With registration for fall 2004 classes underway, many students have already selected their course load. However, if you couldn’t get into Studio Art 151, “Introduction to Digital Art,” you may be at a loss as to what other classes are available yet unique and set apart from, say, an introductory biology course. The Undergraduate Course Description Handbook lists courses by department and gives basic information – title, professor and brief description.Titles range from the simple “Linear Algebra” to the more mysterious “My Self, Soul and Psyche.” A creative title can lure a student who normally would not take the class into deciding to add it to their schedule. While titles may be spiced up to increase interest, their tie to the actual course material is always relevant and of utmost importance. A popular example of these “spicy titles” is professor Sarah Higley’s course “Alien Sex” – offered in the spring – which was filled to its limit this past semester.Another popular course is “Bruce Springsteen’s America,” which is offered on Monday and Wednesday from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. by professor Robert Westbrook. The course discusses postwar issues such as the National Socialist State, the Holocaust and Israel’s efforts to rebuild and how Springsteen’s music has reflected those issues. Westbrook hopes students will walk away with an understanding of how society has been shaped, or rather, misshaped, by popular music. “I was also, in no small measure, moved to offer the course by the opportunity it presents to work cooperatively with my colleague Daniel Borus, who has pioneered this sort of thing in our department with his fine courses on “Bob Dylan’s America,” Westbrook said. “Bob Dylan’s America” and “Motown” – both taught by Borus – are grouped with “Bruce Springsteen’s America” under the title of “Music-Made America” courses.Another course that caught my eye is titled “Mutilated Bodies, Mutilated Discourse,” offered on Tuesday and Thursday from 3:25 p.m. to 4:40 p.m. and taught by French professor Cilas Kemedjio. As a new class, Kemedjio states the inspiration behind it, “I was first inspired to teach such a course from my readings in African and Caribbean literatures, especially a book by Maryse Conde – “Who Slashed Celanire’s Throat.” The fact that it is cross-listed with the French, African American Studies and Women’s Studies departments, alone, shows that the course creates bonds around a controversial issue. The class, taught in English, discusses the image of the African body in Western societies – France and the United States of America – and their obsession with it. “[It’s] an obsession that has been rekindled with the debate on globalization,” Kemedjio said. “The global civil society has mostly been at the forefront of what I can only call a pathological display of the African body on the world scene.” Within that context, the issue of female excision and other genital mutilations will be linked to politics. “The feminist perception of the body, I would argue in this course, is undermined by the unwilling alliance between the feminist discourse and right wing ideologies as far as the mutilated body of the African girl or woman comes into view,” Kemedjio explained. The “mutilated discourse” part of the title refers to the voice of African feminists on the subject of excision. Students will explore the “mutilated discourse” through multiple readings from African, French and North American writers.Religion professor Emil Homerin got his inspiration for his class, “Speaking Stones,” from a former job. Homerin used to give tours of Mt. Hope Cemetery for UR students. “It occurred to me that this could turn into a very hands-on course with original research both in the cemetery and in archives,” Homerin explained. The archives he speaks of are Rochester’s Rundel Library and UR’s Rarebooks collection in Rush Rhees. Students are required to research gravestones and funerary architecture and write papers showing their findings. The first project focuses on identifying and analyzing the physical decorations adorning particular stones. The second project asks for more description of the entire gravestone and the history behind it.The course also examines the issues of death and remembrance. “I hope that students come away from the course with a better idea of what others have faced in the past with the death of a loved one, and a bit of preparation when they, too, face this inevitability of the human condition,” Homerin said of his goals for the course. “Speaking Stones” is offered on Thursday from 2 p.m. to 4:40 p.m.German professor Sue Gustafson is also excited to offer her course in comparative literature titled “Monsters, Ghosts and Aliens: From Schiller to Stephen King.” Her research in German literature led her to the German macabre author E.T.A. Hoffmann, who shares many similarities with Edgar Allen Poe. Comparing the two and thinking about their relation to the horror genre, Gustafson began to construct a course around the novels of the horror genre as well as several films. The foundation of the horror genre is first laid out and then built upon with discussion. “We also explore how different political, social, psychological and cultural anxieties manifest themselves in or get critiqued through the monsters, ghosts and aliens we create,” Gustafson explained.Gustafson emphasizes the importance of having a connection with her students, “in the class students write about horror topics, storiesand films that they choose, because I believe that passion is the key to good writing.”Many students will be excited to see best-selling author Stephen King on the reading list. “We look at how he masterfully constructs his novel, “The Shining” and how beautifully Kubrick transforms, accentuates and visualizes King’s story in film,” Gustafson said. “And secretly – or not so secretly – I have to admit the class is fun to teach and I hope that students who take the course have fun, too.”These classes were selected for their interesting and attention-grabbing titles. There are other interesting classes in that same course book, waiting to be found by the eager student. Next time you go through the course book, follow up on those titles you find interesting by visiting the course homepage or contacting the professor – it just may change the future of your academic career.Borchardt can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
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