A look at a smattering of spring courses

Many classes at Swarthmore are regulars. Economics students know to expect Intermediate Microeconomics in the fall and in Political Science the four introduction courses are offered every semester, without fail. While many courses are regular and predictable, every department can be counted on to introduce a few more esoteric and unusual courses. For this issue, the Gazette has gone through the course book and pulled out a few classes that caught the notice of our editors and reporters.

“Evil in Modern Thought and Practice” is a new introductory Religion course taught by visiting professor Elliot Ratzman. It will focus on how modern humans have had to deal with evil becoming disassociated with deities. “Now, tsunamis, wars, droughts, and other disasters are more linked to a “flawed universe and flawed people,” explained Ratzman, instead of to God. The course will offer a wide array of readings, ranging from Voltaire to Dostoevsky, as well as more recent texts.

Ratzman is also offering “Religious Ethics in the Modern World,” a course that many Swatties would find particularly relevant in an election year. The course will touch on many controversial topics, including abortion and homosexuality. Professor Ratzman explained that he especially wants to avoid a “liberal lovefest” and he plans to emphasize the writings of the “sophisticated intellectuals of the Religious Right.”

A few weeks ago, every Swarthmore student got a Reserved Students Digest email. Among the headlines was “Video Game Design Course,” and it caught the notice of many students. Advanced Computer Graphics is a high-level computer science course usually reserved for survivors of Computer Graphics. This year, however, the course is “designed around the whole process of designing and creating a video game.” In addition to the usual complement of programmers, Professor Maxwell is hoping to find writers, artists, musicians, and designers. Still, he expects every class member to help in all aspects of the project– don’t plan “to avoid writing a line of a code if you aren’t a programmer.”

Professor Alan Berkowitz, chair of the Chinese Department, will be offering “Introduction to Classical Chinese.” While the course will be taught in English, it will have a substantial translation component. This is particularly interesting as no prior knowledge of Chinese is required. Due to time constraints, Professor Berkowitz was not available for comment.

In the history department, Professor Timothy Burke will be teaching “The History of Reading.” The course will examine reading from just before the Gutenberg-era until the present day. In particular, Professor Burke aims to start by exploring the impact of books as the advent of the printing press flung them across Western Europe, and finish by asking ‘what is the future of reading?’ as society hesitantly explores the new digital frontier.


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