Mid-terms are coming upfor many of America’s college students, but not all of them are studying up on their calculus and comparative historical European literature.
These days, universities offer classes on everything from zombies to porn to aliens, and tie
traditional courses of study to popular singers, shows and movies. You can now study political theory through “The Hunger Games,” philosophy through “Star Trek,” and gender politics through Beyoncé.
Guerrilla Altruism: A Mini-Manual of Subversive Activism -- Temple University
This Temple University course investigates the strategies of contemporary 'guerrilla artists and activists, reformers and humanitarians' to help solve global problems like poverty and educational disparity. The course is influenced by Argentine guerrilla leader Che Guevara.
The best part may be the opportunity for students to become guerrilla activists themselves, 'culminating in the design and realisation of one or more small-scale humanitarian interventions within Temple's surrounding communities.'
'The Hunger Games:' Class, Politics and Marketing -- American University
American University in Washington, DC has been quick to attach some serious topics to a pop-culture phenomenon. 'The Hunger Games' book trilogy about kids who compete in death matches has spawned a blockbuster movies series making millions worldwide, and now it has its own study unit.
'Using the series as a case study, this course examines the interplay of class, politics, ethics, and marketing. Topics covered include oppression, feminism, food deserts, rebellion, the publishing industry, and social media marketing,' the course guide states.
Aliens: Close Encounters of a Multidisciplinary Kind -- Hampshire College
The first sentence of the description for this Hampshire College course says it all: 'This course can be summed up as: everything you wanted to know about aliens but were afraid to ask (a scientist).'
The class covers everything from psychological and sociological factors behind alien abduction claims to the scientific search for extraterrestrial life.
Love, Lust, and Relationships -- Syracuse
This Syracuse University course offered every year helps students understand the complexities of romantic relationships.
They study the roots of attraction, as well as 'irresolvable conflict across a variety of social contexts,' according to the course description.
Feminist Perspectives: Politicizing Beyoncé -- Rutgers
A veritable Joan of Arc for our times, Beyoncé's political influence is rarely under the spotlight. This Rutgers course hopes to change that.
'On the surface, she might deploy messages about race, gender, class, and sexuality that appear conservative in relation to social norms, but during this course we will ask: how does she also challenge our very understanding of these categories? How does Beyoncé push the boundaries of these categories to make space for and embrace other perhaps more 'deviant' bodies, desires, and/or politics?' a course description states.
The course attempts to position Beyoncé as a progressive, feminist, and queer figure through examination of her music taken together with readings on political issues, both contemporary and historical.
Masculinity, Mateship, and Men's Lives (What Do Men Want?) -- University of Sydney
This distinctly Australian course at the University of Sydney turns 'traditional' gender studies around.
'From a traditional focus on femininity in gender studies, it is increasingly clear that masculinity has undergone tremendous changes in the last several decades,' a course description notes.
The course explores masculinity and men's changing roles in workplaces, the home, and broader society.
Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Behaviour -- Michigan State
Michigan State University is pushing its zombie course hard, with a dedicated website and videos.
The course asks the big questions, 'Why do some survive and others don't? What are the implications for planning, preparedness, and disaster management?'
The fully online course nevertheless tries to involve students with practical challenges: 'Students in survival groups will face multiple challenges and tasks as they attempt to survive the catastrophic event, escape death, and preserve the future of civilisation. For the ability to survive ultimately rests not with the individual but the group.'
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology -- Kansas State
In this Kansas State University course taught by Dr. Michael Wesch, students are divided into groups of colonizers and indigenous peoples in a world simulation. They compete for resources represented by marshmallows, rubber bands, and straws, with blowguns as weapons, reports The New York Times.
The final exam asks just one question: Why are you here?
The Art of Walking -- Centre College
On non-walk days, students discuss readings about walking and works by philosophers Immanuel Kant and Martin Heidegger.
'Oh, Look, a Chicken!' Embracing Distraction as a Way of Knowing -- Belmont University
In this Belmont University course, students get to doodle while listening to music and write reflections about how they overcame distractions to accomplish their original intentions.
Here's the course description: 'Those who choose this course will be invited to examine ways of knowing through embracing (little ants, carrying a morsel of food across the table) what it means to be a distracted (I smell bacon, what time is it? I'm hungry) learner as well as (OMG -- I get to go to the beach this summer -- warm sand under my feet) developing an awareness (I love snow caps -- little dark chocolate drops with white candy thingies on them) of one's senses.'
Philosophy and 'Star Trek' -- Georgetown
Trekkies have long claimed 'Star Trek' was more than just a TV show (and blockbuster movie series), and now they have the chance to prove it.
'What better way, then, to do philosophy, but to watch 'Star Trek,' read philosophy and hash it all out in class (and on Blackboard)? That's the plan,' Associate Professor Linda Wetzel writes.
Porn Studies: An Introduction to Cultures of Sexual Representation -- York University
At York University, this course is exactly what it says it is. The course looks at visual, print, online, and other materials, taking an 'interdisciplinary and cultural studies approach' to analyse porn.
'Studies in porn investigate important debates, texts and moments in the contemporary period and analyses representative samples from mainstream, queer, lesbian and gay, trans, and feminist canons of porn,' the course guide states.
There's a warning though: 'This course includes very explicit sexual content, and all such materials are examinable.'
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