Trinity College Courses

Courses for First-Year Students

Trinity offers several courses intended to enhance the academic role the College plays in the lives of its undergraduates, especially its first-year students. These are credit courses approved by the Faculty of Arts and Science and do not have prerequisites.

Why Take a Trinity College Course?

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  • participate actively in small-group discussions;
  • learn to think critically and to communicate clearly;
  • study with Trinity faculty - outstanding scholars with a strong interest in teaching first-year students;
  • get to know other Trinity students and build a "home" base within the College and the University.

Seminar Courses for 2015-16

CCR 199Y1Y  The Vikings and their Descendants

The Vikings first entered the annals of recorded history late in the eighth century, and the impression that they made on the civilized people whom they encountered was decidedly negative.  Vikings were depicted by many of their contemporaries as bloodthirsty pagans, ferocious and crafty warriors with a diabolical ability to raid and pillage nearly anywhere throughout the then-known world.  Although the brutality of Viking raids is undeniable, modern scholars of the Early Middle Ages have developed more nuanced perspectives on the Vikings by studying the characteristics of their material culture, the poetic and memorial texts that they composed, and by evaluating their accomplishments as explorers, pioneers and agents of inter-cultural commerce.  The legacy of the Vikings’ activities can not only be traced in the historical development of present-day Scandinavian nations, but is also part of the heritage of the peoples of Britain, continental Europe, the Mideast and even the Atlantic coast of Canada.  Aspects of Viking culture have—for better and worse—inspired artists, writers, composers, intellectuals, explorers and even politicians in the centuries since the last longship sailed, and images of the Viking persist in present-day literature, art, music, sport and popular culture.  This course explores the history, cultures and literatures of the Viking Age, and considers how (and why) the Viking past remains part of present culture.

CCR 199Y1Y  More than Just a Dinner Party: High Style and Serious Attitude in the Literary Salon of 1830s Paris

Money, Love, Heroism, the Occult, War, Revolution, Royalism and Opium; such were the variety of subjects explored in a literary salon in Paris around the year 1830. In an age of uncertainty (the Napoleonic Age over, the restored Monarchy faltering under a mad king), a generation of writers, artists and musicians was searching for meaning. Several met regularly in the elegant drawing room of the Arsenal library in Paris, creating what is called a salon. Along with exquisite food, music and dance, they took a steady diet of wit, debate, humour and passion. We will explore their works as well as the literature, music and art of those who inspired them. Victor Hugo, Balzac, Stendhal, a young Franz Liszt, the artists Delacroix and David d’Angers all had attended. Finding inspiration in Byron’s poetry, Hoffmann’s tales, Goethe’s and Scott’s legendary works and the music of Berlioz and Chopin, their ideas about artistic style and conviction have influenced Western culture to this day. Readings are in English or English translation.

TBB 199H1S  The Age of Love: An Invitation to Medieval Culture

How do human beings respond when it feels like their world is falling apart?  The complex culture that we call “medieval” (c.500–c.1500) arose out of the ruins of the late Roman Empire.  The medieval response to the passing away of all that seemed good and civilized can be traced through three paths, each emphasizing different virtues:  the way of the warrior (strength and courage), the way of the monk (humility and renunciation), and the way of the philosopher (learning and reason).  This course will examine representative writers from each of these strands, exploring how these three ways converged, despite the reality of violence and apparent futility, in a vision of love as the path of true human fulfilment.  We will begin with two foundational texts written in the midst of the Roman collapse:  the Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius (d. c.524), the principal source for medieval philosophy; and the roughly contemporary Rule of St. Benedict, the principal text for western monasticism.  A study of the “way of the warrior” (and the related culture of feudalism) will focus on the career and literary afterlife of Charlemagne.  We will then move to the twelfth century, when all three strands begin to converge on “love” as a supreme value:  in war, the romances of Chretien de Troyes; in monasticism, the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux; and in philosophy, the career of Peter Abelard and his lover Heloise.  This medieval “triumph of love” finds its synthesis in Dante’s Vita Nuova, which strongly recalls the Consolation of Boethius, functioning as a “book-end” for the course.  We will look at these writings alongside other contemporary artistic products, especially manuscript art (illustrated from University of Toronto collections) and music.

TBB 199H1Y Language, Technology and Society

This course will present a year-long introduction to "language technology," from the advent of writing in human societies up until the introduction of digital text and speech technology in the present age.  We will discuss how they work, how they have been adapted to suit the demands of various information needs through the ages, and how they have in turn influenced the societies that use them.

Particular attention will be paid in this offering to the archaeological decipherment of lost writing systems, and to the history of the study of language and speech.  The course will also serve as an accessible introduction to the internet technologies that have so transformed scholarship and other modes of communication over the last 40 years.

SII 199H1S  Science, the Academy, and Government

This will be a course on the increasing inter-relationship between knowledge/science, the institution which generates it (the university), and government. To inform public policy increasingly governments are reaching into academia as a source for scientific evidence or for expert opinion to write reports or chair expert committees.

This course will have two foci. The first will delve into British and Canadian academic and government activities in a field at the cutting-edge of population health, the determinants of health. It will look at important work done by a Canadian (and former faculty member of U of T) who had close ties to two British academics each of whom wrote a seminal government report.

The second will take the exploration of science one step further in that today it is not only used as a means to an end (e.g., to inform policy on health determinants), it also becomes the end itself. In this application we seek new knowledge because that new knowledge actually becomes a new and commercializable product. This means that knowledge is now a commodity that can be packaged bought and sold like any other commodity and this has important ramifications for universities and our economy. This section will explore the importance of scientific research and its commercialization to the new economy and in this an additional component (business) to the triumvirate in the class title. It will look at activities in Canada and important reports that have come out of Britain as well as other countries.

Where appropriate the course will draw upon guest speakers, archival, and library resources from within Trinity College and the U of T. Student assignments will look at actions that can strengthen the outcomes in each of the focus areas.

TBB 199Y1Y  Great Ideas in Social and Political Thought

There is a tradition in social and political thought that has come to be called “classical” because the ideas constituting that tradition have stood the test of time. Among those ideas, some have acquired a timeless status and may be regarded as valid, trans-historical insights. Other ideas in the tradition have not necessarily proved themselves to be valid, but they too have stood the test of time, proving fruitful as perspectives and conceptual tools with which to approach significant questions, problems, and issues. With this in mind, we will read and discuss selected excerpts from the works of Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche.

PMU 199Y1Y  Physics and Technology for World Leaders

 This course provides students with the necessary background to understand core issues in physics and technology, so that those of them who become the next generation of world leaders will be prepared for the scientific and technological challenges that confront diplomats, political leaders, and CEOs.   They will acquire the familiarity with current and emerging issues in physics and technology to be able to sort through the tangle of advice – some good and some bad – they will receive from special interest groups, physicists and engineers, and their own advisors.  Physics is the foundation of chemistry and biochemistry, and thus of modern medicine and medical research, as well as the basis of information processing and the technology of everyday life, such as iPads and scanners.  The possibility of quantum computation and new protocols for data security are based on current research in physics.   We will consider these, as well as topics such as climate change, new energy sources, the possibility of terrorist nuclear attacks, and new spy technology, where any reasonable discussion must be based on the critical physics concepts of atoms and heat, electricity and magnetism, visible and invisible light, nuclei and radioactivity, energy and power. The course will not involve mathematics beyond the very simplest facility with numbers, multiplication, division, and orders of magnitude 

Text: Physics and Technology for Future Presidents:  An Introduction to the Essential Physics Every World Leader Needs to Know,  by Richard A. Muller.   Princeton University Press, 2010

 

TRN 190Y1Y Critical Reading and Critical Writing

This seminar is for students who wish to sharpen their skills in written communication through critical analysis of literary texts and high-quality essays. The works studied in each year’s seminar may range from a classic nineteenth-century novel to works that have appeared in the last decade. By reading the texts in light of research from diverse fields, members of this class can explore issues of human psychology and society that are relevant to their own self-understanding and decision making. Along with this focus on strategies of self-reflective critical thinking, TRN 190Y also emphasizes stages of the writing process, from concept to finished paper, with detailed practical guidelines on how to write effective university essays. In addition, the small class size allows each student to receive extensive individual coaching from the professor, as well as providing ample opportunity for active learning through class discussion and presentations.

A lecture-plus-seminar course open to first-year and upper-year students 

TRN 200Y: Modes of Reasoning

The first term of this course is concerned with reasoning expressed in the form of arguments as understood in logic.  Emphasis is placed on learning how to recognize, analyze, and evaluate arguments in ordinary English and on learning techniques for constructing and defending an argument in support of a claim.

The skills learned in the first term are basic skills required for success in many areas of university work, including the study of law.  Students who have taken the course have found these skills helpful in their other courses and in writing scholastic aptitude tests, such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

In the second term, the class puts to work a number of the skills learned in the first term, by studying ethical reasoning and legal reasoning.  We examine a variety of methods of ethical reasoning and criteria for evaluating such reasoning, and we do so partly by studying the reasoning used in discussions of a selection of contemporary social issues.  When we turn to legal reasoning, we consider some of the same issues, only this time from a legal perspective.  Our main focus in this part of the course is on the nature of judicial reasoning (i.e., the reasoning of judges).  In exploring this topic, we examine the reasoning used in a selection of legal decisions, including decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada in cases involving the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.