College students in the US are starting to peruse their fall course catalogues as the summer comes to an end, and chances are they will be able to take classes their parents never would have dreamed of when they were in school.
C. Edward Watson, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Georgia, told The New York Times last year “faculty are trying to be more engaging in the classroom” because of increased competition for students.
As a result, colleges offer unorthodox classes that draw inspiration from pop culture icons like Miley Cyrus and social media trends like the selfie.
We’ve picked out 10 of the more interesting courses offered recently, which probably never would have appeared on college campuses a decade ago.
#SelfieClass is led by Mark Marino, an associate professor who told the USC News:
'When we look at selfies, we're also looking at the beginning of the 21st century. The cultural moment of the selfies will pass and become something that's iconic of our age, the same way that photographic self-portraits or painting self-portraits or religious journals were the selfies of their moment.'
From the school's website:
'Inspired by the popular PBS series, 'Downton Abbey,' which follows the lives of an aristocratic family and their household in early twentieth-century Britain, the course will go beyond fiction to explore historic issues in politics and society.'
Selfies, Snapchats, and Cyberbullies is led by professor Miriam Posner who wrote this on her course's website:
'If all you knew about 'millennials' was what you heard on the news, you'd think that college-aged people spent every waking hour texting and had never read anything longer than a Buzzfeed list. Of course, we know that isn't true. People in their late teens and early twenties are as thoughtful, diverse, and interested in the world as anyone else.'
From the course description:
'This course looks at the career and work of Jay-Z and Kanye West from three perspectives:
(1) Where do they fit within, and how do they change, the history of hip-hop music?
(2) How is what they do similar to and different from what poets do?, and
(3) How does their rise to both celebrity and corporate power alter what we understand as the American dream?
In addition to listening to music and watching videos, we will also read Jay-Z's 'Decoded'; histories of and critical works on rap music by Jeff Chang, Adam Bradley, and others; and one or two good studies of how poetry works.'
American offered up this description of the course on its site:
''The Hunger Games' trilogy is a publishing phenomenon that has dramatically impacted American popular culture. Using the series as a case study, this course examines the interplay of class, politics, and ethics.
Over the course of the semester, students will read 'The Hunger Games' trilogy and theory discussing the text, exploring aspects of 'The Hunger Games' and its cultural impact. Topics covered include oppression, feminism, food deserts, rebellion, the publishing industry, and social media marketing. '
From the course catalogue:
'The current media frenzy focused on Miley Cyrus (her public image, her music, and more) highlights the ways in which intersectional identities are shaped by pop culture and mass media. In this special topics course, we will examine core issues of intersectionality theory, looking at the interplay among race, class, and gender, as well as taking a feminist critique of media and sociology of media approach to the Miley 'problem.''
From the English Department's website:
'We will look closely at the work of fantasist George R. R. Martin, as represented by one of his novels and the HBO series based on his fiction. We will read these two different kinds of texts on their own, but also and especially in comparison with each other as literary and visual representations. Topics to be discussed include characterization, geography, racial and cultural allegory, resistant conclusion and promiscuous identification.'
The class is led by Professor Michael Dyson who told Forbes:
'Jay-Z is located within the central motif of American history. I think that thematic preoccupation of Jay-Z's is central to what it means to be an American, which is why he's such a successful person and valorized in many ways, having meetings with Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, trying to figure out how to become the first billionaire in hip-hop.'
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