I took a couple, something on dinosaurs (which, to my surprise, did have more than one lecture simply stating, ‘And then they went extinct’) and one on Harry Potter. And you know what? Those professors know what they’re doing because I actually learned a lot more than I bargained for–a lot of information on how rocks form, which is WAY more exciting than it sounds, and a bunch of themes in British literature that even J.K. Rowling herself is not immune to (probably because she knew what she was doing while she was writing the best books ever).
What’s super neat-o awesome about a liberal arts education is that you can take a class on the metaphysical mechanics of Doc Brown’s time machine in Back to the Future, and you will leave knowing so much more about the world than you could’ve possibly expected. That’s the beauty of the liberal arts; it’s not just black and white. That’s why it’s important to study different mediums to discuss language, philosophy, science and history. Even if one of those fields is your major, there’s a good chance there’ll bee some cross-pollination (see what I did there?) You’ll have to know how to study history if you’re an English major and vice a versa.
So when you’re looking through that course guide, don’t just skip over the flashy pop culture courses because you think you won’t get anything out of them; you most definitely will.
On that note, here are 11 popular culture classes being offered this semester at colleges across the nation. Do any interest you?
1. Consumerism and Social Change in Mad Men America, 1960-1963
What it’s about: Taught and conceived by Professor Michael Allen, this Mad Men class will assign students to watch episodes of the popular TV series, which Allen believes accurately portrays American life in the 1950s-60s.
2. South Park and Contemporary Social Issues
What it’s about: Dr. Baron (Philosophy) and Dr. Raley (Sociology) of McDaniel College are using South Park–a show which has never shied away from tackling the big social issues from its own point of view–paired with historical and contemporary texts, theories, and concepts from sociology and philosophy to understand and discuss contemporary social issues.
3. Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame
University of South Carolina
What it’s about: Students who take the course with Mathieu Deflem will focus on relevant elements of the societal context of Lady Gaga’s rise to fame, with students better able to engage in scholarly thinking about relevant aspects of popular culture, music, and fame.
4. Zombies in Popular Media
Columbia College Chicago
What it’s about: This course explores the history, significance, and representation of the zombie as a figure in horror and fantasy texts. Instruction follows an intense schedule, using critical theory and source media (literature, comics, and films) to spur discussion and exploration of the figures many incarnations….beware…
5. Wordplay: A Wry Plod From Babel to Scrabble
What it’s about: Professor Joshua Katz teaches this course with the goal to bring together interesting reading, thoughtful scholarship, and hands-on revelry in the exploration of the ludic side of language. Linguistic play is part of many people’s normal experience (think of the daily crossword puzzle and the excitement that surrounds the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee) and yet it is widely considered a trivial pursuit, often childish (Dr. Seuss and counting-out rhymes) but sometimes abstruse (James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov).
6. “Oh, Look, a Chicken!” Embracing Distraction as a Way of Knowing
What it’s about:This course challenges the general conception that being distracted, i.e. students with A.D.D, infringe on “knowing”. T he course is all about ways of knowing, so it embraces the fact that we are distracted as a culture, why are we distracted, how can we embrace it and how do we get back to the thing that we were doing in the first place
7. What if Harry Potter is Real?
Appalachian State University
What it’s about: This course asks questions about the very nature of history. Who decides what history is? Who decides how it is used or mis-used? How does this use or misuse affect us? How can the historical imagination inform literature and fantasy? How can fantasy reshape how we look at history? The Harry Potter novels and films are fertile ground for exploring all of these deeper questions. Wingardium leviosa!
8. The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur
University of Washington
What it’s about: The course explores the philosophical, historical and literary influences of the late rapper and activist, Tupac Shakur.
9. Goldberg’s Canon: Makin’ Whoopi
What it’s about: Simply said, it’s a symposium on the career of Whoopi Goldberg.
10. Philosophy of Star Trek
What it’s about: Taught by Associate Professor Linda Wetzel, this course will go at light speed discussing topics in metaphysics that come up again and again in Star Trek. In conjunction with watching Star Trek, excerpts from the writings of great philosophers, extract key concepts and arguments will be assigned.
11. Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z
What it’s about: The course is taught by Michael Eric Dyson, who wanted to seriously investigate the fuss behind Jay’z rhetorical impact.
Do any of these classes pique your interest? What class would you want taught?
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