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Student playing piano

HACU Curriculum Statement

The School of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies (HACU) comprises faculty from a range of related liberal arts disciplines who share a common interest in the interrelationships among creative expression, critical analysis, and cultural production. The scholars and artists of this school represent such distinct fields as philosophy, literature, film, photography, history, classics, dance, digital imagery, comparative religion, video, painting, architecture, music, media and cultural studies, screenwriting, and critical theory. Despite the obvious diversity of our training, interests, and professional activities, we examine the connections and mutual influences of our critical disciplines and languages of inquiry. Whether analyzing an ancient text or a postmodern art form, producing a film or a multimedia project, choreographing dance or improvising music, we are all concerned with the construction of ideas and aesthetic forms, as well as the analysis of their historical origins, their cultural contexts, and their human significance and value.

Rooted in the traditional liberal arts, the school embraces the practice of art and examination of culture essential to contemporary liberal education. We are dedicated to fostering a new expanded form of literacy that responds to the rapid transformation of cultural activities by electronic media. The school highlights forms of artistic communication beyond the written text, and promotes the critical appreciation of aural and visual media, performance, and movement while affirming the importance of effective writing.

The curriculum has been developed to maximize the school's long-standing and innovative commitment to new combinations in the humanities and arts. Courses introduce students to representative documents and decisive moments in both Western and non-Western cultural experience. Understanding the cross-cultural connections that inform our world allows students to take advantage of the new social, cultural, and technological developments and realities of the 21st century. From electronic music to Hindu epic, digital image to ritual dance, films to magical realist literature, faculty and students study and practice together the many ways of making meaning and producing texts and other forms of expression. Teaching students to become fluent in multiple languages of inquiry and expression, our classes address a range of texts from sonnets to symphonies, JPEGs to riffs, Vedas to self-portraits.

Course offerings at the 100 level introduce students to the complex relationships among culture, art, and representation in either disciplinary-based courses or broad collaborative and foundational courses across disciplines. Students are given guidance in critical thinking, writing, and research skills. In the arts, students acquire technical skills through sequential courses. At the 100 level, students may choose among the First-Year Tutorials, the team-taught multidisciplinary courses, and any other 100-level courses. Tutorials enable a student to pursue fundamental questions and problems across the various disciplines in small-group settings of 13 students, and, at the same time, allow close contact with instructors who also serve as the student's Division I chairs and advisors during the first three semesters. In the multidisciplinary courses, emphasis is not on the acquisition of production techniques, but rather on understanding how to think about interdisciplinary questions and work with materials in the fields involved. These courses combine, for example, philosophy and literature; film history and modern art; cross-cultural studies of literature and music; and jazz as an American idiom in literature, dance, music, and art.

Courses at the 200 level offer more comprehensive study of the related fields of humanities, arts, and cultural studies. Courses at the 300 level are advanced seminars designed for concentrators and Division III students to pursue specific topics and issues in depth. Division 11 students should look at both 200-level and 300-level courses. Gallery shows, photographic exhibitions, film series, concerts, lectures, and Five College seminars and conferences supplement our course offerings.

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Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies
Hampshire College
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002