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Stock your shopping carts: These are the best ALP courses offered this spring

Yes, I have the last registration window, and yes, I am stressed about it. The sheer number of courses offered is as exciting as it is daunting. And the lengthy list of Trinity graduation requirements makes  me feel like I must be forgetting something

One of the things that I – and anyone else whose major is not particularly artsy or creative – may push to the backburner is the Arts, Literature, and Performance (ALP) Area of Knowledge. So here I am on behalf of Recess, the Arts and Culture section of The Chronicle, to share my totally unbiased opinion of the coolest ALP courses offered this spring, most of which are already in my shopping cart.

ENGLISH 287 / GERMAN 262 / LIT 252: Romantic Fairy tales: Literary and Folk Fairy Tales from Grimms to Disney

I feel like many of us probably grew up reading or watching some iteration of tales like Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood — or all of the above. In this class, it is all about looking at your childhood memories with a broader historical and literary perspective to explore how their original messages have evolved and still remain prevalent to this day. If you end up in this class, it will be a nostalgia trip filled with really compelling history for sure!

“My students start with something familiar [in their understanding of classic fairy tales], and they deepen that and come out with several new perspectives, yet with a sense of not being robbed of something they like but treasuring it even more,” said Dr. Jakob Norberg.

This course has one section taught by Dr. Norberg, associate professor of German Studies, and counts towards the ALP, CCI and CZ graduation requirement. 

EDUC 356S / ISS 356S / VMS 358S / HIST 382S: Digital Durham

The Digital Durham Project was started at Duke in 1999 by Dr. Trudi Abel to make Durham’s history more accessible. Now, since Digital Durham has become a class, students continue to work to tell the story of Durham’s past and present with research of digitized historical and cultural records and other media. This class proves that there is so much rich history to discover in our own backyard here at Duke. 

“This class presents the opportunity to be able to work with this medium and to think about how the telling of historical stories can be down in a variety of ways and [shows] that it’s possible, even as an early undergraduate student, to be able to make a difference through primary source research and communicating to a wider public,” said Professor Victoria Szabo.

This course has one section and is jointly taught by Dr. Abel, cultural historian, archivist and Senior Fellow in Information Science & Studies, and Professor Szabo, research professor of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies. “Digital Durham” counts towards the ALP, R, W and STS graduation requirement. 

NEURO 289 / MUSIC 289: Music and the Brain

I had never thought about how musicology and neuroscience could be so intertwined, and the premise of this course is to study exactly that. Through presentations and musical performances, students learn about how the brain distinguishes different sounds and the effects of music on brain structure and function, among other artistic and scientific topics. This class is a great option whether you are interested in music or neuroscience or simply find the concept as intriguing as I do.

“With this class, we’re really broadening student’s perspectives as to how they will listen to music after this class. One of our aims is that they have a different way of listening to music and also of describing music and different phenomena in music that they’re now able to recognize,” said Professor Tobias Overath.

This course has one section and is jointly taught by Professor Scott Lindroth, professor of Music and Bass Fellow, and Professor Overath, assistant professor of Psychology and Neuroscience. “Music and the Brain” counts towards the ALP and NS graduation requirement.

DOCST 202S / PUBPOL 395S / VMS 211S: Children and the experience of illness

This class is centered around a service-learning experience working with sick children and teaching them how to use a camera. In working towards a photography exhibit at the end of the semester, students get a first-hand view of the unique way children live with illness. The interdisciplinary nature of this class suits virtually anyone – whether their interests lie in health care, photography, child development, and beyond. 

“[A goal of the service-learning component] is to help people appreciate how kids cope with illness and how they’re as capable, if not more capable, than adults in facing up to and dealing with and adapting to illness. To that extent, they may have lessons to offer to older folks,” said Dr. John W. Moses Jr. 

This course has one section taught by Dr. Moses, primary care pediatrician at Duke University Medical Center, and counts towards the ALP and SS graduation requirement.

First-Year Seminar and Writing Courses

If you are a first year like me, chances are you still need to choose either a seminar or a writing course for the spring. I am including below my favorite of each that follows along with the ALP theme.

AAAS 89S / LIT 89S / PORTUGUE 89S: Brazil, Race, Sex, the Body

The intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality, and class remains the focus of this class as students study the development of race relations in contemporary Brazilian society. The interdisciplinary nature of this course lends itself to literature, music, film, and history while looking at topics like colonialism, enslavement, nationalism, and social activism. This course is multi-faceted and unique, so you are bound to find something of Brazilian culture that captivates your interest. 

This course has one section taught by Professor Lamonte Aidoo, Kiser Family Associate Professor of Romance Studies, and counts towards the ALP and CCI graduation requirement.

WRITING 101: Dolly Parton for President?

I would be remiss if I did not give this course a shoutout. Although it does not count towards the ALP requirement, this class will give you your fix of Dolly’s music and performance legacy, in addition to her philanthropy, work in business and cultural influence. Whether you only ever saw her on Hannah Montana or are an actual fan, this class is bound to be a good time and a great way to fulfill that first-year writing requirement.

This course has two sections taught by Professor Leslie Maxwell, Lecturing Fellow of the Thompson Writing Program.

With that, I have shared with you a meager six of the many (probably hundreds) arts-related courses offered this spring. Hopefully this gave you some inspiration for how you want to fill part of your schedule! There are countless more arts classes offered in areas such as documentary studies, visual art, art history, music and dance — the latter two have half-credit options as well — that are other awesome options to look at before registration.