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Humanities Signature Courses

Signature Humanities Courses are faculty-taught courses in the Humanities or humanistic Social Sciences that afford students unique and memorable learning experiences, exemplary of humanistic inquiry. Designed as lecture courses, they allow students to sample the best that the various humanistic disciplines and fields have to offer. While open to majors and minors, they are aimed at students across the College and are ideal as general electives.

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Autumn 2023 Signature Courses

    Instructor: Yousef Casewit

    This course examines Islamic mysticism, commonly known as Sufism, through an exploration of English translations premodern and contemporary Sufi literature in Arabic and Persian. The goal is to gain firsthand exposure of a broad spectrum of literary expressions of Islamic spirituality in their historical context, and to understand exactly what, how, and why Sufis say what they say. Each of the units will comprise of lectures and close readings of excerpts from the text in Arabic/Persian and English translation. The average reading load per week is 80 pages.

    Instructor: Jennifer Iverson 

    For decades, popular music has been the soundtrack to many Americans' lives. This class explores the structure, function, and impact of a range of vernacular musics from the 20th and 21st centuries. Our approach to popular music will be by turns historical, analytical, and sociological. Students will learn about formal designs of pop songs, from verse-chorus to much more elaborate structures, along with antecedents in the Great American Songbook tradition. Students will learn to analyze the harmonic and melodic conventions in various genres, and also spend significant time with groove analysis and design. Finally, the class will interrogate the sociological relevance of vernacular musics, weaving in discussions of relevant social issues from radio play to popularity, and from subcultural appeal to racial identity. This class is open to anyone who listens carefully and with passion, and who wants to grow their ability to write about music. Experience as a practitioner of any type of music and/or a passing knowledge of music theory will be helpful, but it is not necessary to read notated music for this course.

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