College Courses

College Courses deal with important questions about human nature and culture, and our relation to the natural world, to technology, and to our own work.

In College Courses, students explore significant books, works of art, and other expressions of the human spirit, past and present, Western and non-Western. Because College Courses are interdisciplinary and integrative, they expose students to different instructors, disciplinary approaches, and major research techniques in order to illuminate a text, a human dilemma, or a major institution from many directions. Students thus enrich their comprehension of the topic, and enhance their ability to think from multiple perspectives. They also develop an awareness of the connections among bodies of knowledge by crossing the borders that separate disciplines, and by examining relations among diverse works and across cultures and centuries.

Because of the foundational concerns of the College Courses, students gain a framework of knowledge and questions that can help orient and integrate their other studies at Vassar. Freshmen may find these courses especially valuable because they introduce a variety of disciplines and provide the broad historical and cultural perspectives for later, more specialized courses. Sophomores and juniors may wish to take a College Course involving their major field in order to discover how it relates to other disciplines. Seniors may find the courses useful as a way of integrating their coursework and reflecting on critical issues.

101a. Civilization in Question: Religion and War (1)

Religious ideology and rhetoric play a significant role in violent conflict in the modern period. This is a phenomenon that we are only now coming to appreciate fully. In this course we examine the central religious issues that have been at the forefront of modern conflicts. We consider some of the ways that religious terminology, symbolism, and myth have been employed as a way of marking difference and setting identity boundaries from the First World War to the current “War on Terror”. Mr. Lachter. (Religion; Jewish Studies).

Open to all classes.

Two 75-minute lecture periods and one 50-minute discussion section.

382b. Death (1)

(Same as Philosophy 382) An interdisciplinary study of varied responses to death by modern Continental philosophers and American writers. A primary concern of the course is how philosophy and literature converge and diverge as distinctive ways of knowing. The course includes comparative studies of Kierkegaard and Flannery O’Connor, Heidegger and Stephen Crane, Merleau-Ponty and Wallace Stevens, Nietzsche and Hemingway. Mr. Bergon, Ms. Borradori.

One 3-hour course.

Prerequisites: Two 200-level courses in literature and/or philosophy.