Language Learning at Wesleyan

Wesleyan University places high value on multilingual proficiency and strongly encourages you to study other languages and live abroad. Check out these recent Wes students’ reflections on what their language study has meant to them.

There are 15 languages taught at Wesleyan. Keep going in a language you already have studied, or start a new one! In order to be placed at the right level for a language you have studied already (other than English), you can use your AP or IB score or take a Wesleyan online Placement Test, which is available through your WesPortal. If you are considering learning or maintaining a language not taught at Wesleyan, there are several independent study options for you, available through the Fries Center for Global Studies.

Make study abroad a keystone experience while at Wesleyan—plan ahead by checking out the many choices of programs all over the world, some of them Wesleyan-run, and the language prerequisites for programs in countries where English is not the first language.

Make your Wesleyan years a global experience by gaining linguistic and intercultural competence!

Summer Courses for the Class of 2024

Wesleyan is offering students in the Class of 2024 the opportunity to take an online course this summer before matriculating in the university this fall.  The Summer Course curriculum includes fifteen writing-intensive First-Year Seminars (FYS) and one lecture course.  Summer courses will take place from Monday, July 6 through Friday, August 14.  No additional charge will be incurred for enrolling in a Summer Course; tuition is included in the regular academic year tuition fee.

The official registration process for Summer Courses will take place later in June. In the meantime, if you think you may be interested in taking a summer course, please let us know through this form.

COL 119F: Narrating Pandemics (FYS)
Joe Fitzpatrick

With COVID-19 bringing a combination of stressful social isolation and unusual amounts of free time, people have been turning to representations of pandemics in fiction and film both as a kind of ironic escapism and as a potential source of comfort and insight into present

This course will look closely at some of these fictional representations, especially from the genre of speculative fiction, to get a sense of how pandemics are narrated and of what aspects of our social world are illuminated by this narrating. While we will look briefly at the history of pandemics from the Black Death through the 20th-century developments in virology, immunology, and epidemiology, our primary focus will be on more recent texts—ones responding to the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s along with ones inspired by more recent outbreaks of Ebola, avian flu, H1N1, etc. The selection of texts will not attempt to give a representative overview of the genre, but rather a set of starting points for thinking about narrative form and representational strategies in relation to the depiction of pandemics.

Readings will be determined in part by availability, but are likely to include novels by Samuel Delaney, Emily St. John Mandel, and Ling Ma; critical works by Susan Sontag, Samuel Delaney, Priscilla Wald, and Mike Davis; and a selection of Hollywood blockbusters and less-widely-circulated foreign films.

AFAM 171F: The Prison State: Race, Law, and Mass Incarceration in U.S. History (FYS)
Jesse Nasta

This first-year seminar course explores the history and effects of the United States’ mass incarceration crisis. The U.S. incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. And people of color make up a highly disproportionate number of the over 2 million individuals incarcerated in the U.S. today. Beginning with slavery and continuing through the rise of prisons, debt peonage, Jim Crow, and the Black Lives Matter movement, the course will explore how efforts to police, detain, and control black bodies have been at the center of U.S. law and legal practice since the nation’s founding. At the same time, we will compare and contrast how race, gender, and sexual orientation have been policed, controlled, and shaped through incarceration practices throughout U.S. history.

AMST 110F: Hawaii: Myths and Realities (FYS)
J. Kehaulani Kauanui

This course explores the symbolic myths of Hawai’i and Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) in contrast to material realities relating to colonialism, land, nation, gender, race, rank, class, self-determination, and contests over indigenous and Western sovereignty. The course covers the pre-colonial period, examines Captain Cook’s ventures in the Hawaiian Islands, the founding of the Hawaiian Kingdom, constitutional development of the Hawaiian Nation, the Kamehameha Dynasty, Calvinist missionization, the history of written literacy, the privatization of Hawaiian land use, gender transformations, the colonial regulation of sexuality, plantation labor, Kalakaua’s governance, the reign of Queen Lili’uokalani, and the US-backed overthrow of the monarchy. From the US takeover, the class examines the unilateral annexation and 20th-century colonial policy to 1959 statehood with an emphasis on indigenous self-determination, decolonization, and indigenous nationalism through the contemporary period in relation to both US federal policy and international law with a focus on land struggles.

CCIV 120F: From Democracy to Autocracy: Demagogues, Tyrants, and Popular Media in Ancient Greece and Rome (FYS)
Andrew Szegedy-Maszak

Although different, the political systems of Greece and Rome, many of which serve as a model for our own government, were carefully designed to balance military, social, and political participation and empowerment, and to defend against the consolidation of power by any single citizen or group. Eventually, both Greek democracy and the Roman Republic failed. Why? This course examines in depth the political and legal structures of two ancient societies which began with participatory or representative governments and slid toward autocracy. Drawing on a range of sources in translation (historical, legal, poetic), we will explore the emergence and evolution of political systems, from the rise of democracy in Greece to its lapse into oligarchy, and from the Roman Republic to its subversion by charismatic leaders and the advent of empire. Along the way, we will discuss the rise of a celebrity culture and the impact of the increasing importance of public spectacles and entertainments as a vehicle for the demoralization of citizens and the slide into autocracy. Where did they go wrong?

COL 101F: Truth and Lies in Crime Writing (FYS)
Charles Barber

This course will explore a range of crime fiction and nonfiction, from literary classics to genre-based texts. Readings will include Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” Nabokov’s “Lolita,” Raymond Chandler, and P.D. James, and nonfiction works such as “In Cold Blood,” Robert Kolker’s “Lost Girls,” and Charles Barber’s “Citizen Outlaw.” A theme of the class will be the duplicitous and elusive nature of truth and objectivity in both the journalistic and fictional accounts. Students will have the opportunity to write a short piece of crime fiction or narrative nonfiction, in addition to analytical papers.

E&ES 111: As the World Turns – Earth History, with Life’s Ups and Downs (FYS)
Joop Varekamp and Ellen Thomas

An introduction to the major events that shaped our modern Earth over the 4.5-billion-year history of our planet. We discuss the composition of the early atmosphere devoid of oxygen, the great oxygenation event related to the emergence of photosynthesizing bacteria, Snowball Earth, origin and evolution of life prior to 500 million years ago (the so-called ‘boring billion years’), followed by a treatment of the major asteroid impacts, mega-volcanic periods, and other disasters that catastrophically modified the Earth and influenced all that lived on it. We close with possibly the biggest disaster of them all: the human era, with the climate crisis, pollution, and possibly the largest extinction event ever? We use the Earth and environmental sciences, astronomy, and the basic sciences to introduce and explain the processes that ultimately shaped our modern world, highlighting the environmental stresses that shaped the course of life’s evolution, but also the role that organisms have played in creating Earth’s environments.

ENGL 150F: American Crazy (FYS)
Sean McCann

Among the industrialized nations of the world, the United States has long had unusually high levels of crime, violence, and imprisonment. This course will explore five especially prominent cultural explanations for American violence. We will consider the origins of these explanations in American myth and history, and we will investigate their appearance in literary expression, journalistic reporting, popular culture, and social science.

ENGL 156F: Contemporary American Literature (FYS)
Jennifer Wood

This course will explore contemporary American literature by focusing on novels written by Jhumpa Lahiri, Colson Whitehead, Junot Diaz, Tommy Orange, Ocean Vuong, Mbue Imbolo, Marianne Wiggins and a play by Lynn Nottage. Extra readings will include poems and short stories. We will consider the portrayals of race, class, ethnicity, religion, trauma, citizenship, migration and sexuality in these works, as well as the ways in which these authors conceptualize and problematize American identity.

ENGL 176F: August Wilson (FYS)
Rashida McMahon

During his lifetime, the world-renowned African American playwright August Wilson graced stages with award-winning and -nominated plays from his “Pittsburgh Cycle.” This course examines the 10 plays of this cycle in the order that the playwright wrote them, from JITNEY (1982) to RADIO GOLF (2005). We will pay special attention to the playwright’s use of language, history, memory, art, and music within his oeuvre.

FILM 158: Form, Story, and Genre: An Introduction to Wesleyan Film Studies
Scott Higgins

What does it mean to “study film” at Wesleyan? Get a taste of the College of Film’s approach to visual storytelling in this online course featuring genres and filmmakers from across our curriculum. We will consider how film guides viewers on an emotional journey through image and sound, with classes devoted to melodrama, comedy, action, horror, documentary, film noir, and the movie musical. In all cases, we explore the moment-by-moment experience of the viewer as guided by specific cinematic choices of editing, cinematography, staging, performance, sound, alignment, point-of-view, and placement of the audience. Instead of interpreting what films mean, we will seek to understand how they capture our attention, how they absorb us into stories, and how they make us feel.

GOVT 157F: Democracy & Dictatorship (FYS)
Peter Rutland

In this introduction to politics in industrialized capitalist, state socialist, and developing countries, we explore the meaning of central concepts such as democracy and socialism, the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of political institutions (e.g., presidentialism vs. parliamentarianism in liberal democratic countries), the causes and consequences of shifts between types of political systems (e.g., transitions from authoritarian rule), and the relations among social, economic, and political changes (e.g., among social justice, economic growth, and political democracy in developing countries).

MATH 123F: Deduction with Calculus (FYS)
Karen Collins

Topics covered include techniques and applications of integration and an introduction to sequences and series, with an emphasis on mathematical writing. Weekly papers will be required.It is suitable for students who have already taken calculus and are interested in pursuing the mathematics major. Students may not receive credit for both MATH 122 and MATH 123. MATH 121 (or the equivalent of Calculus 1) is a pre-requisite for this course.

MUSC 125F: Music and Downtown New York, 1950-1970 (FYS)
Eric Charry

This course will explore the history, interconnections, and simultaneous flourishing of four distinct music communities that inhabited and shaped downtown New York during two particularly rich decades in American culture: Euro-American experimentalists; African American jazz-based avant-garde; blues and folk revivalists; and Lower East Side rock groups. Much of the course will be devoted to understanding their points of convergence and divergence, especially in conversation with broader currents of the time (e.g., the Civil Rights Movement and related notions of freedom, shifting youth subcultures, and avant-garde aesthetics). We will read about and listen to recordings of a wide variety of musicians, identify aesthetic and cultural trends, and study the local industry that supported them. Student research, interpretation, and writing will be emphasized throughout the semester.

RELI 275F: Religions Resisting Modernity (FYS)
Peter Gottschalk

Why did some Native Americans turn to dance while resisting federal troops? Why do creationists reject evolution? How did Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam challenge white supremacy using religious traditions more than a millennium old?  Why do some French Muslims wear a veil when their mothers didn’t? Throughout the last century, resistance has risen to what some call “modernity,” and religion has played an increasingly important role in challenging the globalization of modern Western values. Through discussions of first-person accounts and scholarship, this seminar will explore how Europe reimagined itself as a “modern society” in ways that had worldwide influence through imperialism. Then it will investigate how the Lakota Sioux, Christian creationists, Malcolm X, and French Muslims each have used religion in an attempt to resist some aspect of modernity, either outside the Western world or within it. No background in the study of religions is necessary. Ultimately, the course will challenge our very understandings and expectations of modernity.

RL&L 123F: Love, Sex, and Marriage in Renaissance Europe (FYS)
Michael Meere

This writing-intensive seminar compares literary depictions of love, sex, and marriage from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries by writers from England, France, Germany, Italy, the Low Countries, Spain, and Sweden. (N.B. Students will be able to study writings from other parts of Europe over the course of the semester should they so choose.) We will read texts composed by women and men in genres including poetry, the short story, the essay, the maxim, the travel narrative, and the sermon. Though the seminar is focused on literature, we will also consider painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts (e.g., wedding chests). We will explore questions such as: How were love and marriage related during the Renaissance? What role did sex, gender, and violence play in relationships between couples and within society, and how were they represented in literature (and art)? How do gender and genre affect the ways in which love, sex, and marriage are depicted? How did cultural differences influence writers’ and artists’ interpretations of love, sex, and marriage? And what about homosexual love and same-sex unions? Other topics will include virginity and celibacy, erotic literature, religion, friendship, family and class structures, and divorce.

WRCT 120F: Uncertainty & the Future (FYS)
Tess Bird

The world we live in is full of risk and uncertainty. Science, politics, and economics all tell us that this is a hazardous era in which great changes are inevitable and catastrophes are possible. How do people manage living in such an uncertain world? This first-year seminar introduces students to research and writing in the social sciences by studying a driving factor in the human search for knowledge: the uncertainty of the unknown future. We will consider how the ways in which humans define, relate to, and experience uncertainty influence social well-being and the production of the future. We begin with the anthropological study of uncertainty, which is rooted in the study of ritual and magic, and then consider perspectives in psychology, economics, and ecology. While we will reflect on the “negative” side of uncertainty, such as risk, precariousness, and insecurity, we will also examine the way the creative management of uncertainty is sometimes romanticized and consider the opportunities for creativity, adaptation, resilience, and imagination in uncertain times.

Transitioning to College

College life can be exciting, but it will differ significantly from your past experiences. New environments, new friends, new classes, new ideas, new experiences are yours for the taking.  And there is familiarity with being a student since that’s what you’ve been doing for most of your life. At the same time, you may need to adapt your study habits to fit into a less structured and more demanding academic environment. And you may be living on your own for the first time, responsible for everything from getting up on time for class to doing your own laundry to budgeting your money. A few suggestions for managing the transition:

  • Talk with friends and family members who have recently attended college about their experiences transitioning to campus life — the challenges, the joys, the things they wish they knew starting out. You may be able to glean some words of wisdom!
  • Make a plan with your parents/guardians for how frequently you will talk and email. Strive for regular, but not daily, contact. It will help you concentrate on adjusting to Wesleyan while still reducing the likelihood of feeling homesick.
  • Once on campus, seek out opportunities to get involved in one or two activities outside the classroom. Focus on quality, not quantity. You have plenty of time over the next four years to try out everything!
  • Being a college student does not have to equal being unhealthy. Strive for balanced eating habits, a regular sleep pattern and a manageable workload.
  • Keep up your exercise routine. Physical activity greatly helps with reducing stress levels and with mental acuity.
  • Ask for help if you need it academically or personally. We want to help you succeed!

Student Academic Resources

Student Academic Resources coordinates programs for intellectual enrichment and academic support. The goals are to foster a community culture that recognizes the relationship between intellectual growth and personal development; to ensure that students know about and are encouraged to seek out appropriate services; and to share information among programs and constituents to ensure the provision of high quality and accessible services that facilitate academic achievement for all students.

Welcome Class of 2024

Any day now the Office of New Student Orientation will be contacting you with important information to prepare for your first semester at Wesleyan, including information about course registration, academic planning, placement testing, registering with Disabilities Services, housing, and more. Many of these items require a response from you, so be sure to review this information thoroughly and be mindful of deadlines.

This year’s New Student Orientation program will provide you with multiple opportunities to interact with faculty, staff and other students and learn about Wesleyan and its many resources. If you have any questions, you should contact the student interns in the Office of New Student Orientation at