Thirteen Must-Take Courses This Winter

Whether you’re looking for that one-unit wonder or an inspiring humanities class to fill your schedule, the Sphere has you covered this winter quarter. Peruse our course recommendations, arranged from lightest reading to heaviest.

PHIL 193C: Film and Philosophy (COMPLIT 154A, ENGLISH 154F, FRENCH 154, ITALIAN 154, PHIL 293C)

In this popular class, students get to explore renowned films such as Fight Club, Blade Runner, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind through the lens of philosophy. Professors Josh Landy (Complit) and Jorah Dannenberg (Philosophy) will guide you through the works of philosophy – from Nietzsche and Bernard Williams to Sartre – that informed these films. The class involves screenings, lectures, and section – and it also has a creative expression version which gives you the opportunity to form a crew and shoot your own film for the final project. 

Units: 3

Reading: Light

WAYS: A-II

Times: Many class time options are available

MUSIC 33N: Beethoven

There is remarkably little classical music at Stanford, a gaping hole in the cultural scene on campus. While a cappella groups and musical theatre productions seem to proliferate year on year, the West’s most esteemed musical tradition receives scanty attention. It is high time for Stanford to put some serious money into classical music on campus especially considering the how much serious musical talent there is on campus – but that is a discussion for another day. More to the point, Professor Hinton’s class is an ideal opportunity to expose yourself to this musical tradition through focusing on perhaps the greatest composer of all time: Ludwig van Beethoven. MUSIC 33N will explore Beethoven’s main works — from his symphonies to string quartets — as well as considering broader questions of biography and how his music has been received over time. No previous musical knowledge or background is required.

Units: 3

Reading: Light

WAYS: A-II

Times: Tues, Thurs 10:30-11:50

FEMGEN 94H: Introduction to Disability Studies and Disability Rights (ETHICSOC 104, HUMRTS 104, SOC 186)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in five Americans has a disability, making them a part of the largest minority in the country. Despite the scale of this community, disability studies has emerged only recently. This discipline synthesizes methods from critical theory, social science, and law in order to examine disability as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon. Disability studies also explores intersections with race, gender identity, class, and sexual orientation. FEMGEN 94H not only offers a rigorous introduction to this new field, but also offers offers important lessons for anyone who wishes to do advocacy.

Units: 4

Reading: Light

WAYS: ED

Times: Mon, Wed 4:30-6:20

HISTORY 37D/137D: Germany’s Wars and the World, 1848-2010

If you recognize Steven Press, you probably know him for his work on nineteenth-century colonialism. His book Rogue Empires isn’t just an impressive piece of scholarship: it also has the plot of a great postmodern novel, hopscotching from Borneo to Berlin to the coast of Namibia and making international law in the 1880s surprisingly… gripping? Professor Press got to Namibian history via German history, and (unsurprisingly) it shows in HISTORY 137D. You won’t find many syllabi that start with a Fassbinder film and end with Ostalgie, and you certainly won’t find a better professor to cover everything in between.

Units: 3-5

Reading: Light to Medium

WAYS: SI

Times: Mon, Wed 1:30-2:50

HISTORY 55F/155F: The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, 1830 to 1877 (AFRICAAM 55F, AMSTUD 55F, AMSTUD 155F)

Since arriving at Stanford in 2017, Kathryn Olivarius has taught seminars on the age of revolution, on the antebellum south and on the history of race and ethnicity – all defined by her witty yet rigorous approach to teaching, her extraordinary knowledge, and her unusually deep care for students. In HISTORY 55F, she will share her expertise in the American South, exploring the Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction Era. Her lectures promise to be an engaging take on some of the most transformative events in American history, and can be taken for 3 or 5 units depending on what fits your busy schedule. For the History enthusiast, her seminar on the Age of Revolution (HISTORY 205K) is also highly recommended.

Units: 3-5

Reading: Light to Medium

WAYS: SI and ED

Times: Tues, Thurs 12-1:20

COMM 124: Lies, Trust, and Tech

Professor Jeffrey Hancock last offered this course in the Fall of 2016. Since then, a number of things have happened relevant to the concepts of digitally-mediated misinformation and trust. Focusing on our loss of trust with digital media and our simultaneous increasing reliance on invasive digital technologies, COMM 124 offers a vital resource for anyone skeptical of the role of technology in modern communication and politics.

Units: 5

Reading: Light to Medium

WAYS: SI

Times: Mon, Wed 3-4:20

ENGLISH 115C: Hamlet and the Critics (ENGLISH 215C, TAPS 151C, TAPS 251C)

Most humanities classes at Stanford tend to survey many works in a short period of time, leaving many of us parched for depth. If you crave greater focus, this is the class for you! English 115C is unique in that it deep dives into a single text and the literary criticism surrounding it, allowing you to look at one work from several different angles. Ivan is also a brilliant and engaging lecturer who will challenge you to go deeper, leaving you with a more nuanced understanding of the readings than you could have imagined.

Units: 3-5

Reading: Light to Medium

WAYS: A-II

Times: Mon, Wed 4:30-5:50

BIO 30: Ecology for Everyone

An understanding of the natural world around us is an underrated but vital part of the education of any activist, organizer, or thinker — it is, in a very real way, the material reality we must work from within. For those of us with less experience with the sciences, Deborah Gordon’s Ecology For Everyone provides an accessible pathway to that understanding. Professor Gordon is one of the most idiosyncratic minds at Stanford, full of insight on subjects that go farther than just biology.

Units: 4

Workload: Medium

WAYS: SMA

Times: Many times are available

LINGUIST 156: Language and Gender (FEMGEN 156X)

In an era of mass information and mass data, it is often important to return to foundations of human interaction: language. From the vocal fry to the “Valley Girl” dialect, thinking about language in terms of gender is something everyone, aware or not, has done. An expert on the intersection of language and gender, Professor Eckert has crafted a class combining both gender theory and statistical linguistic data to explore not only the existence of gendered language but also its role in our larger social structures and in the policing of women.

Units: 4

Reading: Medium

WAYS: ED and SI

Times: Tues, Thurs 1:30-2:50

ECON 14: Navigating Financial Crises in the Modern Global Economy (PUBLPOL 14)

This 1-unit seminar course shouldn’t be underestimated: taught by Ramin Toloui, former Assistant Secretary for International Finance at the U.S. Treasury, and touting a dynamic syllabus of academic pieces, first-hand accounts and even film scenes, this course will examine the causes of financial crises and, more pressingly, what can be done before and after them. Approaching real-world examples – the US housing crisis, the 2008 global financial crisis and even prospective future crises in China – Toloui’s course is an incredible opportunity to dive deep into the difficult questions and mechanisms of crises in our modern world from the perspective not of distanced academics but of policy makers, finance professionals and citizens.

Units: 1

Reading: Medium (for a one-unit course)

WAYS: None

Times: Wed 4:30-6:20

HISTORY 269F: Modern American History: From Civil Rights to Human Rights (HISTORY 369F)

As we noted in our last set of course recommendations, remarkably few people on campus are aware of the Martin Luther King institute – one of the most interesting and important projects at Stanford. Professor Clayborne Carson is the head of the institute and has spent much of his life directing the Martin Luther King Papers, the definitive fourteen-volume collection of King’s most significant correspondence, sermons, speeches, published writings, and unpublished manuscripts. In this course, he surveys the progression of social justice movements since the 60s, reflecting on a lifetime of intellectual and personal engagement with progressive politics. Professor Carson is set to retire this year, so this is a truly singular opportunity – the final chance to see a master of his craft at work. 

Units: 5

Reading: Medium to Heavy

WAYS: None as of now

Times: Mon 1:30-4:20

SOC 309: Nations and Nationalism

Brexit, the rise of Trump, Le Pen and her National Rally, violent anti-immigrant rallies in Germany and across Europe – nationalism is at the forefront of the West’s current political crises. Yet, as Benedict Anderson noted in his famous book on the development of nationalism, the phenomenon is both heavily morally charged and under-researched. This upper-division, reading-intensive seminar fills a critical gap in Stanford’s course offerings: with a syllabus full of classic and influential works, particularly focusing on Europe and East Asia, this course will trace the most important developments in the study of nationalism and nationhood while, appropriately, making connections back to our own, politically turbulent era.

Units: 4-5

Reading: Heavy

Ways: None

Time: Tues 1:30-4:20

ASNAMST 160D: The Asian American Movement: A History of Activism (HISTORY 260D)

First offered last year after to unprecedented demand from the student body, Professor Gordon Chang’s class on the Asian American Movement dives into the long history Asian American activism from the nineteenth century to today. An engaged participant of the Movement himself, Professor Chang personally knew many of the activists discussed in the course, and the class will bring in speakers who have done or are currently doing work for Asian American communities. This is an exceptional opportunity to learn about Asian American history from an unparalleled expert.

Units: 5

Reading: Heavy

WAYS: ED and SI

Times: Mon 1:30-4:20

 

Photo: Stanford Memorial Auditorium, as seen from Hoover Tower in Stanford University, Stanford, California.

 

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