Core Curriculum

First Year Seminar: Self, Community, and the World

The First Year Seminar introduces all Butler students to an engagement with ideas of seriousness that is characteristic of the best university education.

"I can't imagine a better introduction to a life of ideas than to engage the students with writers who have lived that life," Dr. Susan Neville explains.  Her First Year Seminar on Contemporary Writers focuses on those writers who come to the campus each year as part of the Vivian S. Delbrook Writers Series.  The writers talk with students and, Neville remarks, "the conversation will range, as it always does, from the work to history to contemporary issues such as immigration and race, and always always on how to live a life of passion and awareness."

Dr. Lisa Brooks' Seminar, La Musica!, also engages students in grand disciplinary conversations.  Brooks is a professional musician, she notes, "fully engaged in the art of classical music."  But "once the students sense that the goal of the course is NOT to make them symphony patrons, they realize that their personal opinions about classical music and its relevance are integral to the course content" and as they see themselves as agents within culture.

In Michelle Stigter's course, students examine the complex, and at times volatile, topic of immigration.  Her Seminar, Integration and Assimilation, posits challenging questions: "what does the influx of 'the other' do to the composition of cultural identity?  Is it wrong to superimpose the norms and values of the dominant culture on new citizens?"  Stigter's students work in the community with the Immigrant Welcome Center and create a digital story that narrates the support and advocacy work the Center provides to, and on behalf of, various communities.  Helping students "understand cultures and the impact of multiculturalism on our world is an important part of figuring out who we are," Stigter posits, "and who we want to become." 

Course Structure: A two-semester sequence taken in the first year.


1. Listen and read critically - texts, speech, media and other cultural productions - in order to examine, challenge and reshape themselves and the world in which they live.

2. Express themselves clearly and persuasively in exposition and in argument, in both written and oral forms.

3. Carry out research for the purpose of supplying evidence and support for claims made in exposition and argument.


First Year Seminar - First Year Students

All incoming first year students must register for FYS 101 in the fall semester and FYS102 in the spring semester. No exceptions.

As there is no AP course equivalent to FYS, advanced placement credit does not apply towards First Year Seminar.

If possible, consider the student's entire first year plan when choosing FYS, so that the student's year long experience in the course can be maintained.

First year students who fail FYS 101 will take FYS 102 in the spring and retake FYS101 in the fall. First year students who fail FYS 102 will retake FYS 102 the following spring. Those students should enroll in a FYS 102 that does not require the corresponding FYS 101 as a prerequisite.

First Year Seminar - Mid Year Enrollees and Transfer Students

A first year student entering college for the first time in spring semester or a first year transfer student will enroll directly into a section of FYS 102 that does not require FYS 101 as a pre-requisite.

To fulfill the FYS 101 portion of the Core requirement, the student can subsequently or concurrently enroll in an additional Text and Ideas or humanities course.

These students will not enroll in FYS 101 the following semester or year.

Transfer students who do not transfer in courses that replace FYS may substitute two humanities courses and a speech course for FYS.


Some examples of current courses offered in the First Year Seminar include:

Faith, Doubt and Reason
Reading and discussion of classic philosophical religious and literary texts exploring the ways in which human beings have reflected on their relationship to God, the world and their fellow human beings. In the first semester ('The Search for God'), we will focus on how human beings have sought to know and understand God and the world and on how that search has shaped the way humans define themselves. In the second semester ('The Search for Community'), we will focus on how human beings have sought to define themselves in terms of the various communities to which they belong, including families and clans, ethnic communities, nations and faith communities. The interaction and interconnections of faith, doubt and reason will receive attention in both semesters.

The Heroic Temper
Homer lays the groundwork for an examination of the epic heroes, with his very personal attention to the lives and characters of his chosen heroes in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Central to our concern in this seminar will be our own examination of these poems, especially with an eye towards understanding what keeps generation after generation not only reading these classic epics but reworking the heroic form as well as the heroic themes. Besides our reading the Homeric epics, we will study the modern applications of them in film, such as Troy, Ulysses, and O Brother Where Art Thou? Semester two will look at further reworking of the Homeric model, with Roman works such as Virgil's Aeneid and Ovid's Metamorphoses, among others.

Travelers and Tourists
Why do people travel? How does tourism alter our self-understanding and shape our perceptions of other people and communities? What consequences does tourism have for host communities, societies, and economies? This course will look at tourism from the perspective of travelers, guests, advocates, and critics, drawing from travel narratives, popular films, and academic texts to examine the complex relationships between tourists and toured, travel and development.

Assessing the American Dream
This course will create a journey by which students address the relevance of the "American Dream" as this ideal is situated from the perspective of the experiences of black women. Through exploration of various forms of writings, from political essays to short stories, poems, and novels, all by black women, students will develop an understanding of how the voice of black women offers a unique opportunity from which to study this "land of opportunity," as the concept of the "American Dream" suggests. This is a two-semester course, part of the "Collaborative for Critical Inquiry into Issues of Gender, Race, and Sexuality/Gender Studies."

Sex & Politics: Helen of Troy
The story of Helen of Troy literally and figuratively embodies the struggle between sex and politics and the human propensity to forsake politics for war. In this course, we will examine how the myth of Helen is intimately connected with misogynistic attitudes, romantic and sexual fantasies, and notions of political power that have been seen throughout twenty-eight centuries of the telling and retelling of the story of the "face that launched a thousand ships." Course readings include Bettany Hughes' Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore; Euripides' Helen; Aeschylus' Oresteia, among others.

Identity and Culture
What tells us who we are? How does one develop an image of self? Students will use the lenses of literature, psychological theory, art, and history to examine depictions of "coming of age" across cultures and time periods. Aristotle wrote that "the aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance"; through this seminar students will use "art" in its broadest sense to explore the inward significance of "coming of age." Semester I: Coming of Age in America. Semester II: Coming of Age in Other Cultures and Other Times.

Spellbound:The Quest for Magic
Throughout the ages, the fascination with the otherworldly, the supernatural, the magical element has been a great source of inspiration for writers, choreographers, musicians, and other artists. From the tales of 1001 Nights to A Mid-summer Night's Dream, from The Lord of the Rings to contemporary fantasy literature, magic is ever-present, sometimes for the good, now and again in the purpose of evil. Similarly, the art of dance abounds with tales of the fantastic; musicians have given a voice to many a fairy tale; and artists have painted or sculpted countless mythological figures. This course will explore the many faces of this quest for magic in an inter-disciplinary way, with selected readings from the genre of fantasy literature, viewings of masterworks of ballet and modern dance, and musical examples from great symphonic and operatic works.

Ireland and the Irish
What contribution does history or literature make in the construction of self and nationhood? Is there such a thing as a national character? How do history, literature, and the arts contribute to or contradict these features? We will examine an early Irish epic Tain Bo Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), Woodham-Smith's The Great Famine, as well as works by Yeats, Joyce, O'Casey, and Synge.

Creativity: What does it mean to be creative? Creativity is too often linked in our minds with artists, poets or people like Picasso or Beethoven or Einstein. But any life can be lived more creatively; any job can be done more creatively. Using selected readings, discussions with creators and innovators, and a wide variety of written and oral assignments and activities, we will explore how each of you can begin to think of yourself as a creative person.

The Sound and the Funny
Comedy can be serious stuff, as rich and dark and heartbreaking a path toward meaning as anything more sober. When it's done right, the ridiculous is the sublime. In this course, we'll look at a range of books and movies and stand-up performances, including works by Diogenes, Nathanael West, Richard Pryor, and Lorrie Moore. We'll talk about how humor can be a way to get at the truth of such grim stuff as war and grief, how it can be a weapon for the marginalized, and how that weapon can disarm not only others, but also yourself.