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Recent Courses

Physical Geology (GEOL 201)

You likely do not notice the landscapes that surround you, and for you a rock may be simply that, a rock. We will learn that the landscapes we see record remarkable stories. Likewise, we will see that all rocks are not the same and that a few simple observations can unlock the fascinating stories they tell. We will learn the language of geology, and its vocabulary and grammar will allow you to read the Earth. You will never again look at the Earth (or a rock) the same way (I guarantee it)!

We will learn how the Earth (or any planet) works: what its building materials are; how the crust of the Earth deforms; how mountains are formed; what processes take place in the Earth’s interior; why volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur; how to understand the vast age of the Earth; and how we can understand the Earth with the unifying theory of plate tectonics. We will learn that everything on the surface of the Earth has come from its interior, including the material from which you are made. This course will open new worlds of wonder, and will also give you the knowledge to make informed decisions about important current public policy debates, such as global warming or hydraulic fracturing “fracking”.

Introduction to Geology (GEOL 102)

The Earth is the planet on which we live. Understanding how it works is essential for living in harmony with it and for assessing many of the major public policy debates of the modern world. In addition, the landscape around us has been shaped by geological processes, and understanding geology will give you an enhanced appreciation of the world you see every day. You might think of the content of this course as an “user's manual” for the Earth, the place that sustains your life.

Broadly speaking, we will be divided into four major areas: 1) What is the Earth made of, how do igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks form and what do they tell us about the Earth?; 2) How does the Earth’s crust deform, what are the interior process of the Earth, and how do we understand the Earth with the unifying theory of plate tectonics?; 3) How do we understand the vast expanse of geologic time and what has the history of the Earth been?; and 4) What processes have shaped the surface of the Earth?

Classical and Medieval Art (ART 211)

This course examines Western art—painting, sculpture and architecture—from the earliest Paleolithic cave paintings to the dawn of the Renaissance in the 14th century. We will talk about the changing style--the overall appearance of art--during this time, learning to recognize art from different periods and cultures. We will learn to do a formal analysis of art, assessing the use of visual elements and principles of design that contribute to the appearance, impact and meaning of a work of art. However, the focus of the course will be on interpreting art in its social, cultural and political context. We will use art as a “window” into the cultures that produced it, and we will use our knowledge of these cultures to amplify our understanding of their art.

The historical period covered in this course saw major developments in Western civilization and we will understand the art of this period in terms of these developments: 1) the evolution of social organization from migrating hunting and gathering, to the establishment of small towns, larger city states and finally empires; 2) changing economic organization, with division of labor possible in larger city states, and changing modes of labor from gang slavery in the Ancient and Classical worlds to family-based economic units (serfdom) in the Medieval period; 3) the emergence of different models of governmental organization, from Greek democracy and the Roman Republic to empires with absolute rulers (e.g., the Roman Empire) to the hereditary kingdoms of Medieval Europe; 4) changing notions of gender, for example the association of women with nature—either positively in fertility cults or pejoratively in being seen as having rationality overwhelmed by “animal instincts” such as lust and emotions; 5) changing notions of sexuality and the body, from the Greek and Roman celebration of the body as a source of beauty and pleasure to the Medieval Christian view of the body as a source of sin and corruption; 6) notions of “otherness”, for instance in the negative image created by the Greeks and the Romans of the “barbarians” outside their borders or in Christian Europe’s negative construction of Arabs and Islam in the Medieval period; 7) the rise of the World’s major religions—the polytheistic religions of the Ancient world (often based on nature gods), of Greece and Rome, and of Hinduism; the monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; as well as Buddhism, which has no god; and 8) religious divisions that continue to be important in Western civilization, such as the division of Christianity into East (Orthodox) and West (Catholic) or the conflict between Christianity and Islam. Because much of the art we will consider in this course is religious art (religious institutions and the state were the two principle patrons of art during this early period; private art patronage only becomes significant in the Renaissance), we will necessarily have to become conversant with the major religions in order to understand their art.

Furthermore, many aspects of contemporary American culture have their roots in this early time period. Our democratic republic was based on the governmental views of the Greeks and the Romans, our city designs and urban planning also go back to Greece and Rome, as do many of our architectural methods and styles. The Greek temple form is arguably the most influential architectural form in the West. American sports culture, which arose in the late 19th c. (the Olympics were only re-instituted in 1896 after having been banned in 394 AD by the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius, who saw them as part of “pagan” culture) is directly based on the Greek celebration of the male body. Athletes in Greece had the same larger than life status as do contemporary American athletes, and modern stadium design is based on the Roman Colosseum, which itself comes from the Greek theater form. The war on terror and the current tension between the Christian West and the Islamic Arab world has a long history, beginning in the Medieval period. Thus, while we will be learning about the art of the Ancient world, the Classical World and the Medieval World, we will also be learning about the origins of our own culture and about the background to many contemporary issues, such as the disparate ways of understanding the world—by observation, science and reason (begun by the Greeks), or by faith and religious doctrine (as in Medieval Europe).

Renaissance and Baroque Art (ART 212)

This course looks at Western art from the 14th through the 18th century. This period, from 1300 to 1800, encompasses many important events in Western history, including: the Renaissance, an explosion of knowledge, culture and the arts; the rise of a wealthy middle class of merchants who became patrons of the arts; the assemblage of the major modern states of Europe, both by war and by strategic marriages, including Spain, France, and England; the voyages of discovery and the formation of overseas empires, including in the New World; the consolidation of Papal power in Italy and lavish spending by aristocratic Popes in Rome, who were major patrons of the arts; the Protestant Reformation in Germany and the Netherlands that challenged the authority of the Catholic Church; the Counter-Reformation in response, including the Inquisition, as a reassertion of Catholic orthodoxy; the invention of printing and the consequent information revolution; the rise of capitalism; the rise of modern science and the technological revolution of coal, iron and steam; the Enlightenment, an intellectual revolution; and finally the revolutions brought about by political uprisings in France and by war in the English colonies in North America. This period of time thus sets the stage for the modern world.

We will understand the art of the Renaissance and of the Baroque Period in the social, cultural and political context of these events. We will use this art as a means to understand the societies which produced it, and we will use our knowledge of these societies to amplify our understanding of their art. There are also two historical and cultural themes—both highly relevant to our contemporary world—that we will pursue as we study Renaissance and Baroque art: 1) How do we understand the world—by observation, reason and science, or by faith and religious doctrine—and how do we reconcile the two? And 2) What do Europeans in the Renaissance think about the “others” they encountered as they explored the World, how is this related to the construction of racial categories, and to what extent was this rooted in the long-standing demonization of Islam and Arabs by European Christians in the Middle Ages? That is, the art we will examine in this course and what it tells us about the cultures that produced it, are important for understanding our current world.

Finally, the art of the Renaissance and of the Baroque Period had an enormous impact on all subsequent art. Thus, any understanding of modern art, for instance, would be impoverished without the art historical background we will develop in this course.