The Horror Film in Context (Bowdoin)
I love scary movies – especially bad ones (Chopping Mall, anyone?) That’s why I wish Bowdoin’s course “The Horror Film in Context” was offered as a graduate class at Iowa State.
It’s not about the psyche of Freddy and Jason, however – students taking the class can expect to discuss why society is infatuated with horror movies and death in general.
Simpsons and Philosophy (Cal-Berkeley)
I’m sure my husband is considering enrolling at the University of California at Berkeley as we speak, just to take “Simpsons and Philosophy.” You’ll need to know more than Simpsons trivia – the class takes an in-depth look at how the long-running cartoon depicts social issues such as racism and politics. Passing the class, which includes writing a 22-minute show for the final exam, earns students two credits.
Maple Syrup – The Real Thing (Alfred)
Chances are you probably don’t spend too much brain power pondering maple syrup, besides wondering whether it’s most delicious on French toast or pancakes. Alfred University in New York is changing that for all students who take the course “Maple Syrup – The Real Thing.” It covers every aspect of the sweet breakfast topping, from production to products to, yes, recipes.
The Science of Harry Potter (Frostburg State)
Another course near and dear to my heart is “The Science of Harry Potter,” offered at Frostburg State University in Maryland. This class combines the fantastical with the physical by asking if some of the seemingly impossible things in the popular series could actually be plausible.
Think about it: if there is a possibility that an invisibility cloak or a flying broomstick could actually exist, wouldn’t you want to know?
Oprah Winfrey – The Tycoon (U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Oprah is conquering the world. The talk show, the book club, the magazine… and now, history class? The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offered “History 298: Oprah Winfrey – the Tycoon” in its class schedule several years ago. Like many of the other courses on this list, the class was more than meets the eye. Although it appears to be about the famous talk show queen, the class uses Oprah’s cultural rise to study race, class and gender issues.
Far Side Entomology (Oregon State)
I took an entomology class during my undergrad and found it much more interesting than I thought I would. Imagine how enthralled I would have been with Oregon State’s “Far Side Entomology,” which used Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons to study insects. Larson’s tactic of giving his insects human qualities make them more relatable, which in turn gave students research ideas and questions they may have not otherwise thought of. Before you commence transfer proceedings, know that this class is no longer offered.
History of Electronic Dance Music (UCLA)
Do you still love C+C Music Factory? Get pumped to Deee-Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart” while driving? Then the UCLA’s “History of Electronic Dance Music” would probably be a cakewalk for you. According to the syllabus, “Class lectures will deal with the historical narratives told about the music, musical form and technique in dance music, the political and cultural implications of the relentless hedonism of the dance floor, the influence of chemicals and technology on music production and consumption, and the aesthetic possibilities and pitfalls when popular music is no longer synonymous with popular song.”
The Future is Lost: TV Series as Cultural Phenomenon (Tufts)
If, like me, you’re desperately jonesing for more Lost, go ahead and enroll at Tufts University, the home of a 13-week Lost seminar. Be prepared to talk about more than Jack’s propensity for crying and Sawyer’s offensive nicknames for the other Lostaways, though. Topics include thematic complexity, mechanical complexity, literary references and philosophies. The course culminates with students pitching an idea for a television series to the rest of their classmates.
Goldberg’s Canon: Makin’ Whoopi (Bates)
If you’re excited about Whoopi Goldberg’s The View debut, it’s too bad you missed out on Bates College’s “Goldberg’s Canon: Makin’ Whoopi,” the only course anywhere (that I could find) dedicated to the former Caryn Johnson. As far as I can tell, the last time the class was offered was the 2003-04 school year, so anyone wanting to discuss her “controversial persona as an antagonistic public figure” (so says the syllabus) is out of luck for now.
Muppet Magic: Jim Henson’s Art (UC-Santa Cruz)
For some reason, I feel like the ratio of readers who grew up watching and learning from Sesame Street is probably high. Thus, by my theory, most of us would be thrilled to count Theater Arts 80L, “Muppet Magic: Jim Henson’s Art” at the University of California Santa Cruz as part of our course load. The class studies how Muppets have changed television, film and art since Jim Henson created them.
Getting Dressed (Princeton)
Seriously, some days getting dressed takes a lot more effort than it should. Enter Princeton’s “Getting Dressed” class, a freshmen-only course that lets students discuss controversial topics such as jeans, baseball caps, tattoos, flip-flops and Chuck Taylors. It’s more complicated than just figuring out what to wear in the morning, though. The class discussed how people use fashion to do everything from study history to assess character. Although it doesn’t appear that the class is offered any longer, Princeton does offer other interesting-sounding freshmen seminars, including “Google and Ye Shall Find?” and “Good to be Shifty: American Swindlers.”
Biblical Model for Home and Family (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
A real controversy exists around the “Biblical Model for Home and Family” course at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The class, for females only, teaches cooking, sewing, and says that wives should submit graciously to their husbands. OK, what I said at the beginning of this article was wrong: I’d much rather sit through “Research Methods and Theory” than learn how to “submit graciously.”