10 Cool New Classes

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You have two days left to shop and your schedule doesn't feel quite right. Take a risk and check out these fascinating new courses to add some flavor to what otherwise could be a bland semester.

United States in the World 30: "Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History"

This course brings students through Harvard's collections of rare and unique objects, from the molars of giant pandas to Thoreau’s pencil, and answers the question that we've been asking ourselves all along: what are these things doing here? The syllabus, which includes objects featured in nine different locations, reads more like a scavenger hunt than a course plan.

African and African American Studies 109: "Using Film for Social Change"

This course explores the portrayal of some pretty complex concepts—race, gender, and identity—in film and the role that digital media plays in efforts to spark social and political activism. Students will be required to take their new knowledge out of the classroom and work with local non-profits for at least two hours per week. One more perk? Final projects may take the form of a short film or a website inspired by a non-profit organization.

English 199: "Expertise"

You know you were hooked when the title was revealed last fall; now you have the chance to become an expert on this elusive concept. This seminar will cover classic works of social theory (think Weber and Freud) and contemporary critics (Rachel Maddow is featured on the course website).

Government 1372: "Political Psychology"

This course questions why political phenomena—extraordinary and mundane—occur and uses psychology to pose answers. The class, which covers broad theories of behavior and specific case studies, will surely leave you with better explanations for our rather bizarre body politic.

English 71: "Shakespeares: Talking Back to Shakespeare"

Students in this course will be given Harvard Arts Initiative grants to craft an artistic response to Shakespeare "in any genre or media," according to the course website. The class will begin with a study of classics such as "Hamlet" and "King Lear" and biographical material. Students will later have an opportunity to "talk back"—with appreciation or with disgust—to the Immortal Bard.

Economics 1814: "Small Differences that Matter: Public Policy Comparisons between Canada and the United States"

Philip Oreopoulos, a University of Toronto professor and Harvard’s 2010-11 McKenzie King Visiting Professor of Economics and Canadian Studies, will lead the class in identifying the "small differences" in institutional policies between Canada and the United States, from social insurance programs to educational initiatives. The syllabus features an impressive list of guest speakers from the US and north of the border.

African and African American Studies 142: "Hiphop and Don't Stop: 15 Years of Hiphop Scholarship"