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Bard College Catalogue 2020-21
Interdisciplinary Curricular Initiatives
Big Ideas courses are designed by two or more faculty members with expertise in different disciplines and engage with more than one distribution area (thereby earning credit in those two distributional areas with a single course). Students are limited to one Big Ideas course per semester.
Getting Schooled in America
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
Through readings, screenings, and guest lectures, the class considers how schooling is influenced by place, politics, and personal identity; and what is wrong/right with school in America.
Chernobyl: The Meaning of Man-Made Disaster
In April 1986, the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, suffered a major technical problem leading to a meltdown in the reactor core. The radiation release and ensuing clean-up operation required Soviet authorities to evacuate a large local region, affecting millions of people. The region remains mostly uninhabited. Through readings, lectures, and lab sessions, this course explores the issue of nuclear power, what led to the accident, the authorities' response to it, and the environmental and social impacts on the region since that time.
Games at Work: Participation, Procedure, and Play
Designed for students in the Lower College, the course is an intensive, interdisciplinary investigation of games and their pervasive role in contemporary life. What constitutes a game? Why do people play them? What makes digital games different from nondigital games? How have game-like incentive systems and other forms of "gamification" infused nongame contexts, such as social media, fine art, democracy, education, war, and the modern workplace? Readings, screenings, and game play augment and inform class investigations of these questions.
Causes and Consequences of Migration in the Global Economy
The United States is the product of waves of migration and the current host to multiple categories of migrants: refugees, investors, and skilled and unskilled workers. Migrants are the source of political controversy, feeding xenophobic panics even while playing a major role in the economy. This course combines economic analysis of the motivation for and impact of migration with analysis of the social and political ramifications.
Students in the course use the concept of utopia to map out the ways men and women have sought to transform the spatial, psychic, and social landscapes they inhabited. Projects studied range from early industrial colonies, socialist utopias, Christian communities, and anarchist utopias to settlement housing, shopping malls, and factories. In addition to reading and writing assignments, students engage with creative designs, building toward a final exhibition of design projects for future utopias.
Alchemy: From Magic to Science
Isaac Newton, an active alchemist, translated the Latin text that set out his own basic conviction: “That which is below is like that which is above, and that which is above is like that which is below.” Alchemy asserts that all elements and forces of the universe are related, and that human beings are capable of understanding and influencing their relationship to one another. Far from being considered an antiquated relic, the ideas and allegories expressed in alchemy continue to influence global contemporary culture. This course explores the history of alchemy in thought, practice, and art.
Evolution and Religion
Evolution, understood as a perspective that accounts for changes of forms of life over time, has been explored by philosophical and religious systems since antiquity. This course investigates both the scientific and religious issues in the understanding of evolution.
Art, Literature, and Politics in Transition
The so-called triumph of Western-style capitalism and liberal democracy, frequently represented by the fall of the Berlin Wall, meant that there would be no more contestation: a single ideology would now dominate the world. But is this true? Is the current moment, with its re-emergence of aggressive nationalism, authoritarian government, and threat to plurality, another turning point? This course maps connections between post-1989 practices and their wider historical implications.
Calderwood Seminars are designed to help students think about how to translate their discipline (e.g. art history, biology, literature) to nonspecialists through different forms of public writing. Depending on the major, public writing might include policy papers, book reviews, blog posts, exhibition catalog entries, grant reports, or editorials. Look for “Designated: Calderwood Seminar” throughout program course descriptions.
Common CoursesThis suite of team-taught multidisciplinary courses was created in response to the existential challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. Designed primarily for first-year students, the courses engage with themes and questions of the contemporary moment. The courses, which allow for instruction in person and/or online, give students the opportunity to fulfill two distribution requirements with one 4-credit class. Common Course clusters include the following.
CC 101 A-F
In his essay “On Fairy-Stories,” J. R. R. Tolkien responds to accusations that fantasy constitutes an irresponsible “escapist” flight from reality. Comparing the dreary bridge at Bletchley Railway Station in England to the rainbow bridge Bifröst in Old Norse myth, he asks “whether railway engineers, if they had been brought up on more fantasy, might not have done better with all their abundant means than they commonly do.” This course explores the relation between imagination and reality by considering counterfactual histories, fantastical literary works, and utopias or dystopias. To what extent is our experience of the “real world” (including real crises, like the current coronavirus epidemic) mediated by imagined ones? How do alternate worlds help us to reimagine ourselves as we are? Sections of the course include: H. G. Wells and the Discovery of the Future, The Disaster Has Already Happened, Utopia and Dystopia in Modern Russia, The Language of Alternate Worlds, Visitors from the Otherworld, and What If?
The Making of Citizens: Local, National, Global
CC 102 A-F
This course draws on different disciplinary approaches to interrogate and analyze the concept of citizenship. Students are encouraged to think about how citizenship emerges, exists, and differs at the local, national, and global levels, and what forms of participation are necessary to sustain meaningful citizenship for themselves and others.
Designing for Immediate Futures
CC 103 A-D
This course invites students to approach design as a tool for reflecting on the existing worlds in which we find ourselves and as a means to rethink them and invent new ones. How might we live together in the future and why? In the spirit of critique and experimentation, students engage in visual projects and design practices, and study the history of the ways the spaces around us have been constructed and understood.
Epidemics and Society
What do epidemics tell us about microbes, markets, and ourselves? This course covers the science and art of protecting the health of populations and the social, political, philosophical, and cultural implications of public health catastrophes. Discussion and lab sections include The Politics and Human Rights Aspects of Epidemics; Philosophy, Literature and Art Concerning Epidemics; The Economic Aspects of Epidemics; Art and Epidemics; and Biology of Epidemics.
Resilience, Survival, and Extinction
How do individuals, species, languages, and cultures survive, show resilience, and become extinct? The course introduces methods of biological analysis and cultural interpretation that explore the many ways we understand resilience, survival, and extinction. It focuses on the practical, creative forms of resilience developed by humans and animals. Also addressed is the idea of evolution and the nature of change in human and natural history, including widespread biodiversity loss, from the perspective of the sciences and humanities. Discussion and lab sections include: Literary Analysis Discussion, Practicing Art Studio, Laboratory Science, and Social Analysis Discussion.
Courage to Be Seminars
While we tend to value courage—Hannah Arendt even called it the highest political virtue—historically the concept has veered from the noble to the dangerous. From Antigone to suicide bombers, courage has been construed as heroic and/or dangerously solipsistic. This series of seminars asks the question: What is the practice of courageous action in the 21st century? Look for “Designated: Courage to Be Seminar” throughout program course descriptions.
Engaged Liberal Arts and Sciences
Engaged Liberal Arts and Sciences courses are designed to link academic work and critical thinking skills from the classroom with civic and other forms of engagement activities. Look for “Designated: ELAS Course” throughout all program course descriptions.
Hate Studies InitiativeHate Studies Initiative (HSI) courses examine the human capacity to define, and then dehumanize or demonize, an ‘other,’ and the processes which inform and give expression to, or can curtail, control, or combat, that capacity. Look for “Designated: HSI Course” throughout program course descriptions.
Look for “Designated: Migration Initiative” throughout all program course descriptions.
These courses introduce forms of analysis and modes of thinking that represent, process, and convey information. These approaches increasingly mediate our experience of the world, and might include coding, statistical analysis, visual data analysis, and the analysis of geographic or spatial information.
Thinking Animals Initiative
Participating faculty periodically offer a set of linked courses that introduce students to ways of thinking about animals that are both grounded in particular disciplines and encouraging of interdisciplinary connections. Look for “Designated: Thinking Animals Initiative” throughout program course descriptions.
What Is Religion?These 1-credit courses meet once a week for five weeks.
What Is Christianity?
Christianity is the largest religion presently practiced in the world, and yet it is widely misunderstood. One reason for a lack of critical understanding is that Christianity has evolved along the lines of several different systems of religion over time. In this course, each of these major generative systems is identified and analyzed.
What Is the Bible?
The Bible is still the best-selling book in the world and its influence on cultures throughout the world is unprecedented. Why is this collection of ancient sacred texts so important even in this growing secular environment? Why and when was it written and by whom? How do the stories and narratives of the Bible continue to resonate with every generation?
What Is Fundamentalism?
Fundamentalism is frequently confused with literalism in general, or with traditional or militant forms of faith. Those intellectual mistakes frequently lead to bad social policy. Fundamentals came to be asserted in the United States during the 19th century as part of a philosophical response to two basic religious challenges: a historical reading of the New Testament, which was felt to undermine dogma; and a scientific reading of the universe, which was felt to undermine faith. Seeing how American intellectuals responded to those challenges opens fundamentalism up to our understanding.
What Is Religion: Denominations of the Christian Faith
Christianity is the largest religion in the world, and its growth can be attributed to the church’s capacity to mutate and adapt to a changing world. Over the past two millenniums, many sects and denominations have emerged, each with a divergent understanding of Jesus and of what it means to be a Christian. These differences have often resulted in war, political and economic upheaval, and colonization. The course offers a historical, theological, and liturgical exploration of the complex Christian church.
What Is the Apocalypse?
Human history will close with a thousand years (a millennium) of utopia. That promise, voiced in the last book of the New Testament (Apocalypse 20:3-4), has been incorporated within modern forms of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In all three, however, millennialism today is more threat than promise, and has emerged with programs of violent action that the class seeks to understand.
Who Are the Women of the Bible?
Women played significant roles in the biblical narratives and stories of Israel and Jesus, yet not much attention has been paid to them. Who are they and what contributions did they make to these ancient texts? Why have their stories often been ignored, suppressed, or misinterpreted? How are they relevant to today’s culture and what can we learn from them in this age of feminism? This course addresses these and other questions.