Aesthetics & Culture

Novel Thought: Being (In)Human (Gen Ed 1182)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

How can the novel enable us to think in ways that other forms of knowledge production cannot and what does that allow us to understand about the world?

 

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Annabel Kim

French novelist Émile Zola famously conceived of the novel as a laboratory: a space to experiment with characters, treated as human subjects, and discover truths about humanity and society. This course takes seriously the idea that the novel constitutes a kind of laboratory that enables us to apprehend things about humankind that cannot be understood save through the experience of reading fiction. The novel allows us to know what we cannot know, to experience what we haven’t experienced, and in so doing, sheds light on parts of ourselves that we might otherwise want to leave hidden and unexamined: the inhumanity that is just as much a part of our humanity as the humane. Where the social sciences and hard sciences produce empirical data, the novel produces experience and holds open a space of possibility between the world as it is and the world as it might be. By reading a broad range of novels from the past century, you will hone your critical analytical and interpretative skills as a reader and come away with a better understanding of the (in)humanity behind the mass production, mass consumption, mass war, and mass death that led to the twentieth century shattering what humanity had been and making us what we are today.... Read more about Novel Thought: Being (In)Human (Gen Ed 1182)

Language in Culture and Society (Gen Ed 1177)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

How are language, culture, and society related?

 

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Steve Caton

Clearly, ideas about what language is and what it does shape scientific inquiry well beyond the discipline of linguistics. Language serves not only as a primary medium for formulating and communicating scientific ideas, but also, and very often, as a paradigm for generating these scientific ideas. Where do these ideas about language—whether they be intuitions, assumptions, popular beliefs, rumors, trends, or theoretical models—come from?... Read more about Language in Culture and Society (Gen Ed 1177)

Happiness (Gen Ed 1025)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Should we pursue happiness, and if so, how should we do it?

 

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Susanna Rinard

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.... Read more about Happiness (Gen Ed 1025)

Creativity (Gen Ed 1067)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Where does creativity come from, how does it work, and how can we deepen its role in our own lives?

 

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David Atherton

Geniuses are said to possess it. Self-help books offer to teach it. Both the arts and the sciences celebrate it. It sits at the heart of some of our oldest myths and is the subject of up-to-the-minute neuroscientific research. Some say it comes in momentary flashes; others call it a way of life. Some identify it as the key to deep fulfillment; others claim that it entails intense suffering. Many agree that it sets us apart as a species—but does it? What is creativity?... Read more about Creativity (Gen Ed 1067)

Classical Mythology: Myth in Antiquity and Today (Gen Ed 1110)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Why do some stories get told over and over for thousands of years, and how do those ancient tales still shape (and get shaped by) us today?

 

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Rachel Love

The myths of ancient Greece and Rome embody both our worst nightmares and our most fabulous fantasies. Heroism, happy endings, and everlasting love blend with disturbing themes of parricide, cannibalism, incest, misogyny, and unthinkable violence.  The resulting stories have fascinated generations of artists, writers, and thinkers, and this course will serve as an introduction to this distant but strangely familiar world. We will move from the very first works of Greek literature through the classic Greek tragedies and the Roman tales in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.... Read more about Classical Mythology: Myth in Antiquity and Today (Gen Ed 1110)

East Asian Cinema (Gen Ed 1049)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

What can we learn about East Asia from cinema, and how can we critically analyze and creatively respond to films? 

 

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Jie Li

This course introduces major works, genres, and waves of East Asian cinema from the silent era to the present, including films from Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. We will discuss issues ranging from formal aesthetics to historical representation, from local film industries to transnational audience reception.... Read more about East Asian Cinema (Gen Ed 1049)

Permanent Impermanence: Why Buddhists Build Monuments (Gen Ed 1083)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Why do Buddhists build monuments despite the core teaching of ephemerality, and what can we learn from this paradox about our own conception of time and space?

 

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Jinah Kim and Eugene Wang

Banner of Buddhism images

Everything changes. This is, in its simplest and most fundamental formulation, one of the essential teachings of Buddhism. Buddhist communities throughout history have preached, practiced, and written about the ephemerality and illusoriness of our everyday lives and experiences.... Read more about Permanent Impermanence: Why Buddhists Build Monuments (Gen Ed 1083)

What is a Book? From the Clay Tablet to the Kindle (Gen Ed 1090)

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

What is the nature of the object that has been the focus of your education since you began to read--and at the core of Western culture since its inception-- and why is it important to understand and appreciate its presence before your eyes even if it's all but transparent?

 

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David Stern

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?... Read more about What is a Book? From the Clay Tablet to the Kindle (Gen Ed 1090)

Mental Health and Mental Illness through Literature and the Arts (Gen Ed 1144)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

How have mental illness and mental health been understood across time and space, and how have literature and the arts both perpetuated and undermined stigmas against individuals with mental illness?

 

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Karen Thornber

Mental health experts believe that globally, more than 1 billion people have a mental illness.  And yet the biases and misperceptions surrounding mental illness, not to mention the dehumanization and abuse in many communities of individuals with a mental illness, remains acute.  This course uses literature and the arts to help students learn about more about some of the prevalent biases/misperceptions/myths/stigmas against individuals with mental illness and how these biases can be (or in the past have been) ameliorated.... Read more about Mental Health and Mental Illness through Literature and the Arts (Gen Ed 1144)

Act Natural (Gen Ed 1050)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

How do we draw the line between acting and authenticity?

 

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David Levine

"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?... Read more about Act Natural (Gen Ed 1050)

Power to the People: Black Power, Radical Feminism, and Gay Liberation (Gen Ed 1130)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

How does understanding political activists and movements in the past help us radically change the world today?

 

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Michael Bronski

This course is an introduction to the radical American social change movements of the 1960s and 70s. We will examine the specific historical conditions that allowed each of these movements to develop, the interconnections and contradictions among them, and why their political power faded, only to reemerge in new manifestations today.... Read more about Power to the People: Black Power, Radical Feminism, and Gay Liberation (Gen Ed 1130)

Painting's Doubt: A Studio Course (Gen Ed 1114)

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

How does a hands-on practice of image making (painting) lead us  to perceive, represent and inhabit our world differently?

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Matt Saunders

Paul Cezanne, unfinished painting of trees

Painting is an engagement between the self and the world.  It is a practice of embodied making, and, as a language outside of words, can think around conditioned understanding.  This introductory studio art course proposes learning to paint as a new experience of relating to the world, and through painting we will investigate not only what we have to say, but what we have to see.... Read more about Painting's Doubt: A Studio Course (Gen Ed 1114)

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