Honors | Culture: Popular & Unpopular
H203 | 0010 | Hertz, D.


This course will explore some of the most perplexing questions in the
humanities today while acquainting students with many of the important
cultural sites on campus and in the vicinity. Selections from recent
theoretical writings and first-hand exposure to poetry, opera, theater,
museums, concerts and more will be combined with in-class study of a
number of selected artistic works and artifacts.

While studying and experiencing various types of cultural works, students
will be asked to consider a number of important questions.

What is culture and why is it important?
Why are some cultural works able to achieve mass popularity?
Why are other artworks seemingly unable to find a large following yet they
are still capable of finding dedicated enthusiasts and professional
interpreters, some of whom devote their lives to writing commentary
dedicated to explaining them?
Are the differences between art works that attract a massive following and
those that require professional interpretation matters of degree or of
kind?
What are the social roles of cultural sites?
What is a museum?
What is an opera?
What is a theater?
How have these sites of cultural practice changed as they have been used?
What does a difficult high modernist poem have in common with a popular
song lyric?
Why are some works of art thought of as unpleasant or threatening at first
and brilliant and innovative later?

Finally, through our studies we will ponder a central question for all
participants in the class: does cultural meaning come from a participatory
activity or does it lie waiting in discrete "art objects" that possess
value apart from the society that produces them and the society that uses
them?

Visits to IU arts facilities (museum, opera, theater, other) will be a
part of the course of study and required of the students. By the end of
the semester, students will encounter the uses of culture on campus while
studying that encounter in detail and reflect upon the meaning of the
activity. Study in class and in the library will be rounded out by a
research project. All participants will use the library to work on a
scholarly project that is connected to issues presented in the course.