The fantasy world of "The Game of Thrones" is often associated with the European Middle Ages. Why is this the case? What do our associations today tell us about the ways in which we appropriate history and narratives?... Read more about The Real Game of Thrones (Gen Ed 1041)
As thinking beings we consider the limits of human potential and wonder what is the worst. The Nazis obsess us because they were masters of extremity who brought to the world unprecedented violence, destruction, and murder. They were also masters of propaganda who engineered sophisticated techniques of mass manipulation; in this endeavor cinema and modern media assumed a seminal role.... Read more about The Art and Politics of Propaganda (Gen Ed 1012)
What should be the role of money and markets in our society? Are there some goods that should not be bought and sold? Do market practices and incentives sometimes erode or crowd out non-market norms worth caring about? We tend to assume that a deal is a deal; people should be free to choose for themselves what value to place on the goods they exchange. On this view, all voluntary market exchanges are just.... Read more about Money, Markets, and Morals (Gen Ed 1109)
The history of the United States is the story of a struggle to realize two ideas: that all people are created equal and that people can govern themselves. “Our great experiment,” generations of Americans have called the United States, and with good cause. Democracy has always been, at heart, an inquiry, a question: Can the people rule? In 1787, when Alexander Hamilton asked whether it’s possible to establish a government ruled by reflection and choice rather than by accident and force, that was a hypothetical question.... Read more about The Democracy Project (Gen Ed 1002)
In the U.S., compared to other major nations, how have social problems been defined and redefined in recent decades; why do they appear differently to various groups; and how are public policies about problematic social conditions debated, devised, and changed? This course synthesizes various kinds of evidence-demographic, attitudinal, ethnographic, and institutional-to probe the creation and impact of major public policies about social support for families and workers; immigration and citizenship; and access to higher education.
This course views life through multiple lenses. Quantum physics involves uncertainty and randomness, and yet paradoxically it explains the stability of molecules, such as DNA, that encode information and are critical to life. Thermodynamics is about the universe's ever increasing disorder, and yet living systems remain ordered and intact.... Read more about What is Life? From Quarks to Consciousness (Gen Ed 1029)
This course asks: What makes us behaviorally and psychologically human? In what ways are humans similar to other species and in what ways are we different? What are the evolutionary origins of the behavioral and psychological features found across human societies including parental love, sibling rivalry, pair-bonding, incest aversion, social status, war, norms, altruism, religion, language, and cooking?... Read more about Human Nature (Gen Ed 1056)
This course examines "popular culture" as a modern, transnational phenomenon and explores its manifestation in Chinese communities (in People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and North America) and beyond. From pulp fiction to film, from "Yellow Music" to "Model Theater", from animations to internet games, the course looks into how China became modern by participating in the global circulation of media forms, and how China helps in her own way enrich the theory and practice of "popular culture".
Should we pursue happiness, and if so, what is the best way to do it? This course will critically assess the answers to these questions given by thinkers from a wide variety of different places, cultures, and times, including Stoicism, Epicureanism, Buddhism, Daoism, and contemporary philosophy, psychology, and economics.
“To thine own self be true,” runs the famous line in Hamlet. But which self? And why? And who’s judging? Does this injunction to be authentic even make sense today, when profiles proliferate online and surveillance is ubiquitous? Acting—the art of creating and reproducing selves—can help us navigate these questions. Just as every century’s approach to acting tells us something about their idea of personhood, so too can our own era’s quandaries around empathy, personae, identity, work, art-making and politics be explored through our approach to acting.... Read more about Act Natural (Gen Ed 1050)
How is a civilization built and sustained over millennia? How are political systems supported or undermined by cultural, economic, and ecological challenges? How does the need for shared values in a nation compete with individual interest and creativity?