated these questions and have sought answers. In this tutorial our discussions will evolve primarily around two books as we pursue our own answers, and we will garner a greater understanding of two dreamers, their lives, and their goals.

In order to achieve his dream, Adolf Hitler incarcerated millions in his death camps, and while most died as a result, some managed to exist until the close of the war and were liberated. Those who were freed took with them nightmares of their lives and experiences in those camps. Much of the citizenry that lived “freely” in Nazi occupied lands did so in fear for their own lives and those of their loved ones; therefore, they acquiesced to the demands and rules Hitler created or faced incarceration along with those Hitler deemed as undesirable.

The study of Mein Kampf gives insight into the dreams of Hitler, and study of The Book Thief offers a better insight into the fear that existed in the dreams and minds of those who managed to escape and how their perspectives and memories affected ensuing generations. In short, Mein Kampf is the historical representation of the dreams of a madman, while The Book Thief represents a historical/fictional account as told by the progeny of a German citizen who lived through WWII and gives us a more personal insight into the time, the people, and Nazism. We will also explore video footage, articles, and journals to deepen our understanding of this time.

Genesis 37: 19-20 — “Here comes this dreamer. ... Let us kill him ... and let us see what will become of his dreams.”

Imagining Pompeii: The Art and Archeology of an Ancient City

Over two thousand years ago, the vibrant Roman city of Pompeii was buried beneath layers of volcanic ash, leaving us with the remains of a city practically frozen in time, layered with the many ancient cultures that once inhabited it: Oscan, Etruscan, Greek, and Roman. Since its unearthing in 1748, Pompeii has captured the imagination of generations of visitors and scholars; from its lavish houses with their richly-hued wall paintings to graffiti scribbled on storefronts and bathhouse walls, this ancient city has proven an unparalleled resource not only for further piecing together information about the Roman people, but also for experiencing the spaces, visuals and routes of travel that they would have experienced each day. This tutorial will focus on learning to “read” material culture – art, architecture, and artifacts – much as one would read a work of literature. Within each meticulous painting or carefully laid out villa there are layers of meaning and intent on the part of the creator. Using Mary Beard’s rich account of Pompeii’s history (The Fires of Vesuvius) as a backdrop, we will examine, discuss, and compare material culture from all walks of Pompeiian life, from the exquisite (the paintings in the Villa of the Mysteries) to the commonplace (sparring political graffiti). Later in the spring, we will visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to engage with some of Pompeii’s artwork firsthand. This visit will also allow us to consider how learning to “read” the subtext of art can be applied to our viewing of art from any culture or time period, better enabling us to experience, appreciate, and understand its value and context.

Healthy Approaches to Challenges and Choices in College

In this tutorial class, we will study and discuss a variety of the decision-making challenges that students may confront, particularly in their first year of college. Readings will include stories and novels about the collegiate and young adult experience and articles about relevant topics, such as substance use, sexuality, sleep, nutrition, and technology. Student written work will explore, analyze, and critique the values, thought processes, and decision-making strategies as portrayed in fiction and reflected in the scholarly research.

James Baldwin

James Baldwin was born amidst both the chaotic and rich cultural landscape of Harlem in the 1920s; its people, art, city streets, and tensions influence his life and work even after he moved abroad. His essays, novels, plays, and poetry expose and explore the lives people live and are subjected to in both Harlem and New York. Although Baldwin was one of our nation’s great intellectuals and writers, as an openly gay, black man, he was largely rejected by both black and white audiences and shunned from participation in the Civil Rights Movement he so desperately sought to influence. In ways that perpetually make us uncomfortable, James Baldwin forces us as a nation and as individual people to confront the parts of ourselves we most wish to conceal; he challenges us to observe and engage our world with a sharp and vulnerable honesty. In this tutorial, we will read first read a number of his essays from The Fire Next Time and Notes of a Native Son and then two works of fiction entitled Giovanni’s Room, and Blues For Mister Charlie.

The Nature of Beauty

Often we think of art as existing completely outside the realm of mathematics and science, as if there is no place for objectivity in a creative world so fraught with opinion, individualism, and subjective standards. Yet, for centuries, great artists have utilized math and science in an attempt to standardize the creation and production of beauty. Likewise, great thinkers have used concepts of aesthetic beauty to guide their search for truth, assuming that beauty is built into the nature of reality at a deep level. In this tutorial, we will examine the aesthetic experience of beauty from both the creator’s perspective and from that of the outside viewer. We will address some of the cultural, artistic, mathematical, and scientific aspects of beauty and consider questions such as the following: What do beautiful things have in common, if anything? How do we recognize and come to a consensus about beauty? Is beauty in a work of art (or otherwise) purely subjective, or are there more objective systems at work that we are not fully conscious of? Can anyone truly be free from natural and cultural definitions of beauty? By the end of our tutorial, you will have proposed and defended your own definition of beauty.

The New Yorker

This is a tutorial on the art of non-fiction writing, and the course uses the New Yorker magazine as a model for excellence in the genre. This is a writing intensive course, requiring daily writing, revision and editing. Students will write “Talk of the Town,” “Reporter at Large,” profile, “Sporting Life,” and review essays. Tutorial sessions will critique, revise, and edit essays. The tutorial will publish a collection of exemplary and representative essays. Readings will include the New Yorker magazine; essays of David Foster Wallace; Best American Essays.

Not Knowing What You're Thinking While You Are Thinking

The last twenty years of cognitive science research has delivered a revolution in our understanding of the adaptive unconscious—the thinking our brains do beneath the level of our awareness. This has been the result of breakthroughs in experimental psychology linked to powerful analytical tools of neuroscience and guided by the theoretical framework of human evolution. This is not the unconscious of your grandfather's Freudian speculation!

In this tutorial you will explore this exciting field of research and its implications for what it means to be human. The readings will be anchored to an acclaimed popular book on the subject, Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious by University of Virginia Professor Timothy Wilson. Drawing on this shared background, you will select specific topics of personal interest to review in greater depth using journal articles and recorded lectures. Topics may include cognitive illusions, intuition, hypnosis, free will, prejudice, and motivation. The writing assignments will include expository summaries of research, personal reflections, and analyses related to the implications of this new understanding for personal life and society.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude, written in 1967 by Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, is one of Latin America’s novels by excellence and one of the most important novels of the 20th century. One of the most important characteristics of this novel is that García Márquez breaks with all “realism” and introduces myth in fiction. He constructs a mythical past in which fantastic elements are part of daily existence. Macondo, the town that the Buendía Family founds, is more than just a place in the world: it is a state of being. We will discuss the novel within the frame of Latin America’s history and the creation of memory.

Personal Narrative and Memoir

This course offers students models and practice writing personal narratives—stories about inspiring, challenging, or even absurd moments in our lives. Reading assignments will look at how a range of writers use imagination, humor, and artistry to tell their stories, with an eye to inspiring students to write about their own lives. Readings may include David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day; David Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life; Tina Fey’s Bossypants; Tobias Woolf’s This Boy’s Life, and a variety of additional authors. Writing assignments will focus on autobiographical narratives; students will post sketches and drafts to a class blog, develop their work through peer critique and revision; and produce a portfolio of original work.

Revisionist Western Literature

Classic western narratives are known for their focus on justice and idealism, rooted in the American sense of possibility in westward expansion. These narratives presented a certain view of manhood that we see in constructs such as the Marlboro Man—rugged, independent, and virtuous. In the 1960s and ’70s, American cinema and literature began look more closely at the romanticized notion of the old West, challenging its values regarding law and order, race relations, and gender identity. We will explore the mythology of the West through texts and films that establish the classic western, as in Shane, and reimagine it, as in Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain.” Other course texts include Jack Shaefer’s Shane (1949), John William’s Butcher’s Crossing (1960), Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1969), and Annie Proulx’s Close Range (1999).

Save The Whales!

Whales have roamed the oceans of the world for 35 million years. As our human civilization has expanded and “advanced,” the populations of these majestic mammals have precipitously declined. This tutorial will explore the impact humans have had on whales over the past 400 years. We will read from Entanglements, The Urban Whale, Moby Dick, The Whale Warriors, and In The Heart of The Sea. In addition we will watch videos and slide shows related to the biology, threats, and conservation efforts involved with whales. Overall, this tutorial will instill a deep respect for whales and ways that humans have intentionally and unintentionally threatened their existence.


Screenwriting is a fun creative writing medium because, when done successfully, the product is created into a wonderfully visual shared experience. In this tutorial, students will study and practice the art of screenwriting to develop a step-by-step understanding of how to present their ideas and creativity. When Junot Díaz visited St. Andrew’s, he told the School that the most important element of being a creative writer is to read. Knowing and understanding the work that is already on the market is a pivotal element to doing the work on your own. Therefore, the students in this tutorial will read a number of screenplays and watch how they are translated into film in order to create a basic understanding of the function of the art. Furthermore, they will study critical texts that breakdown the process of writing screenplays into tangible steps. Through various exercises, the study of successful contemporary screenplays, and the critical understanding of process, students will work throughout the tutorial to develop the first act of their own screenplay.

Spotlight on the NCAA: Investigating Intercollegiate Athletics in America

What is the role of intercollegiate athletics in the American college and university system? In recent years, there has been an assumption that the primary responsibility of any athletic department is to produce successful teams in the hopes of generating enormous revenues for the college. In many cases, the development of the athlete as a student and, in many regards, the student as an athlete, has been an afterthought. This creates an inequity between the program and the individual. However, one cannot exist without the other.

Should we continue to support a system that places profit over the development of young college students? Furthermore, should gender equity in the number of sports provided by an institution be required?

Further questions abound: Should athletes be allowed to experiment with performance enhancing supplements and drugs? Should coaches make salaries in the millions? Should student athletes be compensated financially for their time and contributions to their sport? Should athletic departments be allowed to sign exclusive uniform and equipment contracts with major sports apparel companies? Ultimately, what do intercollegiate athletics do to enhance or detract from our colleges and universities as learning institutions?

In this tutorial, we will explore these questions in greater depth. We will consider many of the ethical dilemmas that athletes and athletic programs face. When it comes to success, is it survival of the fittest? What then should our policies be when it comes to college athletic programs? Using Fair Play: The Ethics of Sport by Robert L. Smith, Saturday Millionaires: How Winning Football Builds Winning Colleges by Kristi Dosh, Reclaiming the Game: College Sports and Educational Values by William Bowen and Sarah Levin, as well as articles and case studies, you will decide.

U.S. Foreign Policy toward Latin America: Cuba—A Case Study with a Brand New Twist

The United States has a unique relationship with Latin America due to historical coincidence and geographical proximity. Perhaps no other country in Latin America has as special a relationship with the United States as Cuba. Cuba's destiny has been inextricably tied to the foreign policy decisions of the United States since before its independence from Spain until now, the fifty-year mark of the Cuban Revolution. In this tutorial, political-historical in nature, we will brush the pre-Cuban independence period, concentrate more closely on the pre-Revolution era and then focus sharply on the Revolutionary period in relations. We will also dissect the present state of affairs, which are ever-changing due to Fidel Castro's failing health, the passing of power to his brother Raúl and the advent of a new administration in the United States. In short, we will endeavor to comprehend the dynamics of the U.S.-Cuban relationship in order to better understand the framework that will shape the next phase of relations between the two nations.