Arts Area Goals

GenEd Arts courses develop artistic literacy. Courses may be centered on one of the arts (e.g. dance, fine arts, music), may be interdisciplinary in nature (e.g. creative writing and theater, film and dance), or may address larger themes (e.g. creativity, the arts and political statement, technology and the arts), but all Arts courses make some connection to other perspectives, disciplines, or subject areas.

Gen Ed Arts courses are intended to teach students how to:

  • Experience and respond to a work of art or creative process;
  • Recognize and interpret a work of art or creative process in a societal, historical or cultural context;
  • Describe or evaluate a work of art or creative process using appropriate terminology;
  • Demonstrate “appreciation” for the value of art in our lives and society; and
  • Function as a member of an audience.


Art in Cultural Context

ARABIC 0871, HEBREW 0871, KOREAN 0871, RUSSIAN 0871
View the arts as an expression of cultural identity as it occurs across the globe. Each semester, we will focus on a particular world region or country, including but not limited to Russia, Japan, and Latin America. The exploration of cultural identity begins with an overview of the region or country’s historical and religious influences and then studies the culture’s arts, including the visual arts (painting, sculpture), musical traditions, literature (folktales, national mythology), the vernacular arts (crafts, storytelling), film and theater. You will take field trips or have experiences that will allow you to encounter the region’s arts firsthand, and to develop a blended understanding of a people’s cultural identity and the larger world.

The Art of Acting

THEATER 0825, 0925
Whether you have some or no experience in theater, this course will open new doors and provide a firm understanding of the actor’s craft. We will start with improvisatory exercises to explore basic principles of acting, which will help you expand their expressive capabilities, imagination and spontaneity, and give you greater confidence on stage and in front of people. At the same time, you will use your growing knowledge of the craft to analyze the work of actors on stage and film. Finally, you will work on assigned scenes from dramatic literature, giving you the basic tools of text analysis, the principal tool with which an actor figures out a text.

The Art of Listening

MUSIC STUDIES 0802, 0902
Are you an active or passive listener? What kind of music do you enjoy? How do you compare different musical styles, and what qualities make one performance different from another? Be challenged to rethink your entire conception of music by focusing on how to listen to music to deepen your appreciation of what you are hearing, and to ponder the importance of music in your life and to society. You will not be required to become a performer yourself, but you will become a more discriminating consumer of music through attendance at live concerts in the local area, by observation of in-class performances, rehearsals, and music lessons, and through guided listening exercises in and outside of class. Repertoire selected from Classical, Jazz, Broadway, and World Music will engage your intellectual and emotional response as a concert-goer, listener, researcher, critic, and communicator.

Arts of the Western World: The Visual Experience


Philadelphia has extraordinary resources in the arts. This course will give you direct exposure to the visual arts, and help you understand their relationship with music, dance, theater, and the other artistic expressions that also form our heritage. Through visits to museums and performances, guest speakers, lectures, films and discussions, you will be introduced to the great monuments and the major movements that place the visual arts of the western world in a broad cultural framework. You will learn about the concepts that connect the progression of ideas in artistic communication and expression from the ancient world to modern times.

Creative Acts

ENGLISH 0826, 0926
This course focuses on the art of writing, finding one’s voice, and writing for different genres. In a small classroom setting, you will work with the faculty member and other students to improve your writing through work-shopping. Other readings will allow you to develop your craft. By the end of the semester, you will produce a portfolio of your work.

The Creative Spirit: A Multidisciplinary View

THEATER 0807, 0907
Human is the animal who creates, but why and how? Whether we are making art or making dinner, creativity ultimately makes a difference in our lives and the lives of others. In this course we will view creativity through the lens of the arts and explore the broader manifestations of the creative spirit in a variety of related fields and disciplines. Students will learn the fundamental concepts of creativity and engage with artists, performers and working professionals exploring the central role creativity plays in their work. Explore your creativity in weekly hands-on group sessions augmented by periodic field visits to see performances, concerts, galleries, etc. Be creative, follow your bliss and develop a passion for life-long learning!

The Dramatic Imagination: The Performing Arts in Society

Theatre, dance, and opera–our imaginations give us the natural ability to accept the make-believe worlds they create on stage. While it is the imagination that ultimately allows us to enjoy the performing arts, imagination also plays a role in creating these worlds. Take advantage of our rich local arts community as you experience live performances in Philadelphia! We will use our imaginative capacities to deepen our own experience, while learning about the value of the arts, the controversies surrounding them, and differences in people’s perceptions of the performing arts as compared to other forms of entertainment.

Exploring Music

Why do we enjoy listening to music? Besides our own enjoyment of it, what is the purpose of music—not only for us today, but also throughout history? What is so important to humans about music that it exists in every culture on earth, regardless of time or place? How has Western music developed over the centuries? What does music tell us about ourselves? What words should you use to describe the music you are hearing? Explore these and other questions while you are actively involved, participating in listening exercises, viewing video recordings of concerts, operas, ballets, films, and staged productions, and attending at least one live concert.

The Future of Your TV

What is the future of your TV; what kind of programming will you see in the next two years? What role will blogs, vlogs, podcasts, YouTube and other social networks have in transforming television into a medium where consumers drive content? Television is not going away but how, where and when we interact with it is changing. In large lecture you will learn about these changes; in small labs, you will take the driver seat as creator of content. Your assignment: based on careful analysis of readings, lectures and interactions with professionals, determine how you will tell a story that will reach an audience you define.

Greek Theater & Society

Through close readings of surviving texts, through viewings of modern productions of ancient theatrical works, and through your own recreations of Greek performative media, we will examine and experience ancient Greek drama both as a product of its own historical period and as a living art form. We will ask fundamental questions about the nature and purpose of theater in the ancient world: is this art just entertainment or does it engage and comment on the problems of Athens? How and why did this society invent theater in the Western world? We will also investigate the relationship of Greek drama to the modern world: why do new versions of plays about Oedipus, Antigone and Dionysus keep popping up in places as diverse as New York, Utah, South Africa and China? How can ancient drama be staged now in a way that is both responsible to the surviving texts and stimulating to contemporary audiences?

History of Art in Rome (Rome campus only)

Weekly class lectures and on-site visits provide a survey of Roman art from the Etruscan through the Baroque periods, and therefore, from the founding of the ancient city in the 8th century B.C. to circa 1700. Students study each period’s art and architecture and define its place within the general context of Roman civilization. Rome’s position as both capital of the ancient empire and of the Western Latin Church has earned her the well-recognized sobriquet, Eternal City. Consequently, students confront how the idea of Rome had bearing upon the formation of its art and architecture within the chronological context. The course as a whole can be considered an introduction to art history in the field, as each week the class visits a historical site or museum in order to reconstruct through living examples the artistic fabric of the city.

Jazz Century in America

DANCE 0806
What is jazz? Students will explore its roots and reinventions in Ragtime, Hot Jazz, Blues, Swing, Bebop, Free Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, and Hip Hop throughout the 20th century in America. We’ll experience its manifestations across media, screening dance films, listening to music, viewing visual art works, and reading poetry. Then we’ll move into the studio to experience first-hand its rhythms, moods, dynamics, creative expression and improvisation. A key theme will be how the individual and the collective nurture each other in jazz. Intellectually, we’ll examine the historical and social backdrop and analyze the essential components of jazz.

The Meaning of the Arts

PHILOSOPHY 0847, 0947
As we blend philosophical inquiry into the nature of several of the arts and the roles they play in society with analyses of particular artistic practices, we shall critically examine questions like these: Is the main goal of art to imitate or represent the world? If so, do painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, movies, music, dance, theater, performance art, literature, handicrafts, fashion, bodily ornamentation and the like, provide knowledge about ourselves and the world around us? What is—or should be—the relationship between art and some of the other great domains of human thought, action, and concerns such as religion or the realm of social and political relations, especially matters concerning gender, sexuality, class, race, morality, and community? Do the arts or artistic institutions have specific social functions? For example, is there a connection between museums, imperialism, and nationalism? Are films embedded in networks of commodity production? Are there specifically urban or global dimension to these questions?

Philadelphia Arts & Culture

What and where is the real Philadelphia? How can we get past the clichés to better understand and experience the city’s historic and legendary sense of itself? For more than three centuries, Philadelphia’s unique identity has been defined and redefined by a prodigious and prolific creative community: painters, sculptors, writers, performers, architects, planners, thinkers, and more. We’ll explore Philadelphia’s evolving sense of itself through a broad range of examples of creative works from the 17th through the 20th centuries. And through this prism of expression, and the institutions that present and protect it, we’ll develop a deep understanding of Philadelphia as one of the nation’s most creative cities.

Shakespeare at the Movies

ENGLISH 0822, 0922
Love and political ambition and violence and evil and laughter and wit and racial antagonism and the battle between the sexes and the joy and misery of being human–Shakespeare’s plays are about all of that. Discover how they work in film and video. Learn to read films and understand what actors, directors, composers, set designers; cinematographers, etc. do to bring the bard’s plays to life. We will view Merchant of Venice, Richard III, Othello, Much Ado about Nothing, and Romeo and Juliet and study how these plays got from the page to the screen. We will look at actors of the present day – Pacino, McKellen, Hopkins, Hoskins, Fishburne, Branagh, Thompson, DiCaprio, Danes, etc. and also at giants of the past, like Laurence Olivier, to see how actors create their roles. This course includes group work in reviewing film techniques, innovative writing instruction, and an introduction to research. You will have access to whole plays and to selected clips streamed to your computer.

Shakespeare and Music

What is it about the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon? From the concert hall to the stage and silver screen, no other author’s works have inspired more adaptations than those of William Shakespeare. In this new century, as the “cult of originality” continues to grow at an exponential rate and celebrity is sought as an end in itself (see Hilton, Paris), why have the works of a man whose very identity is shrouded in mystery remained so popular? This course will explore Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, and their adaptation by composers and choreographers. Students will then get a chance to “bend the Bard” on their own!

Sacred Space

Where do people go to communicate with the divine? Explore with us where and how people of the many different cultures of the Greco-Roman world communicated with their gods. Why are graves and groves considered sacred space? When is a painting or sculpture considered sacred? Whom do the gods allow to enter a sacred building? Can a song be a prayer or a curse? How can dance sway the gods? Why do gods love processions and the smell of burning animals? The journey through sacred space in Greco-Roman antiquity will engage your senses and your intellect, and will reveal a mindset both ancient and new.

Shall We Dance: Dance as Narrative in American Film

DANCE 0831, 0931
Investigate the role dance plays and has played in informing and acknowledging social trends in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Connections are made between dance and immigration, industry, politics, fashion, social change, class and gender, nationalism, education and popular culture. Dance both perpetuates and challenges social and cultural issues of power, class, gender, sexual orientation, and age, and acts as a mirror of our society. We will study popular perceptions of dance, dance in Hollywood, and dance as a reflection of social change, dance as social ritual, dance and contemporary notions of the “Impossible Body.” Students will learn through movement exercises, dance classes, lecture, discussion and film/videotape viewing.

Transnational Cinema

As he recently commented on the sad state of globalized affairs in which “the cosmopolitanism of international filmmaking is matched by the parochialism of American film culture,” New York Times film critic A.O. Scott asked, “The whole world is watching, why aren’t Americans?” This course will use Scott’s question as a point of departure to investigate the ostensible reasons why Americans, or in our case, Philadelphians, aren’t watching “transnational cinema”– international films that gain distribution outside of their country of production, and that depict transnational movements of people, capital, and social values. Are transnational films playing at a theatre near you? Perhaps they are, but if not, why not? Which “foreign films” are allowed to cross the border into our country? How, when, and where do we get to “see the world” and why does that matter in today’s globalized, interconnected world? Learn ‘how to see the world”– not as a one-dimensional quaint or exotic representation of the “other”– but instead through the ways in which these films engage critical contemporary issues of nation, transnation, and globalization in an increasingly interconnected transnational public sphere.

World Musics & Cultures

MUSIC STUDIES 0809, 0909
Have you ever wondered why musical compositions from different parts of the world sound so dissimilar? Why does Japanese music employ silence as a structural element and Chinese melodies use only five notes? Discover how an artist’s creative imagination is molded by the cultural values of the society at large. Listen to guest musicians demonstrate different styles of playing and attend a live concert. Examine folk, art and popular music from around the world and discuss the wonderful and strange sounds that are produced.

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