Liberal Arts Courses
Africana Studies: The Sociology of Black Music in American Culture
This survey course examines the culture of black American music (West African griot music, spirituals, blues, jazz, black symphonic and concert music, gospel, R&B, soul, free jazz, funk, and hip-hop) through an exploration of music, artistry, and the social dynamics of American society. This course provides a critical examination of the impact this music has had upon creativity in the modern world. It also develops a critical line of thinking, discussion, and debate about the implications, effects, and meanings of cultural expression and phenomena, and what the development of black music tells us about American society, socially, spiritually, politically, and culturally. An important aspect of this exploration is the consideration of the aesthetic and cultural dimensions of black life and culture, Western conceptions of art, and the social and political contexts that shape the music. Critical discussion will be a crucial part of the classroom experience. Students are expected to attend class sessions prepared to discuss at length and in depth the selected musical works, transcriptions, lyric/text analysis, daily reading assignments, and issues related to course materials.
Africana Studies: The Theology of American Popular Music
This course explores the social-political, cultural spiritual, and theological significance of popular music in American society. We will highlight the perspectives, insights, and work of creative artists who are committed to art and social engagement. This course operates upon the premise that making music is not merely a pastime but a priesthood. We will explore selected artists' music through lyrical analysis, musical forms, and performance practices in order to examine what artists say they are doing with their art. We will also examine selected critical writings and articles that discuss the function of creative construction using varying aesthetic theories. This course expands exposure to artists and their music as it relates to the notion of artistic expression tied to spiritual yearning or definition. Major music and social themes to be explored include: community, identity, social activism, sexuality, theodicy (the question of a good God in the face of evil), spirituality, love, social justice, the blues, gospel, Utopianism, and religious exploration. Additionally, the class will view selected video and film documentaries.
Africana Studies: Biographies in Black (Music, Lives, and Meanings)
This course explores the lives and works of great black musical artists. Through a view into the music and the lives of these artists and of certain meanings, themes, artists' intent, and experiences, we gain insight into some very specific historical, cultural, and social windows. We will view black musicians' work that cuts across the entire musical/artistic spectrum, giving us perspective into the development of the various musical genres, styles, and movements that make up American music, from blues to rock 'n' roll and song classics to American art/classical music. Studying the lives of these greats allows an insider's look into extraordinary career development and industry business practices. In an artistry shaped and forged by racial and social outcasting comes a very unique kind of narrative, sound, perspective, and insight, which is inextricably bound to hearing, understanding, and appreciating this unique American artistry.
Contemplative and Mystical Traditions
Throughout the history of world civilizations many societies developed mystical and contemplative traditions that radically questioned the authority, hierarchy, and dogma of religious and political establishments. The mystics sought wisdom and compassionate action through cultivation of concentration, mindfulness, broader and deeper conscious awareness, and awakening the heart. In this course we explore their teachings in three ways: through reading ancient texts, practicing meditation, and community learning, which includes visiting communities that practice these teachings. The texts include ancient creation stories such as those in the Hindu Rig Veda (India), Hebrew Genesis (Israel), Socrates, Marcus Aurelius (classical Greece and Rome), Lao Tzu's Taoism (China), Buddha (India), Buddhism (China, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Tibet), Islamic Sufism of Rumi and Hafiz (Middle East), Christian mysticism of Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart (Europe), and Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah (Spain).
International Human Rights
This course examines the development of human rights theories and practices, early efforts at an international response and the creation of a modern human rights agenda after 1945. Students explore race, ethnicity, and gender as human rights issues and examine the issue of humanitarian intervention in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur. In addition, students examine globalization, terrorism, and the role of the United States in the current human rights debate.
America From the Jazz age to the MTV Age
The 20th century, often referred to as The American Century, was a time of turbulent transformation in which Americans were forced to rethink their political ideals, their commitment to social justice, and their definitions of art and culture. In this course, students focus on the big ideas in American culture that shaped the nation's history from the roaring '20s to the radical '60s. Students examine American music within the context of US history, studying folk music and the labor movement, modernism and jazz, and student activism and rock.
Students will read and discuss articles by respected scholars and commentators on critical issues facing the world today. Discussions will focus on topics of historic significance in the last quarter of the 20th century. Note: This course may be used to fulfill the social science requirement.
Gender and Power in History
The meaning of one's sexual identity has changed dramatically from one period of history to another, and from one culture to another. This course examines the changing roles of men and women and their power relationships throughout history. By studying gender in religion, politics, family, and the arts, students gain perspectives on their own roles and relations. Note: This course may be used to fulfill the social science requirement.
Mythology and Folklore
This course focuses on defining different types of cultural or mythical models for society and individuals; how they are formed; how they help shape beliefs, worldviews, and historical events; and how they still inform our lives today. The thematic approach of mythology and folklore will draw on documents from the fields of history (especially the timeframe from Ancient Greece to the late Middle Ages), linguistics, law, music, theatre, literature, art, and film.
Multicultural Contemplative Practices
What is meditation? What are the connections between personal transformation and the challenges that face the human race in the 21st century? What can we learn through meditation that has bearing on music, the arts, creativity, relationships, social justice, war, racism, poverty, and sustainable living on this planet? In this course, students explore cutting edge teachings of contemplative practices from different parts of the world. We examine new 20th- and 21st-century teachings based on eclectic interpretations of ancient wisdom systems that make multicultural contemplative practices accessible today in unprecedented ways. This course contains academic, experiential, and community learning components; assignments include texts, meditation practice, and visits to contemplative communities throughout Greater Boston.
How did the advent of American popular television in the 1940s change our culture, habits, routines, relationships, ideas, and politics? How does the popularity of watching for hours on end change the ways that we understand ourselves and others? How does the saturation of the airwaves with advertisements alter capitalism and influence consumerism? How does television affect our personal, affective, social, and moral lives? How have the representations of race, class, gender, and sexuality on television evolved over the last 75 years? How does television revolutionize our understanding of identity and meaning? In this course, students trace the history of American television from its popular emergence in the 1940s to the present day. Students examine the social history of television in the 20th and 21st centuries and explore the relationship among the tube, the viewer, and society as it has evolved over the last 75 years. Students explore the production of television, the studio networks, marketing and advertising, critical responses to television, satellite and cable television, fashion, celebrity, consumerism, fandom, and genre studies of various kinds of television shows, including network news, sitcoms, dramas, soap operas, serials, game shows, variety shows, reality television, talk shows, teen television, and Saturday morning cartoons. In this course, students will watch American television programming from every decade and will read critical texts from television studies, media studies, cultural studies, sociology, and social history. If you want to think critically about the boob tube—from Howdy Doody to The Golden Girls to Dancing with the Stars—then this is the class for you!
In this course, students examine Palestinian and Israeli histories, cultures, and relationships and delve into the origins of coexistence and conflict. Students explore opposing narratives that reflect and perpetuate conflict, deepen their ability to detect bias, understand the consequences of seeing truth from different perspectives, and cultivate respect for both peoples. Students explore religious, geopolitical, social, economic, ethnic, nationalist, racial and cultural elements of Palestinian, Arab, Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian identities. What role does religion play in a conflict between two predominantly secular peoples? What are the possibilities for and obstacles to peace? What are the power imbalances and inequalities not only between these peoples but within each one? The course employs text, film, music, food, research, and writing to understand both the challenges faced by these multilingual, multiethnic, multreligious, multiracial peoples and to experience their rich cultures.