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 2017-18

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  Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (died 524) was the greatest scholar and statesman of Rome after its conquest by the barbarian Ostrogoths. When he was unjustly sentenced to death for treason, he wrote one of the great classics of Western literature, The Consolation of Philosophy. C. S. Lewis remarked of the work that “until about two hundred years ago it would, I think, have been hard to find an educated man in any European country who did not love it.” Boethius confronts the most intractable questions of suffering humanity: Why do bad things happen to good people? What is the point of living a virtuous life? Do we really have free will, or is choice an illusion? In this seminar, we will learn about Boethius’s world his philosophical sources, and we will analyse the argument he offers in the Consolation. We will then see how Boethius’s ideas were taken up by medieval and modern writers. We will also spend time looking at manuscripts and early printed books in the Fisher Library. Assessment: three short papers and class participation.

SII 199H1S  Health for the 21st Century

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  The New Black: Dark Matter and Dark Energy

It is now 80 years since astronomers found the first evidence for a form of matter that wasn't part of the stars in our galaxies, but rather is "dark" and has a gravitational attraction to ordinary matter. Other lines of evidence lead us to believe that there is six times more dark matter than the ordinary matter we are familiar with. Despite this, we have no credible, direct evidence for what this dark matter might be. It is one of the biggest puzzles in particle physics and cosmology. In the last decade, we have also discovered that something else is going on – the universe appears to be filled with "dark energy" that causes the expansion of our universe to speed up instead of slowdown. We will discuss what we know about the hypotheses of dark matter and dark energy, and the debates about what might really be going on. Are we seeing science in crisis, with a revolution just around the corner, or is this just the "normal science" talked about by Kuhn and other philosophers of science? Participants will be expected to participate in seminar-style discussions, as well as take the lead on at least one topic of discussion.

TRN 190Y1Y Critical Reading and Critical Writing

This seminar approaches academic writing as a primary way for communities of readers to share knowledge, resolve debates and make decisions that will improve the world. Students who want to enhance their ability to write well for courses across the university can use TRN190Y to develop highly valued skills in critical thinking, research and writing. As a member of this class, you’ll move through stages of the university research and writing process, learning to find the best research in university databases and to use that research to analyze literary and nonfiction readings that explore current issues. With reference to Michel Foucault’s classic study of the workings of power in society, the course’s unifying theme this year is “Discipline and Punish, Resistance and Finding Common Ground.”

TRN190Y will help you develop well-informed, persuasive papers on diverse current topics. With an awareness of Canada 150 celebrations in progress, we’ll examine Canadian and international writing that critically questions social progress in light of problems faced by groups persistently treated as “Other,” such as Indigenous people, immigrants, Muslims, the incarcerated and the mentally ill. Theoretical and creative works (fiction, poetry, and a Broadway play) will enable us to analyze pervasive forces of control and intergroup conflict, along with counter-movements toward finding common ground. Roles of digital technologies in trends toward both surveillance and resistance will be a recurring theme. Our critical analysis of creative and informative readings will be spurred by the seminar’s active-learning format, based on in-class activities, discussion, group work, and Q&A sessions with thought-provoking authors who will visit the class. The course’s highly participatory format engages students in learning how to think, write and learn in ways important both at and beyond U of T.

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.