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Liberal Arts Electives

LA141, Kinesiology and Anatomy.

This elective is a study of the major joints of the body and muscle location and action in relation to movement; the structure of organs and individual systems and their functions in the whole organism. Particular emphasis is given in this basic biological science course to issues crucial to the dancer. Required of all Dance majors.

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA142, Culture and Film: Viewing Other Cultures; Seeing Ourselves. 

This course examines the way that other cultures are represented in visual genres such as movies, ethnographic films and documentaries. We will study the way that non-Western or “primitive” cultures are constructed to fulfill preconceptions of these cultures as romantic or natural, threatening or familiar, exotic or universal. We will also question the status of film as a medium of unfiltered reality and consider the strategies that different visual genres use to convey the truths of their representations. Finally, we will investigate some experimental pieces that seek to break down the boundaries between “scientific” vs. “fictional” representation, and we will debate the effectiveness of these “ethnofictions” in evading the ethnocentric pitfalls of earlier works. Ultimately, in questioning how we view other cultures such as the Inuik, the San, the Amish or Native Americans, we will be asking questions about how we see ourselves.

Required Texts: The Gods Must Be Crazy (DVD);Witness (DVD);Dead Man (DVD); Selected readings (classroom handout)

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA231, Envisioning the World: History of Science and Mathematics.

This liberal arts elective approaches the history of math and science through a set of questions: are human beings merely machines with glands, as Descartes put it, or something more? How is our idea of the universe different from the ancient idea of the cosmos? What can math tell us about leading a good life? These and similar questions will guide our discussions as we trace the development of the modern scientific worldview. Taking as a model the notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci, we will develop creative portfolios of drawings and journal entries in response to key works in the history of mathematics and science. Special care is given to three interrelated claims: that throughout history artists and performers have found inspiration in mathematical and scientific developments; that our ideas about beauty change over time to accommodate advances in mathematics and science; and that cumulative advances in scientific knowledge periodically require us to reevaluate what it means to be a human being and, more specifically, what it means to lead a moral life. Students are encouraged to incorporate into their portfolios elements from other studies. No background in science or mathematics is required.

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA233, Autobiography and Perspective: Whose Life is it Anyway?

The recent popularity of different types of autobiography and memoir has given rise to increased attention to the genre. The media notice given to James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces has drawn particular interest to the questions of the limits and veracity of the genre. This course explores how writers, as well as other artists such as film makers, negotiate the tensions between present and past lives, between fact and memory and between design and truth in autobiography. We look at the historical and theoretical underpinnings of autobiography (and related genres) and consider our own places in the pageantry of self-portrayal. Family and friends, home and country, public and private, secrets and lives all find a place in an examination of the complexities of who we are and how we perceive and portray ourselves. This course explores written as well as visual communication, with a particular emphasis on self expression through different perspectives. Students study a variety of models and modes of narration that focus on the revelation of the individual. The autobiographical/memoir form will be investigated as one which conceals the maker as well as reveals both subject matter and creator.  

The course focuses on two distinct areas of autobiographical exploration: study and analysis of the historical development and continuity of autobiographical texts; and the analysis of 20th century and contemporary autobiographical statements made through a number of different expressive forms–prose, poetry, film, self-portraiture etc. In addition, students will have the opportunity to develop their own individual application and understanding of autobiographical forms.  

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA242,  Fiction Workshop.

Introduction to Fiction Writing introduces Conservatory students to the craft of fiction writing through an amalgamation of reading, writing, and literary discussion in the workshop setting.  Each of the first several classes is devoted to the major components of fiction writing–voice, character, dialogue, plot, setting and language–by using a combination of an how-to text, a published story that exemplifies the chosen skill and the students’ own work. All student work is shared in class and discussed alongside the published texts. By the semester’s end, students will have used their practiced skills to craft their own original short stories, which will also be workshopped in class; the assigned reading will have moved on to more complex themes and discussion. In short, this course offers an opportunity for Conservatory students to harness their creativity while working on the ever-important skills of close reading and focused writing.

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA242, Gender Studies.

In this course we will review and critically evaluate a selection of current issues and theories related to gender. Topics will include historical conceptions of masculinity and femininity, theories of gendered bodily identity, controversies related to gay marriage and the role of gender in the performing arts. The emphasis will be on understanding assumptions and conceptual frameworks underlying ideas of gender and on developing informed reasoned positions on gender issues.

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA281, Cultural History of the Body and Movement.

In ancient Greece, Rome and the Italian Renaissance, the expression of body posture in painting, literature and sculpture created classic formulations of physical expression to represent vital elements of social interaction. This course examines the origins of such representation and follows their evolution to modern expression in theatre, film and popular culture, using a multimedia approach. Particular emphasis given to the works of  Dario Fo and Sid Caesar and their updated interpretations of the Commedia dell’Arte style. 

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA281, Classics of European Film: From Italian Neo-Realism to the Present.

This course provides students with an overview of Italian film making, beginning with the neo-realist mastery of Roberto Rosselini and Vittorio De Sica and spanning Pietro Germi, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Lina Wertmuller and Roberto Benigni within the context of history, society and aesthetics of contemporary Italy.

Italian cinema, from the neo-realist films of post World War II to the poetic energy of Federico Fellini, has distinguished itself for its raw sentiment and original cinematic landscapes, pushing the creative boundaries of this art form to new heights. Italian films have been embraced worldwide for their powerful and often ironic treatment of universal themes of the struggle, survival and search for meaning of our existence. While Italian cinema reflects the cultural reality of contemporary Italy, it has played a major role in forging a new European cinematic identity. 

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA281, Arts Criticism.

This course will introduce students to the art and craft of criticism, from both the critic’s and the performer’s perspective. The goal is to help students develop their own critical-thinking skills as well as understand the viewpoint and agenda of the arts critic. The course will address a broad range of arts criticism from theater to music to dance and requires students to expand beyond their own particular courses of study. Students will first explore the task of criticism itself, from analyzing the work itself to critiquing the particular performance, as well as which tactic is appropriate and when. Students will then turn their attention to reviewing actual professional performances available on DVD, as well as local productions and performances, when available and appropriate. Class discussions will include constructive peer feedback in an effort to broaden students’ perspectives beyond their own developing critical aesthetic.

3 hours weekly; 3 credits 

LA334, Into the Wild: A Multidisciplinary Environmental Investigation.

This course will consider the importance of our ideas of wilderness—where they come from and how they change. We will examine the connection between the ongoing growth of human populations and urban centers and the growing appreciation of the natural world.  How has the wilderness inspired poets, musicians, dancers and actors and provided so many with journeys toward individual transformation? Do we need to save the wilderness or will it save us?

We will read authors like Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Rachael Carson, Raymond Williams, Basho, Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver and Robert Frost. We will look at paintings by Thomas Cole and Alfred Bierstadt and photographs by Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter; watch films such as Andy Goldsworthy: Rivers and Tides and Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog; go on field trips to the Arnold Arboretum and Walden Pond. Students will write and revise three in-class essays and develop a final presentation on a subject of their own choosing.

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA335, Colonialism/Postcolonialism.

This course explores the geo-political forces that have helped shape the latter half of the 20th-century. The historical trajectory begins with the philosophy and history of colonialism and pursues its global effects in terms of a post-colonial world. In the 19th century age of industrial expansion, European nations began to divide and rule the pre-industrial parts of the world that were not militarily or economically equipped to resist conquest. The subsequent partition of the globe into ruling empires and ruled colonies created dramatically unequal spheres that continue to have an important impact upon the present time.  Imperialist domination by developed Western nations over pre-industrial ones grew out of a complex combination of economic interests, political competition, patriotism, racism and religious mission that some critics argue have not been resolved even after decolonization and independence. This course examines some of the literature, historical documents and films that address the complex legacy of colonialism and its aftermath. 

Required Texts: Chinua Achebe,  Things Fall Apart.  Anchor Books; George Orwell,  Burmese Days.  Harcourt Brace; Merle Hodge,  Crick Crack Monkey.  Heinemann Publishers; Marjane Satrapi,  Persepolis. 

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA336, Postmodernisms.

This course focuses on the play between modernism and postmodernism and the various "strands" of postmodernism that have come into being since its conception. We will consider postmodernism's investment in difference, rupture, and multiplicity, its resistance to closure in its celebration of fragmentation, excess, pastiche and the "open" narrative, and the refusal of a singular, stable identity in favor of a more fluid sense of identities (plural). One of the central concerns of the course will be to consider how the category of "the human" gets destabilized and/or deconstructed in the postmodern moment. While a working knowledge of modernism coming into the course will be useful for students, it will certainly not be necessary. The course will examine a broad range of texts from literature to theory to film. Beckett will be introduced as a transitional figure between modern and postmodern moments and  students will read some postmodern theory to set the foundation for ideas that we'll explore throughout the semester. Some authors under consideration for the course are Kazuo Isiguro, Jeannette Winterson, Salmon Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Toni Morrison and Jonathan Safron Foer; films will include works such as David Lynch's Lost Highway, Amenabar's Abre Los Ojos, and/or Christopher Nolan's Memento.

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA361, Microcosm/Macrocosm: Topics in Poetry.

This creative writing workshop in poetry offers students experience in a wide range of poetic styles and forms, from the most precisely focused and microscopic—haiku—to the most broad and inclusive—the prose poem. Students will explore the ways poetry tunnels inward to unknown regions of the self, as well as spirals outward to span the cosmic worlds opened up by the sciences and contemporary media and technology. Emphasis is placed equally on contemporary American lyric poetry and prose poetry, as well as Japanese-based forms, such as haiku, senyru, tanka, haibun, haiga and renku. 

Students who have never written poetry are welcome to join this class, which will give them the basic tools and methods to master a variety of poetic forms. Students who identify themselves as poets or who have some experience writing poetry will find themselves challenged by the variety of experiments, exercises and examples. The class has proven useful in the past to student choreographers and composers interested in working with texts, since much emphasis is placed on analysis of compositional processes and techniques. 

The course focuses on in-class writing exercises and the reading and work-shopping of student poems. This is not an analytic course in interpreting poems, but a hands-on class in discovering practical methods and directions in examples of other poets. Students will develop a sophisticated critical vocabulary to discuss poetry and will learn  to read their own and others' poems aloud with confidence and clarity. In lieu of a final exam, students organize and present a ‘final collection’ of the poems they have written during the semester. Students will also write three short response essays on contemporary prose poems. 

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA362, Poetry Workshop: Experiments in Form.

This workshop in poetry  puts special emphasis on the place of form in composition. We will examine form from many perspectives: from fixed forms, such as sonnet, villanelle, pantoum or sestina, to the open and disjunctive forms of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E school poetry and postmodern poetic styles. We will consider the role of form in the structure and rhythm of free verse and investigate functions of listing and repetition, anaphora and refrain. There will be emphasis on rethinking and experimenting with traditional poetic genres and types, such as elegy, aubade, epistle, occasional and didactic poems, etc. Each week we will study a group of poets working on a particular genre or form, do in-class exercises to generate drafts in that form and consequently read our drafts and discuss agendas for revision and editing. 

The class will balance the reading and study of poetic models with in-class writing and the work-shopping of students’ poems. Rather than a final exam, students will be expected to organize, edit and present a final collection of their semester’s poems at the end of the year. Students will write three short response essays on a contemporary poet of poet of their choice. We will also have guest poets visit the classroom and attend at least one reading/poetry performance. 

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA381, The Magical in Global Literature, Art and Film.

How is magic different from religion or science? Is it an illegitimate source of power and knowledge? Why is magic often associated with marginalized people or groups? Is magic a form of escapism? What is the relation between magic and desire, magic and ritual, magic and protest? Why do we need magic? This course will address these questions by examining specific case samples taken from English, Latin American and Japanese sources. We will examine the anime films of Hayao Miyazaki and the wizardly world invented by J.K. Rowling to consider the connection between magic, nature and innocence. We will also study the magical realist works of Latin American writers and artists like Juan Rulfo, Isabel Allende and Frida Kahlo and explore the role that the surreal, unexplained and paranormal play as commentary or critique of social, political or psychological states. Finally, looking at magical representation in the works of other nationalities such as Japanese writer Haruki Murakami will enable us to compare similarities and differences in various cultural approaches to the magical.

Required Texts: Celia Correas de Zapata, ed., Short Stories by Latin American Women; Haruki Murakami, The Elephant Vanishes; J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; Juan Rulfo, Pedro Paramo

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA381, Culture and Film: American Myths of the City and the Frontier Through Film Noir and the Western.

In the 1940s and 1950s as the film industry developed and consolidated its hold on mass entertainment, two Hollywood film genres came into prominence: film noir and the Western. This course uses film as a medium to analyze cultural, social and political issues within particular historical periods. Thus, we will compare cinematic myths of the City and the Frontier—the enclosed, dark, urban space of corruption and social disintegration typical of film noir vs. the open, untamed space which defines the classic Western—and discuss the different ways in which both film genres are responding to the same issues and concerns of pre- and post-war America through myths of decay and redemption. Specifically, we will make connections between the content and form of these film genres to the history and effect of McCarthyism in the film industry and in American society. More generally, we will consider film noir and the Western as commentaries on the anxieties and ambivalence associated with urban expansion, modern identity and Western post-war global domination. To that end, we will regard the way these genres continue to inform our current cultural and political concerns via neo-noir and the revisionist Western. While post-noir films like Blue Velvet, Blade Runner and Memento use aspects of classic noir to explore the dislocation of identity and reality in the darker urban jungles of today, revisionist Westerns like Dances With Wolves, Dead Man and Avatar offer a more disturbing view of what Western expansion and development have meant in terms of violence done to indigenous people and the environment.

3 hours weekly; 3 credits

LA498, Independent Study. 

Students may petition to do independent work mentored by a liberal arts division faculty member. Approval is granted when the project specified is substantive, meaningful and is something that the individual student can accomplish through primarily independent work. Independent study projects may not substitute for Liberal Arts Core Curriculum requirements. Petition forms are available in the Registrar’s, the Theater Division and the Academic Affairs offices.

2–12 hours weekly; 0.5–3 credits

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