How we make, keep, and lose memories throughout our life is one of our great skills as human beings, and also something of a mystery. Is what we think of as memory ours individually, or is it based on shared experiences – national, communal, familial, and with peers? Also far from decided is how much memories are made and put at risk by biological processes in the brain, and how much by the verbal, visual, and experiential inputs that we call daily life. These questions have broad cultural impact as well as their personal presence in each individual’s life.... Read more about Making Memories (Gen Ed 1060)
Consent will be studied in four domains: Part I-the relation of consent and the body in marriage, in medicine, and in state citizenship; Part II – the act of consent and dissent in war (beginning with the dissent of Achilles in the Iliad and including readings up to the present); Part III – freedom of movement, freedom of entry and exit in citizenship (including contexts where right of movement has been denied); Part IV – consent as the basis of cultural creation.... Read more about Consent (Gen Ed 1138)
Song—the combination of music and words—is arguably the most prominent musical soundtrack of our lives and has been for centuries. This combination seems to accomplish something that neither the words nor the music can achieve on their own. Yet, writings about vocal music are often preoccupied with aesthetic, philosophical, religious, and political debates over which of the two art forms deserves primacy: music or poetry.... Read more about Music and Poetry (Gen Ed 1157)
What makes art modern? What role has modern art played in the constitution of the modern subject? This course traces art’s transformation from tool of aristocratic and ecclesiastical elites into instrument of broad public instruction and civic debate on controversial topics.... Read more about Modern Art and Modernity (Gen Ed 1156)
The course is an introduction to the fundamental concepts of Islam and the role that religious ideas and institutions play in Muslim communities around the world. Its main concern is to develop an understanding of the manner in which diverse notions of religious and political authority have influenced Muslim societies politically, socially and culturally.... Read more about Understanding Islam and Contemporary Muslim Societies (Gen Ed 1134)
It has become a cliché to say that more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. The speed and scale of urbanization over the past century has been stunning, and we tend to underestimate the extent to which built environments and natural landscapes have become entangled. If we consider, for example, the flow of resources (and refuse), energy systems, and the circulation of culture, where do our cities actually end? In contrast to established urban/suburban/rural distinctions, we explore the possibility that the urban today represents a worldwide condition in which nearly all political-economic and socio-environmental relations are enmeshed.... Read more about Living in an Urban Planet (Gen Ed 1103)
Psychiatry is one of the most intellectually and socially complex and fraught fields of medicine today, and history offers one powerful strategy for better understanding why. Topics covered in this course include the invention of the mental asylum, early efforts to understand mental disorders as disorders of the brain or biochemistry, the rise of psychoanalysis, psychiatry and war, the rise of psychopharmacology, the making of the DSM, anti-psychiatry, and more.
You have spent much of your life since kindergarten (and perhaps earlier) reading books; and you will spend much of your time at Harvard continuing to read them. But do you even know what a “book” is? Is it merely a conveyor, a platform, for presenting a text?... Read more about What is a Book? (Gen Ed 1090)
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.
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.
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".
“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)