Course Description

This course examines how reality and fantasy are understood and constructed by, across, and in the Americas. We will use materials drawn from across the curriculum to problematize our definitions of reality, fact, truth, fiction, fantasy, magical realism, myth, virtual space, and corporeality. As students gain the ability to defend their positions about how categories such as reality and fantasy differ and overlap, we will begin to examine reality as a construct by asking questions such as: From what viewpoints do Americans define reality? Which perspectives of reality are/were acceptable in dominant society? How do definitions of reality/fantasy change as eras and viewpoints change? In the humanities? In the physical/social sciences? Is there a distinct or a blurred boundary between reality and non-reality in education and/or the world at large?

As we explore relationships between reality and the Americas, students will work on the Seven Capabilities that all FYS courses introduce to their students. Like other First Year Seminars, this is an intensive course which meets four hours per week. You will be expected to think, rethink, and
then challenge or change your premises and think again. You will be expected to focus (and to help your classmates to do so) in classroom, computer lab, and library settings. At the end of the course, you will have begun to construct a filter/framework with which you can critically examine constructions of reality presented by any other course or other life experience.

Course Objectives

"This course is a First Year Seminar (FYS). First Year Seminars welcome new students (with fewer than 30 credits) to UMass Boston with small-sized courses designed to prepare them for a successful college experience." "A major goal of First Year Seminars is to practice the following habits of mind essential to university level educational success: Careful reading; Clear writing; Critical thinking; Information literacy and technology; Working in teams; Oral presentation; Academic self-assessment."


"If you entered UMB with 30 or more transferable credits, you should not be enrolled in this course. If you entered UMB with fewer than 30 credits but have more than 30 credits now, you still need a First Year Seminar (a G100 or 100G course, like this one) if you have not yet taken one. Note: If you have taken another G100- or 100G-level course in any department at UMB, you cannot receive credit for this one. Please note also that courses taken at UMass Boston before matriculating do not count as transfer credits. Thus, for example, if you took 36 UMass Boston credits as a special student and then applied for admission, you still need to take a First Year Seminar."

N.B. UMass Boston's Seminar Assessment Committee developed the quoted passages above in this syllabus.



College-level English-English dictionary (you may bring other language dictionaries, in addition)
College ruled paper for any handwritten class- or homework
Charles C. Mann's 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Course readings (see Course Bibliography); we will discuss how to access these
floppy disks, zip disks, and/or USB keys to save your work on—we will discuss this in more detail
Other course handouts distributed in class

Other Reading

Diana Hacker’s A Pocket Style Manual, with 2009 MLA and 2010 APA updates, or another current style guide



Component Percentage
Participation 15%
Two papers with accompanying portfolios
Final paper/project/presentation with accompanying portfolio 30%

see full syllabus


Copyright ©2010 Meesh McCarthy

Citation: McCarthy, M. (2010, October 25). Syllabus. Retrieved November 06, 2014, from UMass Boston OpenCourseware Web site:
Copyright 2014, Meesh McCarthy. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License