Spring 2020 Topic Courses
LENG-223: Literature Topics
This course reinforces the principles and practices of LENG-111: Writing and Communication, emphasizing critical and creative thinking through literary analysis and creative writing projects. Students will apply the skills of synthesis, interpretation, and evaluation in writing and speaking about fiction, drama, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Basic concepts of literary analysis will be introduced (e.g., plot, point of view, character, tone, and style). Students will demonstrate an understanding of these concepts in frequent and substantial writing assignments.
Looking through the lens of literature, we will explore a period of time in America when huge cultural and political shifts were taking shape. We will look at the literature (including poetry, essays, fiction, and nonfiction) from the era of the mid to late 1950s through the 1960s, focusing on themes of class, civil rights, family, and patriotism, all the while staying closely tied to the musical trends of the time, particularly those of Bob Dylan.
“The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” begins a famous poem by Elizabeth Bishop. That theme of loss and adjusting to its presence appears regularly in fiction, poetry, and drama. We tend to gravitate to questions of life and death: Why are we here? What is our purpose? How do we find meaning? How do we cope with the steady losses and disappearances around us: things, people, places? We lose daily, but in the loss there is gain; in the loss, there is hope. We will explore these questions of loss—how it defines us in both positive and negative ways, and how it permeates literature. Often we will read more than one piece by the same author as a way of seeing their particular style, voice, and rhythm. As we explore the theme of loss, we will examine how authors choose the structures and literary devices that raise writing from mere expression to art. Writers we read will include Z. Z. Packer, Sherman Alexie, Flannery O'Connor, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Susan Glaspell.
How can we find purpose and meaning in a world full of absurdity? How can we create order from chaos? How can we determine what is moral if, as Nietzsche claims, God is dead? From Sartre to Swenson to Strand to Stoppard, we will join 20th-century authors, poets, playwrights, and filmmakers in their journey to explore these and similar questions. Using multiple literary theories, we will analyze each work in an attempt to discover potential answers.
The primary goal of this course is to develop your ability to engage with literature intellectually and emotionally. By studying the intricacies of language and the ways in which authors construct literary forms, you will come to appreciate works of fiction, poetry, and drama from thematic, creative, and structural perspectives. This investigation of literature will lead you to explore your own thoughts, feelings, and inner world, as well as the outer world and the perspectives of others.
We all have a place we call home, and some of us have many. What role does that place play in our conception of who we are? What happens when we aren’t “home” anymore, either because we have left physically, emotionally, or developmentally, or because the home itself has changed, relocated, or disappeared? What happens to our understanding of ourselves when the people who made it feel like home aren’t there anymore? Who are we without a home to rely on? This course will explore the writings of several excellent authors whose works address these and related issues. Selections will include short stories by Kate Chopin, William Faulkner, Andre Dubus, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Colette, and Ralph Ellison; plays by August Wilson and William Shakespeare; and novels by Charles Frazier and Louise Erdrich. Students will be expected and encouraged to participate in explorations of the thematic, character development, and technical aspects of the texts; to use periodic writing assignments to push beyond what was developed in class; and to share any mind-blowing epiphanies with the rest of us as we leave our familiar territories to enter the homelands of others.
What makes a text feminist? In this course, students will explore major themes, theories, and debates within feminist narratives and theories. We will approach these texts through an intersectional lens, examining how gender is lived through race, class, ability, ethnicity, and national origin. Destabilizing the white American feminist lens will allow us to access the complexities of lived oppression and resistance as they are described, resisted, and transformed through narrative. The syllabus includes creative nonfiction, fiction, memoir, and theory.
In this course, we will read literary ghost stories from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Toni Morrison’s Beloved. We will explore the hauntings in these texts as supernatural phenomenon, as psychological conflict, and as social criticism. Famous ghost stories like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Nikolai Gogol’s “The Overcoat,” Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw have much to reveal about the use of ghosts as a device to explore nature, identity, and society.
“I remember it perfectly,” says my friend. Yet I was there and I remember something different. Memory records, tricks, embellishes, and masquerades as truth, but how do we situate ourselves if not through memory?
In this class, the readings will be built on memories and on speculation about how memory works. Writers may include Tim O’Brien, Mary Karr, John McPhee, Mark Doty, Zoë Tracy Hardy, Maxine Hong Kingston, Anne Carson, Edward Rivera, August Wilson, Oliver Sacks, Gerald Callahan, and many others.
In this course, we will explore how artists find self-expression through a multitude of environments that include nature, the city, and artificial worlds. With considerable opportunity to create your own original work inspired by this concept, we will explore such diverse landscapes as your own personal, special place; spiritual landscapes; cities; landscapes in paintings; gender-associated and culture-influencing landscapes; cinema landscapes, including sci-fi, utopias, and dystopias; and the use of landscape as metaphor and narrative. Special attention will be given to poetry and lyrics, and creating your own works.
This class will be all about reading and analyzing stories, fiction, and nonfiction, and sometimes memoir. Throughout the semester, we will discuss character development, place and the story arc, motivation, conflict, timing, subplots, the human condition, and universal themes. During the final third of the semester, the class will return to the idea of the story arc and, together, we will write a collective novel.
The poet T.S. Eliot wrote, “The effect of a work of art upon the person who enjoys it is an experience different in kind from any experience not of art.” Other poets and artists agree with Eliot, but each artist has his or her own way of creating this alternative experience to conventional reality that we call art. This is what aesthetics is about: the choices that artists make to define their individual work and create the art experience. This course is not a formal course on aesthetic theory, but a course intended to make students aware that all significant art involves important choices in the mode of expression, and we discover the meaning and effect of those choices. The aesthetic decisions of an artist transform basic human experience from the personal and trivial to the universal. In this course, we will be concerned with how form relates to content in art and how spontaneity thrives within form to create the aesthetic experience. The readings will consist of modern aesthetic ideas written by practicing authors of prose and poetry, and we'll see how they put their aesthetic ideas into practice. Authors include Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein, Edith Wharton, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Kenneth Koch, John Fowles, and others.
David Bowie is one of the most influential artists of all time. Ever wonder where his imagination gathered the inspiration to craft such characters? From Homer’s “Iliad” to Dante’s "The Divine Comedy," Bowie drew from the classics, extracting such themes as storytelling as a way to achieve immortality, fate versus free will, and pride. In this course, students will examine a variety of genres ranging from the classics to science fiction in order to think critically and creatively about the texts, as well as their impact on Bowie’s artistry and society as a whole.
A course description will be provided soon.
In this course, we will examine some of the major developments in the history of the city (i.e., industrialization, immigration, suburbanization, and globalization) through the lens of fiction. Through a selection of novels, short stories, and poetry, we will see how writers have created complex and vibrant representations of urban life in the imaginary lives of their characters. However, this course will also read a number of urban planning texts as literature, analyzing how their authors have used narrative, metaphor, imagery, and other fictive techniques to promulgate a series of supposedly "scientific” theories: the Garden City movement, Modernism, and New Urbanism, among others.
Words have power. However, they have become mere signposts for communication. Poetry, short stories, and plays reclaim language as a way to deeply connect with an audience. There are many ways of seeing, but discovering other lenses challenges us. In this class, we will use the arts as a way to read literature. Through music, drama, visual arts, and movement, we will explore the readings. Importantly, we will view literature as a way to challenge societal constructs and empower both the artist and the receiver by looking at race, feminism, and gender. In addition, we will discover how to question our own limitations through the intentional investigation of perception.
In this course, we will be reading works of fiction, poetry, and drama that center on music and musicians. We will be using these texts to practice the study of literature in general, with a focus on close reading, discussion, and writing.
This course seeks to demonstrate how good literature both reflects and informs the reality of our own lives. By engaging with the literature intellectually and emotionally, students will compare their own experiences, thoughts, and feelings with the perspectives of others. Through reading, discussion, analysis, and interpretation, students will increase their understanding and appreciation of various works of fiction, poetry, and drama. The writing assignments are generally expository/persuasive in nature and reinforce the principles of the prerequisite course, Writing and Communication.
In this course, students will explore the field of literature through the lens of psychoanalysis and deconstruction. Using the analytical methods employed by these two influential theories, we will read works by Jacques Derrida, Frantz Fanon, Shoshana Felman, Sigmund Freud, Luce Irigaray, Henry James, Barbara Johnson, Jacques Lacan, Edgar Allan Poe, and Virginia Woolf. We will read multiple genres including short stories, novels, and essays. Students will apply the skills of synthesis, interpretation, and evaluation in writing and speaking about fiction, nonfiction, and literary theory. Students also will explore concepts of literary analysis, such as plot, point of view, character, tone, and style. Students will complete analytical and creative writing responses, including a 10-page research paper at the end of the course.
When you imagine the future, what do you see? Flying cars? A totalitarian regime? Clones? Drones? A planet without water? In this course, we will examine literature that depicts a reality that has undergone a fundamental change: a natural disaster, a political uprising, or a shift in social order. Suddenly, the familiar seems strange, which can provide illuminating context to the way we live now. We will look to the utopian, dystopian, and post-apocalyptic in literature to learn how different writers have used imagined societies as a way to reflect on the potential or shortcomings of their own. Writers will include Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, William Gibson, Kazuo Ishiguro, Chang-Rae Lee, and Ursula Le Guin.
In this course, students will study prose and verse written by members of the so-called “Lost Generation,” writers who came of age in the wake of World War I. The majority of the works that we will study in class were published in the 1920s, but the style and content of these works will vary greatly. Works studied in this class may include modernist literature, literature of the Harlem Renaissance, and works of popular fiction. Through close reading, research, and discussion, students will gain greater exposure to the literature of the Lost Generation. Students will improve their skills in critical thinking and literary analysis, and will have the opportunity to consider how and why the literature of the early 20th century still speaks to readers today.
In this course, we will explore influential short stories and novels in all genres outside realism: science fiction, fairy tale, surrealism, magical realism, fabulism, absurdism, and horror. We will examine and define for ourselves the parameters of each unreal subcategory. The course will discover how fantastic works (e.g., H.G. Wells's Time Machine, Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, Steven Millahuser's Enchanted Night, George Orwell's Animal Farm, and Jorge Luis Borges's "The Aleph," among others) employ impossible elements to teach us about ourselves in the real world. We will also write an unreal story of our own, using the craft elements of one of the studied works.
Comedy is easy to experience and difficult to define. We will look at comedies from different eras, from theater to novels, film to standup. We will read some theory and speculate about what comedy is, perhaps arriving at our own definitions of this elusive genre.
The popularity of dystopian literature rose during and after the Industrial Revolution, and intensified after the rise of demagogues like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Through the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, women writers have conceived of and created some of the genre’s most frightening, memorable, and exciting masterworks. How do the experiences of the authors as women (and in cases such as Octavia Butler's, people of color) inform their dystopian visions?
We’ll analyze works by Shirley Jackson, Flannery O’Connor, Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, Marge Piercy, Ursula Le Guin, Suzanne Collins, and Margaret Atwood. We’ll consider what women writers bring to an exploration of questions of gender identity, power and powerlessness, the rights and dignity of marginalized groups, and the need for resistance to illegitimate authority. Does the apparent pessimism of the authors’ dystopian settings support a bleak status quo, or does the vividly described misery demand a new orientation and a change toward a brighter future?
LHIS-223: History Topics
The various sections of History Topics focus on different and more narrowly defined themes, rather than a broad historical survey. Topics may include History and Film, World Religions, Mythology and Folklore, and others. Periodically, if the opportunity arises, a visiting scholar may teach a section on the history of culture, such as that of Central and South America, the indigenous peoples of North America, and the societies of Africa, Asia, or the Middle East. The focus of these special sections would include the historical documentation, interpretations, debates, and methodological approaches to these cultures and societies.
This course will examine the history of the American film industry during the first three decades of the 20th century before the arrival of sound technology. In addition to learning about the early development of this important modern art form, students will also use the films of the silent period as a mirror to better understand the social and cultural history of early 20th-century America. The movies of this period touched on most of the key issues of the day: racism, crime, poverty, the changing role of women, the emergence of new ideas about sex and marriage, and the shift from rural to urban life. We will be looking at comedies, melodramas, historical epics, early Westerns, action pictures, romances, and even (at the end of the semester) some examples of early “talkies.” The course will discuss, among others, the careers of key filmmakers and performers such as Thomas Edison, D. W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, Lillian Gish, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and F. W. Murnau. Among the films that we will watch during the course of the semester are The Great Train Robbery, The Birth of a Nation, The Gold Rush, The General, Sunrise, and The Jazz Singer. In addition to movies screened in class, students may be asked to watch additional films either online or in the media center of the library.
In this course, we will study folklore, storytelling approaches, "legendary history," and oral traditions from a variety of time periods and world cultures. A sampling of areas that we will be working with includes folk songs and ballads, oral-formulaic tales, children's stories and fairy tales, urban legends, tall tales, and local lore. Students will learn to interpret folklore and oral traditions as a significant historical component of past and present societies; to understand the use of motifs, symbols, and narrative structures in storytelling traditions; and to examine the role of performance in the transmission and preservation of folk tales from generation to generation.
This course will examine the role of drugs and intoxicants in world history, their use as spiritual and medicinal tools, as key devices in economic capitalist expansion, and eventually their role as a divisive political and economic issue in the contemporary world. The course will begin by examining the importance of stimulants such as tea, sugar, coffee, and opium on the expansion of free trade and global capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries, and will analyze the shifts to prohibition, particularly the suppression of the global drug trade as justification for the expansion of the American empire, and the U.S.-led “war on drugs” and its relationship to the expansion of the global drug trade. We will also address contemporary issues regarding the war on drugs in Mexico and narco-terrorism in Afghanistan. We will use a variety of books, articles, documents, and films to understand this rich, complex, and often misunderstood history.
This course in constitutional law will focus on controversies over civil rights and liberties, including freedom of speech, the right to privacy, the right to a fair trial, and freedom of the press: liberties that have increasingly come under attack in the current political climate. We will examine different methods of constitutional interpretation and study the Supreme Court as the historical protector of individual civil liberties. This course is participation intensive. The format will be debate, supported by lecture material that provides historical context and introduces students to the basics of legal procedure. Students will listen to Supreme Court arguments, read legal briefs, sit in on a trial at the federal court, and visit the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The goal is not only to teach students the history and nature of their individual civil liberties, but to develop their ability to discuss heated and controversial topics in a civil, persuasive, and clear manner.
One of the dynamic tensions in American history is the relationship between our roots in frontier justice and revolution, and our commitment to fair and time-consuming legal justice. We take pride in the tradition of peaceful civil disobedience that was developed by Sam Adams, Henry David Thoreau, and Martin Luther King Jr.; yet our history was also made by militants issuing ultimatums and wreaking violence in the streets. As the 20th-century civil rights movement blossomed into a culture-wide demand for broader protection of our civil liberties, Americans turned patiently to the federal courts on issues ranging from free speech and censorship to religion and drug laws. Yet we made culture heroes out of frontier outlaws and Prohibition gangsters who succeeded by taking the law into their own hands. In this course in U.S. legal history, we will study both laws and outlaws.
In this course, we will first study constitutional law and learn about landmark legal cases and the relationship between the Supreme Court and social change. Students will leave the course with an understanding of constitutional legal theory, procedure, and practice. We will also examine images of law and justice in popular culture, including film and music, and look at our long historical fascination with lawbreakers, delinquents, and high-drama criminals.
This course dares to flush out the monsters that lurk in the myths and stories of world cultures by examining key intersections of folklore, literature, and history. Our study of the monster will draw on different storytelling genres, anecdotal history, literary traditions, and folk beliefs from a variety of time periods and cultures. Some of the types of stories and traditions we plan to study include tall tales, ghost stories, epics and legends, storytellers' games, folk songs and ballads, oral-forumlaic fairy tales, children’s tales, magical realism, ritual text, and family histories. Monsters will range from Beowulf’s Grendel to the Jewish superhero Golem to Hayao Miyazaki’s No-Face (Kaonashi) to the netlore favorite Slender Man as we explore how concepts of the monster have evolved over time, and where they intersect and diverge across cultures.
LHUM-223: Humanities Topics
Humanities Topics courses enable students to choose from a variety of course themes that change each semester. Courses may explore a topic or a discipline within the humanities that is not currently covered in other Liberal Arts courses.
In this course, students explore wellness practices that help nurture the potential for inspiration in performance. The course is both a laboratory for stepping out of the box with confidence in performance and a study of established wellness techniques. Students learn practice and wellness, and how to demystify improvisation; they explore the science of sound impact on the body; and they learn theories and practices of healthy performance. Students explore the following topics: embodying rhythm, authentically connecting with an audience, overcoming performance anxiety, and relaxing using Reiki, toning, and other forms of musical self-care. Students also develop skills that will enable them to explore the sources of their inspiration and creative expression.
This course will focus on the genre of travel writing and cross-cultural memoir as it simultaneously acquaints students with these two very different cultures through a concentrated study of selected film, poetry, and visual art and design. The course will foster the process of reflectively rethinking one's own culture by studying two different societies. We will study memoirs and essays by figures who experience the crisis, elation, and insight of crossing into alien cultures, and we will tease out the complex dynamics and distinct stages of cultural shift and adaptation. We will also ask questions about the ways cultural productions, such as visual art and design, represent aspects of a culture’s inner dynamic and complexity.
The course proposes a reflective cross-cultural process. Students will be confronted with two cultures that we traditionally associate with the East and West: Japan and Greece. Highlighted comparative themes will include heroism, gender, hospitality, love, and death. In our contemporary political and social climate, other themes will come center stage at the opening of the class: immigration, nationalism, populism, and diversity. Students will be asked to reflect on their own responses of disorientation, comparison, adjustment, and synthesis as the materials of the course (film, literature, visual art, music) take them deeper into investigating these cultures.
LMAS-223: Music and Society Topics
Music and Society Topics courses allow students to choose from a variety of themes that change each semester. In these courses, students explore racial, ethnic, or collective identities, narratives, history, and/or cultural expression as expressed by artists and society. Students are presented with key terminology in the disciplines represented in music and society, such as gender and global studies.
We will take a multidimensional approach to exploring the historical phenomenon and term "avant-garde,” and how such an entity and phenomenon plays together with what artists do and have done, and with how all of this becomes an aspect of the larger world that unfolds through various forms of artistic practice: that is to say, society and societies in their many forms and manifestations. On a very basic level, this will entail visiting the historical origin of the use of the term avant-garde in 19th century France and tracing the lineage of artists and movements that created what we know today as the historic avant-garde and neo avant-garde. Beyond this lineage, we will explore the potential paradox involved in attempting to discuss any and all of these things, given that the term avant-garde, like all terms, has a life all its own.
One of the larger overarching concerns of the course will be becoming aware of some of the typical tendencies in Western artistic and philosophical practice over the long period stretching from the time of ancient Greece to the present, and seeing those tendencies in relation to aspects of Taoism, Buddhism, and other practices that evolved in the East. To the extent that it is necessary and appropriate, we may engage in practicing performative actions that embody openness as a way of beginning to tap into a non-intellectualized relationship to art-making, and living and developing our own practices, but also, as a form of applied learning that relates to a discussion or topic at hand.
Everyone loves the Beatles, and in this class, we will delve into why. We will examine how social, political, and musical movements such as Beatlemania, drug culture and psychedelia, and new types of recording technology created the perfect storm that was the Beatles. Throughout this course, assigned readings will supplement music and video recordings as our guide to the greatest musical sensation of the last generation.
In this course, we will examine the broad cultural movement of Modernism through the specific lens of madness. The turn of the century not only brought about new methods and approaches to creating art, but also introduced new anxieties and stresses into modern life. This combination of forces created a fertile ground for experimentation, which allows us to probe the literary and musical representations of mental illness, trauma, isolation, and silence in modern fiction and music in the early 20th century. By reading the work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Samuel Beckett, and Albert Camus, and listening to Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, and Charles Ives, we will gain a better understanding of the historical roots of Modernism; define its major components, philosophies, and participants; and situate it within the broader movements of the 20th century.
The power of music to communicate, contest, unite, and persuade has been recognized throughout human history. Those seeking to control and disempower others have silenced musicians who use music as protest, and individuals seeking to confront injustice and inequality have utilized music as a means of resistance. This course will explore the role music plays in negotiating, consolidating, questioning, and contesting unequal power dynamics between large political entities and communities, cultures, and individuals. Various approaches to contesting inequality through music will be explored, including direct criticism and protest, and veiled or indirect, context-dependent critique. Course readings and class discussions will develop a critical lens for assessing music in relation to society and touch upon critical issues including globalization, colonialism, nation states, cultural memory, individualism, gender, race, and ableism.
This course will explore cultural and political histories of music in everyday life in the United States, giving special attention to the role of technology. Specific topics will include the sociopolitical history of personal audio and video technologies (e.g., the role of cassettes in the birth of punk and hip-hop; political and legal battles over digital home recording devices); a critical history of the relationship between audio technologies and the notion of musical authenticity; and how more recent social media and streaming services have changed cultural listening habits and collapsed the consumption and production of music. The course will draw from diverse scholarship including media and cultural studies that address celebrity identity and fan culture, anthropological studies of gift exchange, psychodynamic explorations of human/computer interactions, and the nascent field of sound studies.
This course views the many representations of the artist in society through the lenses of American and European cinema. We’ll explore how the artist’s role changes across time and cultural boundaries, and how artists are at times in conflict and at times in harmony with their societies. The musicians and other artists portrayed, and the films as works of art themselves, present varying identities, histories, and cultural narratives. Through the prism of film, we’ll consider a number of aesthetic, cultural, and historical topics, e.g., how U.S. and European societal values and political realities animate a director’s vision and, conversely, how great films help form a society’s sense of self. We will also listen to how a film’s score is central to the dramatic and cultural heft of a film.
We will view a small number of films (including shorts and animated pieces), choosing from such works as Inside Llewyn Davis (the Coen Brothers), Amadeus, I’m Not There (Bob Dylan), The Pianist, Love and Mercy (Brian Wilson), Miles Ahead (Miles Davis), ‘Round Midnight, Immortal Beloved (Beethoven), Almost Famous, Lady Sings the Blues (Billie Holiday), La Vie en Rose (Édith Piaf), Sid and Nancy (the Sex Pistols), The Doors, Born to Be Blue (Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker), and Pink Floyd: The Wall. Films about writers, painters, actors, and other artists may include The Hours, La Dolce Vita, 8 ½, The Great Beauty, Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Pollock (Jackson Pollock), My Left Foot (Daniel Day-Lewis), Venus in Fur (Roman Polanski), and Birdman (Alejandro Iñárritu).
On November 2, 1920, KDKA—a radio station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—made the first commercial broadcast in American history, helping usher in a new era of mass communication. This course will trace radio’s history through the evolution of its technology and business practices, examining such turning points as the development of FM radio, the creation of the Federal Communications Commission, and the invention of modern musical formats (e.g., contemporary hit radio, hot country, and urban contemporary). The course will also explore the vital role of music in shaping radio’s history as a medium for live performance and a platform for selling records, using the rise and fall of Boston’s own WBCN (104.1 FM) as a lens through which to view these developments. In addition, the course will consider the social impact of radio broadcasting in the United States, examining its role in creating virtual and real communities, fostering activism, and informing the public. Students will finish the course with a deep understanding of how the medium has influenced—and continues to influence—daily life in America.
Traversing music history, philosophy, and sociology, students will explore music as a cultural product. Reading, listening, and thinking enable students to achieve a deeper understanding of music’s place in society by, for example, emphasizing music’s realities as social constructs, the transmission of these realities to later generations, and the subsequent absorption of these same (constructed) realities as transparent assumptions. Considering music since 1900, students will begin to see how we arrived at the music of today. And where are we headed? Has jazz, for instance, run its course? Is hip-hop here to stay? Does anyone go to classical concerts any more? In perceiving not only the forces that brought us to our current pass, but also those operating in today’s intellectual, cultural, and commercial spheres, students will then be able to formulate coherent notions of how music will evolve in the course of their own careers.
LMSC-223: Math and Science Topics
Math and Science Topics courses enable students to choose from a variety of course themes that change each semester. Courses may explore a topic or a discipline within math or science that is not currently covered in Liberal Arts courses.
Mathematics and science have transformed the physical world, our relationships to each other, and perhaps even a fundamental understanding of ourselves. But where do mathematical and scientific reasoning come from? What do math and science have to do with truth? In this class, we’ll look at some original texts that define modern-day science and math. We will critically examine the foundations of measurement and deductive reasoning, and deep assumptions regarding the nature of fact, reality, and truth.
This course will introduce students to fundamental concepts of human genetics and disease as depicted in movies. Classic, cult, science fiction, and animated films will be used as a springboard for discussion and critique of basic scientific concepts, current research, and scientific advances in genetics in a way that engages popular culture. Students will learn about transmission of genes, inheritance of traits, sex determination, cancer, the genetics of behavior, and how alterations in the genome can result in disease. In addition, students will be introduced to genetic technologies to understand the basis of personalized medicine and the social, cultural, and ethical implications associated with their use.
LSOC-223: Social Science Topics
Social Science Topics courses enable students to choose from a variety of themes that change each semester. Courses may explore a topic or a discipline within social science that is not currently covered in Liberal Arts courses.
Is it safe to talk on cell phones while driving as long as it’s hands-free? Why are we so good at recognizing faces, and why are computers so bad at it? Is it bad to make decisions based on our gut or intuition? Does listening to music while studying help you concentrate?
Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of how people think. Through interactive activities and class discussions, we will explore how we make sense of our world, pay attention, remember, and make decisions (even when we listen to music at the same time). Most areas of psychology focus on how we behave outside in the world around us. In cognitive psychology, learn the secrets behind how we behave inside our head, brain, and mind.
This course will introduce modern perspectives of the psychological study of human sexuality within a historical context. Specific topics include sexual development, anatomy, sexuality, gender, dating, attraction, sexual behavior (including variations), risks and prevention, and the diagnosis/treatment of sexual dysfunctions. By engaging in content-based class discussion, students will critically consider the interaction and development of sexuality, culture, and identity.
LVIS-223: Visual Studies Topics
The various sections of Visual Studies Topics focus on different and more narrowly defined themes, rather than a broad historical survey. Topics may include the art of Egypt, the meeting of Eastern and Western art, 20th-century American and European art, and others. Periodically, if the opportunity arises, a visiting scholar may teach a section on the art, architecture, and archeology of cultures such as those of pre-Columbian Central and South America, the indigenous peoples of North America, and the various societies of Africa, Asia, or the Middle East. The focus of these special sections would include material artifacts and the interpretations, debates, and methodological approaches to these objects within the literature of the field.
In many ways, the earliest cave art remains an enigma even today, but new theories drawn from multidisciplinary sources have deepened our perspective on the conditions under which early homo sapiens created this work. Likewise, the many attempts to decipher cave art test and illuminate theories of art, human consciousness, communication, and shamanism.
This class uses the cave as a focus for exploring theories of art; theories of spirituality, religion, and ritual; and theories on reflective consciousness and the origin of Western philosophy. The springboard for the course is Werner Herzog's documentary The Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011), a wide-ranging meditation on the oldest known cave paintings from Chauvet cave in southern France. The film approaches the mystery of the cave's images through a range of scientific and anthropological approaches, but also challenges us to consider the ways artistic imagination—what Herzog calls “ecstatic truth”—and scientific method differ in the insights they offer into primal human experience.
We will begin by unpacking the theories and perspectives of the film, and move next to treat the geological and paleontological facts about caves as human spaces of art and ritual in prehistory. Then we will explore a range of the most recent and well-supported theories about cave art and the role of caves in global myth and religious practice from the ancient Greeks to ancient Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Besides the more traditional academic work of the semester, students will also have the opportunity to use aspects of their major to develop an original response to the materials of the class in a wide range of media from video to visual art to sound installation.
Archaeology is concerned with the discovery and study of past cultures through the objects they made and the records they kept. In this course, we will explore some of the greatest archaeological finds made in the last 150 years, including King Tut’s tomb, the terracotta army of the first Chinese emperor, the cities of Mesopotamia, the tombs of Sipan, Macchu Pichu, and the lost cities of the Maya. These archaeological wonders represent significant milestones in human development, including the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers, the establishment of the first cities, the development of writing, and other such innovations that changed the way humans interacted with their environments, with each other, and with the world as a whole.
In this course, we will examine several of the intriguing and enduring civilizations of the New World and explore ancient Mesoamerica, focusing on art and architecture, the religious ideology that guided their creation, and the mighty rulers who were the patrons. We will also examine how our view of ancient Mesoamerica has changed over the years thanks to archaeological survey and excavation, and the decipherment of ancient languages. Earlier in the 16th century, conquistadors entering the New World spoke with awe and wonder of the great Aztec and Mayan cities, and their wealth and grandeur. They described tall temples decorated with images of fantastic beasts and cities ruled by mighty kings who erected large stone monuments. Who were the people who built these cities, and what happened to them? In the 19th century, explorers John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood reintroduced the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica to the rest of the world. Their fantastic stories and stunning images of great, ruined cities in the jungles of Central America created a widespread interest in Mesoamerican studies.
What makes soup cans, graffiti, or millions of sunflower seeds works of art? Contemporary works of art can be baffling and infuriating when they transgress our expectations of what art is supposed to be. But art as protest, dissent, rebellion, and struggle against creative norms is not new. This course traces the radical roots of contemporary art and provides a historical, political, and aesthetic context for understanding subversive artists like Andy Warhol, Marina Abramovic, and Banksy. We will examine how earlier art forms like impressionism, cubism, constructivism, and futurism influence artists today. Or how movements like dada paved the way for later anti-art and anti-establishment campaigns such as fluxus, and other conceptual, performance, and installation art. Like their revisionist predecessors, contemporary artists who transgress the boundary of art are asking, what is art? Who and what is it for? How is it consumed? As we engage with these questions, we will also participate in exciting conversations about how contemporary art challenges the boundaries within and between other performance fields, and pushes us all to consider what place art has in transforming our lives today.
This course is an introduction to ways of thinking about the art of Western Europe and covers several major cultures and epochs, from ancient Greece, to the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods, to the modern and contemporary. More than just a survey of objects, locations, and eras, this course will be a textured, multidisciplinary look at how works of art are made and experienced. You will discover some of the ways that art historians look at works of art, and you will come to appreciate the history of Western art objects for their places in society and the way that their cultural value evolves over time.