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Fall 2003 (continued in Winter 2004)

Program Description - Fall 2003
Thad Curtz, Ph.D (Literature and Developmental Psychology)
Nancy Murray, Ph.D. (Molecular Biology)
Charles Pailthorp, Ph.D. (Philosophy and Music)

This full time first year program integrated work in biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and the humanities to explore the neurological bases of smell and hearing; their historical and cultural variation; and practical and theoretical issues about the interactions between concepts, language, and perception in science, art, and the lived experience of children and adults. Each week, we met for four hours of lecture and workshop, a two hour lab, four hours of seminar discussion, and three hours of film screening and discussion; students also spent three hours a week observing in a grade school classroom.

They wrote two short pieces a week, an exercise about the main points or themes of the week’s main text and a three to five page expository paper about it, on a topic of their own. In this sequence we read three essays from Sacks’s An Anthropologist on Mars and “A Dog Beneath the Skin;” Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; Burr’s The Emperor of Scent; Stoddart’s The Scented Ape: The biology and culture of human odor; Classen, Howes and Synnott’s Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell; Suskind’s Perfume; the first half of Ong’s Orality and Literacy; Peters’s Here-Ings: A Sonic Geohistory; Feld’s Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics, and Song in Kaluli Expression; Howes’s “Olfaction and Transition,” Schafer’s The Soundscape: The Untuning of the World; and Hull’s Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness. In most weeks, we viewed and analyzed a film dealing with our themes: Truffaut’s The Wild Child, Herzog’s Every Man for Himself and God Against All: Kaspar Hauser, Doillon’s Ponette, Jeunet and Caro’s Delicatessen, Campion’s The Piano, and Aronson’s Sound and Fury. Students also wrote a mid-term exam integrating our work.

Students attended a weekly lecture on the neurobiology and anatomy of the olfactory and auditory systems, supplemented by chapters from Rodieck's The First Steps in Seeing on neurons and Purves et al's Neurobiology on the auditory system. In accompanying weekly laboratory sessions they did experiments and kept a lab notebook exploring sensory phenomena such as olfactory fatigue and afterimages, mapping the somatosensory cortex through two-point discrimination testing, and factors affecting sound location. Each student also did independent research on an unusual kind of perceptual experience of their choice, writing a final paper and giving a fifteen minute presentation to the class.

For our work in epistemology and developmental psychology, students read selections from Descartes and Locke, Piaget’s “How Children Form Mathematical Concepts,” Anderson and Smith’s “Children’s Preconceptions and Content-Area Textbooks” and Roth, Smith, and Anderson’s “Verbal Patterns of Teachers: Comprehension Instruction in the Content Areas,” several chapters on stages from Wadsworth’s Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive and Affective Development, and Perry’s “Cognitive and Ethical Growth: The Making of Meaning.”

Suggested Credit Equivalencies (in quarter credit hours): 16

4 – Freshman Humanities Seminar
4 – Expository Writing
3 – Biology of the Senses
3 – Introduction to Piaget
2 – Independent Research

The Evergreen State College
Last Updated: 03/20/2004