Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Cultural Studies Portal

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A Sip of Tea and Tea Culture

In this module we will explore the cultural history of tea production, tea consumption, and tea-related cultural forms and practices. Primary focus will be on Asia, with side-expeditions to other parts of the world. White, green, Oolong, red (black), the Silk Road, tea bricks, tea ceremonies, tea-and-Zen, tea as world commodity, tea as entheogen---we can explore all of this and more!
Precepted by Robert Steed

Book Club: The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Published in 1899, The Awakening is considered one of the first feminist novels and a precursor of American modernism. Kate Chopin explores issues such as motherhood, independence, the conformism to preset social values, and more. We will discuss the themes, imagery, and character development in a relaxed and interactive way.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Chinese History for Fans of Chinese Media

If you are a fan of any form of Chinese popular media such as CDramas, films, wuxia pian (martial arts films and novels) and so on, you will almost certainly find yourself exposed to a wide array of different historical settings and contexts. In this module we will explore those moments and periods in the history of China that often appear as settings or references in Chinese popular media as a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and enjoyment of it.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Christian and Pagan: Tertullian's Apologetic

How did early Christians respond to persecution? In this module, we will explore Tertullian's masterwork, The Apology. One of the first major Christian works composed in Latin, Tertullian drew upon his education in law and rhetoric to produce this supremely eloquent and passionate defence of Christianity in response to an outbreak of violence. Over four weeks, we will closely read The Apology, discussing its fascinating insights into the world of the early Christians and the challenges they faced.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Conversational Japanese for Daily Life

Japanese is a complex language with a strong emphasis on formality. In any given situation, there are multiple ways to communicate the same idea. This course will introduce some of those common situations in daily life and offer some practical, useful, and modern ways to communicate within them.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Creative Writing: Aristotle's Poetics for Story-Tellers

What makes a good story? How can we make our characters feel like real people?

Using a combination of recorded lectures, in-class discussion and exercises, you will find out how to employ Aristotle’s precepts on character, theme and emotional catharsis to enrich your creative practice. You will also discover how Aristotle’s teleological understanding of causality can help you discover the final design of your creative work. This module will be a must for fiction authors, screenwriters and directors, RPG game masters, or anyone who wants to weave a dynamic tale!

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: Introduction to the Poetics
• Workshop 1: Your Narrative's Purpose
• Lecture 2: Character and Theme
• Workshop 2: Discovering Your Character and Theme
• Lecture 3: Structure
• Workshop 3: Unfolding Your Story's Structure
• Lecture 4: Catharsis
• Workshop 4: Sticking the Landing
Precepted by Julian Barr

C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves and Greek Philosophy

What is love? This is the question C.S. Lewis explored in his classic book, The Four Loves. Over four weeks, we will read and discuss The Four Loves as a class, exploring his four classifications and their philosophical underpinnings. Comparing and contrasting Lewis with short excerpts from Plato's Symposium and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, we will explore the themes of affection, friendship, eros and charity.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Early Modern Europe (1500-1800): Philosophy and Literature

This module examines the cultural and philosophical phenomena which emerged during the Renaissance (e.g. humanism, utopianism, skepticism) (15th to early 17th century) and the Enlightenment (e.g. reason, individuality, satire, etc.) (17th to late 18th century); the changing attitudes to religion (the Reformation) and science (the Scientific Revolution) will also be tackled. Lastly, receptions of the Renaissance and Enlightenment in modern, popular culture will be explored.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Eating Our Way Through Anime

What can a carefully arranged bento box show us about a protagonist’s emotions? How does a steaming bowl of ramen help tell a story? Anime is known for its detailed, mouthwatering portrayals of food. But what exactly makes these artistic culinary delights so special, and why do we keep coming back for more?

In this module, we will consider many aspects of food in anime and its relationship with fandom, culture, and history, and how food signals certain things about characters, settings, and relationships.

Come help us eat our way through anime!

Encountering the Japanese Weird through Lafcadio Hearn's Kwaidan

Japanese ghost stories are famous for their many chilling, sometimes funny, and creepy ghosts and yokai. Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-later-Japanese writer popularized these stories in his book Kwaidan. In this module, we will discuss the stories, the settings, and their cultural and religious background.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera and Robert Steed

Exploring Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義

Considered to be one the major classics of pre-modern Chinese literature, Romance of the Three Kingdoms focuses on a story of political and military struggle featuring an impressive array of characters, many of whom have become touchstones of Chinese cultural heritage and artistic interest. This novel has spawned a wide arrange of operas, stories, video game series, musical compositions, television and web series, as well as garnering much academic attention since it was first published in the 14th century. Join us as we read, discuss, analyze, and place in its cultural and historical contexts this major work of Chinese historical fiction.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Exploring Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book 枕草子

Sei Shōnagon 清少納言 is a major writer of the Heian period (794-1185) whose Makura no Sōshi 枕草子 (The Pillow Book) has intrigued and delighted reading audiences for centuries. Colorful, witty, incisive, charming, thoughtful, melancholy, poetic---these qualities and more characterize this diary of the famous lady of the court. Join us as we read this text in-depth and place it within the frame of the flow of Japanese culture and history.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Exploring The Analects 論語 of Confucius

In western internet memes, lots of sayings are attributed to Confucius. He did not say most of them. In this module we will engage in a slow reading and interpretation of The Analects , our primary source for Confucius's discourses and dialogues. Your preceptor will also situate this text in currents of historical thought from Warring States China and larger Confucian tradition. Once we are done, you will have gained many skills, including a decent ability to distinguish "Confucius" the meme-able quote machine from the Confucius of the Analects and Chinese historical tradition.
Precepted by Robert Steed

HSK Mandarin 1 First in the Series

In this first module, students will be introduced to Mandarin—the language used throughout most of China. Students will get a sense for the tone system, basic grammatical structure, Pinyin, Chinese characters, and some snippets of useful, conversational Mandarin. We will follow the HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test-Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi 汉语水平考试 ) Standard Course Curriculum for HSK Level 1.

Main topics for this module include:
1. An emphasis on Pinyin (the method of romanized transliteration for Chinese)
2. An introduction to reading and writing Chinese characters (Simplified, not traditional)
3. Basic grammar and vocabulary
4. Conversation

We will also look at some authentic materials, including song lyrics and dialogue from popular T.V. and movies. These will help to give us context for what we are learning and gauge where we are in our journey.

If you've ever wished to understand and speak Mandarin, here's a great stepping stone to get you started!
Precepted by Sam Roche

HSK Mandarin Series Series

This series is for people looking to begin their journey with Mandarin--the language spoken throughout much of China and its surrounding territories. We will follow the HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test-Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi 汉语水平考试 ) Standard Course Curriculum for HSK Level 1.

Throughout the course we will also look at some authentic materials, including song lyrics and dialogue from popular T.V. and movies. These will help to give us context for what we are learning and gauge where we are in our journey.

If you've ever wished to understand and speak Mandarin, here's a great stepping stone to get you started!

His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic, has been described by The New Statesman as “the most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings,” and has been adapted onto stage, radio, and screen. The series is also deep and complex, drawing from a rich array of literary, philosophical, and theological ideas.

In this three-module series we will read, successively, the three novels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, juxtaposing each with selected materials that will allow us to read Pullman’s work both on its own and in conversation with other works. Students can join one, two, or all three modules. There are no prerequisites.

• Module 1: His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights) (October 2023)

• Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife (December 2023)

• Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass (January 2023)
Precepted by Faith Acker and Gabriel Schenk

His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic, has been described by The New Statesman as “the most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings,” and has been adapted onto stage, radio, and screen. The series is also deep and complex, drawing from a rich array of literary, philosophical, and theological ideas.

In this three-module series we will read, successively, the three novels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, juxtaposing each with selected materials that will allow us to read Pullman’s work both on its own and in conversation with other works. Students can join one, two, or all three modules. There are no prerequisites.

• Module 1: His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights) (October 2023)

• Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife (December 2023)

• Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass (January 2023)
Precepted by Faith Acker and Gabriel Schenk

His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic, has been described by The New Statesman as “the most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings,” and has been adapted onto stage, radio, and screen. The series is also deep and complex, drawing from a rich array of literary, philosophical, and theological ideas.

In this three-module series we will read, successively, the three novels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, juxtaposing each with selected materials that will allow us to read Pullman’s work both on its own and in conversation with other works. Students can join one, two, or all three modules. There are no prerequisites.

• Module 1: His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights) (October 2023)

• Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife (December 2023)

• Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass (January 2023)
Precepted by Faith Acker and Gabriel Schenk

Intro to Fan Fiction

What is fan fiction? Where did it come from? Why do people read and write it?

This module will explore fan fiction as a platform, independent of any particular universe (although we will touch on several, based on student input), including its origins, conventions and techniques, purposes, and the opinions of a variety of different stake holders: authors, show creators, and legal experts among them. Students will complete this course with a high-level understanding of fan fiction as genre, community, and as a transformative response to the source material.

Japanese for Advanced Beginners Series

In this series, we will continue to explore the beauty of the Japanese language and culture. We will read tales, learn more complex structures, widen general vocabulary, and we will also start reading and writing kanji. みなさん、これからも一緒に日本語を勉強したい!楽しみにしています!
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

Japanese: From Zero Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to begin studying Japanese. We will begin by learning Hiragana and Katakana and cover some basic grammatical structures. We will also cover some conversational Japanese and explore how it is used in anime, manga, and music.

This Japanese module has the potential to grow into a series of beginner courses. Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 1 First in the Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to begin studying Japanese. We will begin by learning Hiragana and Katakana and cover some basic grammatical structures. We will also cover some conversational Japanese and explore how it is used in anime, manga, and music.

This Japanese module has the potential to grow into a series of beginner courses. Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 10 Continuing Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to continue our study of Japanese. We will continue using Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, and covering grammatical structures. Through use of conversational Japanese, we will continue to explore how the language is used in anime, manga, and music.

Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 2 Continuing Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to continue our study of Japanese. We will continue using Hiragana and Katakana and will cover basic grammatical structures. Through use of conversational Japanese, we will continue to explore how the language is used in anime, manga, and music.

Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 3 Continuing Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to continue our study of Japanese. We will continue using Hiragana and Katakana and will cover basic grammatical structures. Through use of conversational Japanese, we will continue to explore how the language is used in anime, manga, and music.

Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 4 Continuing Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to continue our study of Japanese. We will continue using Hiragana and Katakana and will cover basic grammatical structures. Through use of conversational Japanese, we will continue to explore how the language is used in anime, manga, and music.

Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 5 Continuing Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to continue our study of Japanese. We will continue using Hiragana and Katakana and will cover basic grammatical structures. Through use of conversational Japanese, we will continue to explore how the language is used in anime, manga, and music.

Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 6 Continuing Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to continue our study of Japanese. We will continue using Hiragana and Katakana and will cover basic grammatical structures. Through use of conversational Japanese, we will continue to explore how the language is used in anime, manga, and music.

Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 7 Continuing Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to continue our study of Japanese. We will continue using Hiragana and Katakana and will cover basic grammatical structures. Through use of conversational Japanese, we will continue to explore how the language is used in anime, manga, and music.

Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 8 Continuing Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to continue our study of Japanese. We will continue using Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, and covering grammatical structures. Through use of conversational Japanese, we will continue to explore how the language is used in anime, manga, and music.

Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese: From Zero - 9 Continuing Series

This course is for those who have an interest in Japanese culture and wish to continue our study of Japanese. We will continue using Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji, and covering grammatical structures. Through use of conversational Japanese, we will continue to explore how the language is used in anime, manga, and music.

Japanese is a language of great nuance and depth. This module will open the door to that world and build a foundation for greater insight into Japan's culture and its people.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Japanese History for Fans of Japanese Media

In this module we will cover a general overview of major periods, events, and personages that often crop up in Japanese films, dramas, anime, and manga. For example, are you a fan of the manga and drama series Jin? When Dr. Jin finds himself in the Edo period, do you want to know more about that historical context? This module should help with that and much more! Join us for a light and fun overview of Japanese history useful for engaging with Japanese media more deeply.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Japanese Through Lyrics

The goal of this course is to study Japanese by analyzing song lyrics. While there will be an initial list of songs, students will be invited to either choose or vote on songs they would like to analyze (depending on number of students), and then we will spend each class studying the vocabulary and grammar contained in those songs.
Precepted by Sam Roche

Parallel Lives: Plutarch's Alexander and Julius Caesar

Virtue and vice: these are the chief interests of the 2nd century biographer, Plutarch. In this module, we will closely examine Plutarch's linked biographies comparing Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, identifying the continuity between the two works. Over four weeks, we will read and discuss Plutarch's depiction of these two pivotal figures of world history, and how it was influenced by Plutarch's struggle to reconcile his Greek identity with Roman supremacy. From the mysterious death of Alexander's father Philip II to the Ides of March, this is a module you won't want to miss!
Precepted by Julian Barr

Readings in Old English: The Battle of Maldon & Group Reading

The Battle of Maldon is the title given to a short (325 lines) alliterative poem commemorating a battle between the Anglo-Saxons and Scandinavian invaders on the english River Blackwater in 991. It describes the tragic fate of the ealdorman Byhrtnoð and his levy of Anglo-Saxon warriors after they agree to let the Vikings cross the river and fight with them on equal footing. The result is, predictably, a disaster, but the poem’s ambiguous language and positive depictions of Byhrtnoð and his retinue leave room for debate about the nature of the poem. Is it a criticism of foolhardiness and overconfidence? Is it a commemorative poem, a eulogy, or perhaps even a piece of wartime propaganda meant to rally the English to resist the Norse invaders? In this module, we will both read the poem in depth and discuss current scholarship on this poem.
Precepted by Isaac Schendel

Representing Utopia through the Ages

While the idea of establishing an ‘actual’ utopia has been disparaged since the first half of the twentieth century from socio-political perspectives (e.g. the failed age of ideology from 1917-1945), literary and related cultural narratives have a long history of imagining and representing utopia (also paradise, the golden age, etc.). These utopias often function to criticize the problematic social norms and climates of their times as well as providing progressive imaginings for a better future, often based on certain ideals or virtues. In this module, we go on a chronological tour of different representations of utopia, including: the paleolithic utopia of hunter-gatherers (e.g. as discussed in Harari’s Homo Sapiens) (before 10,000 BC), the Bronze Age utopia of Minoan Crete (4000-1400 BCE), Plato’s mythical island of Atlantis (ca 400 BC), the pastoral utopia of the Roman poet Virgil (ca 40 BC), the New World utopia of Sir Thomas More (1516), the Enlightened, reasoned utopia of Robinson Crusoe (1719), Tolkien’s fantasy utopia of Númenor (ca 1940), and more.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Russian Fairy Tales: Journeys, Quests, and Chicken Legs

In this module we will explore some of the most important Russian fairy tales, their archetypal characters, and beautiful imagery. We will travel to magical lands and meet incredible characters, even a talking pancake!
Precepted by Pilar Barrera

The Argonauts: Apollonius of Rhodes

The journey awaits! In this standalone module, we will read Apollonius of Rhodes' epic Argonautica from start to finish. Guided by a twisted prophecy, our hero Jason embarks on a journey across the roaring waves. His goal: the golden fleece. Jason cannot do it alone, and must assemble the greatest team the Greek world has ever seen-- the fighter Hercules, the seer Idmon, the bard Orpheus, and many more. Their quest will lead them to ancient tombs, magical intrigues and battle with the ravening harpies. Each week, we will read one book of the Argonautica, following our heroes' adventures in a world of gods and magic. Packed with fascinating detail, this module is a perfect introduction to classical myth and epic!
Precepted by Julian Barr

The Life and Legend of St Nicholas

Who was the real historical figure behind Santa Claus? In this module, we will read aloud the earliest biographical sources about fourth century bishop, St Nicholas of Myra. Your preceptor will facilitate discussions of Nicholas' historical context and examine the development of his legend. Together, we will examine Byzantine stories of Nicholas' benefaction and miracles, his role as patron saint of seafarers, students and merchants (among others), and how he came to embody the tradition of gift-giving in Christendom. A wonderful end-of-year treat!
Precepted by Julian Barr

The Minoans and Modernity: Minotaurs, Labyrinths, and Other Myths

When one thinks of ancient, pre-classical civilisations, one thinks of Sumerians, Egyptians, Hittites, and, not least, Minoans. The Minoan civilisation, discovered around 1900 by English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, has often been styled as the first major European civilisation, equally proficient in technology and the arts, with a sea empire spanning across the Eastern Aegean. But how much of what we imagine about the Minoans is truthful and how much is modern mythmaking?

In this module, we will examine the immense impact which the discovery of Minoan Crete and its integration with the classical myths of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth has had on literature, movies, the arts, and even computer games. We will examine the works of Sir Arthur Evans, Pablo Picasso, Nikos Kazantzakis, Robert Graves, Mary Renault, Poul Anderson, and Stephen King, among others. In so doing, we will explore such key 'Minoan' concepts and phenomena as: the sublime, utopianism, feminism, irrationality and the unconscious, mythmaking, and European identity.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

The Trojan Quest: Aeneid 1

Troy has fallen, but the journey has just begun... This 3-module series will work steadily through the 12 books of Virgil's epic Aeneid, whose influence in the medieval period eclipsed even Homer. Each week we will read one book of the Aeneid in translation, focusing on Virgil's approach to characterisation, plot structure and themes. With two hours to spend on each book, students can enjoy a relaxed reading pace and friendly class discussion.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Tolkien and the Classical World

Based on the preceptor's edited volume, Tolkien and the Classical World, this module takes students on a tour of the classical influences and ideas on the life, writings, and thought of English fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, while also introducing seminal Greco-Roman texts to those without any classical background.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Ubuntu: An Introduction to African Philosophy

Ubuntu has been described as Africa's greatest gift to the world; a philosophy that covers various aspects of humanity, human life—being human. In this module we will be discussing ubuntu as a concept that covers:
- moral philosophy
- human dignity
- human rights
- substantive equality
- human connection
... And, how ubuntu can help explain and address the current most pressing problems.

The module will help in making the philosophy understandable to all audiences, especially considering its uptake and misrepresentation in the media and various platforms. The module goes beyond the usual simplifications of the philosophy and gives an in-depth and yet understandable analysis of the practical concepts within the philosophy, including their usage in solving contemporary problems, from personal/intimate to structural problems.
Precepted by Ishmael Bhila

Yōkai and Legends: Exploring the Weird in Japanese and Latin American Cultures

Ghost stories are an important element from all cultures, but in weird and, of course, mysterious ways, there seem to be similar legends and stories of Yōkai in Japanese and Latin American Cultures. From the similarities of Obon with Día de los Muertos to different legends such as Kuchisake onna and La Llorona, we will discuss these legends within their cultural context and have fun with these weird and fantastic beings.
Precepted by Pilar Barrera and Robert Steed

Zen History and Thought: An Overview

In this module we will examine the origins and development of Zen Buddhism from its roots in Mahayana and Daoist thought through its formative years in China and its spread to Korea and Japan. Among other topics, we should have time to cover the Patriarchs of Zen, the Five Houses of Zen, and major figures within the tradition. We will also gesture towards Zen's impact on East Asian arts and culture more generally.
Precepted by Robert Steed
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].