FYS is a variation of the traditional Topics course—à la Columbia. We spend a semester wrestling with a small number of big topics, teasing out their complexity to experience what art they might inspire, what intellectual discoveries they might evoke, and what we might learn about ourselves and from others when we explore Big Things in a small class where everybody knows everybody’s name.
For me, one of the most exciting things about FYS is that a study of any given topic in the seminar asks students to create art not as a means of honing form or technique, but rather as a rich method for exploring ideas that values intuitive searching and finding ways to express things that sometimes words can’t describe. At the same time, students are also asked to express things that words can describe by writing a rationale that identifies questions, explores ideas, and communicates clearly how their work connects to a larger community of ideas. Ideally, the two ways of working take on a symbiotic relationship in which they inform, influence, guide and inspire one another.
Victoria Hughes’ work is a good example of a first-year effort that realizes the strength of the symbiotic relationship between art and liberal arts. She turned in her first chapters of Through Robot Eyes as part of her first Topic Study in FYS on Self. The draft was then about twenty pages long, beautifully written and compelling to read—so compelling, in fact, that after the first time I read through it I immediately emailed her to ask what happens next. As it turned out, she had indeed continued writing it after turning in those first few chapters—and her characters were taking on many of the key issues we were exploring in the seminar. As the semester went on, Victoria regularly visited my office to chat about how she imagined something that resonated with her in class might play out with her robots in this vivid world she was seeing so clearly. The twenty pages she turned in for her first study eventually grew into a draft of a novel that was over 200 pages long by the end of the semester (what appears in ImPrint are excerpts), which she then turned in as her cumulative study of all the overarching topics we explored throughout the course. Victoria’s ability to weave the many ideas we talked about in the seminar with this imaginative and thought-provoking piece of writing is delightful. She has a love of learning that she’ll never lose, which she combines with a plucky talent to envision vast ideas and communicate them in evocative ways.
Victoria wasn’t majoring in a field that would have profited from her talents as a writer at the beginning of the year. By the end of the semester she had changed her major to Fiction Writing.
FYS Instructor Miranda Zent
Victoria Hughes (major/Fiction Writing): Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Victoria has only recently moved to Chicago, but loves it already. For years Victoria has been thoroughly entranced not only by science fiction but also by the science behind it as well, which continually excites and inspires her. She believes that all knowledge is worth having, especially since it is knowledge and the discovery of knowledge that inspires her to write.