Freshman Seminars Part 1: Detective Fiction from Poe to Doyle

You may have heard horror stories about first year schedules packed with large, impersonal lecture classes, but some of my best academic experiences occurred during my freshman year. WashU has some amazing first-year seminars, classes about very specific subjects that are kept really small and open only to freshman. When I was a freshman I took two of these classes (one each semester) and now I am writing about them in a two part series!

Fall: Detective Fiction From Poe to Doyle

On my very first day of college, I arrived at my first Detective Fiction from Poe to Doyle class sweaty and a little overwhelmed. I had spent the whole morning running across campus in the August heat, searching for my classes, meeting too many new people to count, and scribbling notes. The atmosphere in this classroom was different though. Instead of desks in rows, there was a square table with students sitting on all sides. There were only 15 people in the class, including our professor. Every other student in the room looked as young and nervous as I did.

Although I was extremely undecided about what I wanted to study, I was pretty sure it wasn’t English. I signed up for this class on a whim because the first time I met my four year advisor, we had a long discussion about our favorite books and our love of reading.  By the end of the semester, I was even more sure that I didn’t want to major in English, but somehow the class had still become my favorite of the whole semester. I simultaneously learned that I loved studying English but that it was not what I wanted to focus on forever, a disconnect I could not have understood before taking this course and one that has informed a lot of the decisions I have made since.

The course was so much fun. I got to read literature for homework instead of textbooks or academic articles. We read about the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the investigation of Dracula. I got to know all 14 other students in my class really well.  We met outside of class to peer edit and talk about our readings even more. Most importantly, I built a relationship with my professor, something I was afraid would be difficult in college. I went to his office hours when I was working on papers, and he gave me recommendations for other books to read just for fun. At the end of the semester, he told me that during winter break I should thank my high school teachers for preparing me so well for college, but I think it was him that prepared me for the rest of my time at WashU.


For more info about first-year seminars, check out part two about my experiences in Race and Ethnicity in American Television!