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A Quickie Guide to Picking Courses

A summary of what's new, what's news, and what's just darn funny.


Every year, it's the same old story. Late at night, on the eve of shopping period, Harvard students sequester themselves in their rooms to ponder the answer to a weighty question: which four courses truly warrant the expense of my considerable intellectual capital?

It's not as if the College makes it too easy on us. True, a few weeks before classes begin, we do receive a shrink-wrapped Courses of Instruction catalog.

Usually, however, students merely glance at its cover--to see how the funky graphics have changed from the year before--and then tuck it away for safekeeping. Breaking the book's seal, many fear, would be a mistake comparable to Pandora's famous gaffe, for it would spell the immediate end to the carefree days of summer vacation.

And so it is that the book sits, its wrapping intact until that fateful late-night encounter.

When students finally do dare to rip the precious seal, all but those most secure in their academic pursits are confronted with a stark reality: this book is 1.12 inches thick, 791 pages long, 1.5 pounds heavy. There's no way to read about every course, much less to give them all fair consideration. Even if we choose well, we'll always wonder: could we have chosen better?

Aware of this dilemma, the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) has sought to aid us in our desperation. As everyone knows, the CUE guide offers a convenient numerical compass in our arduous selection process.

But, with descriptions, it hedges. For example, in describing Professor Derek Parfit's Philosophy 161, Topics in Metaphysics, the guide notes, "Although a handful of those surveyed call [Parfit's] clarity impeccable, a slightly smaller number contend that the import of his lectures can be nebulous." Well, which is it?!

Anyway, as that last Sunday before shopping period approaches, we at Dartboard thought we'd see what we could do to help out our fellow Harvardians in picking some magic quartets. So, for those who appreciate quality infotainment, we dutifully submit a delightfully biased parade through some of the more provocative of this year's offerings:


For starters, the results of some exhaustive statistical research. The following are courses offered this year with CUE guide average scores of 2.5 or below for both "workload" and "difficulty." Your fellow students thought they were a breeze in the recent past, so maybe you too can pump up a sagging GPA while maintaining that essential 12 hours of snooze-time per diem:

Literature and Arts A-68. Poets and Poetry in the Celtic Literary Tradition

Literature and Arts B-75. Composing Music Since 1950

Literature and Arts C-37. The Bible and Its Interpreters

Anthropology 136. Diet, Nutrition, and Human Growth

Anthropology 159. Museums and Representations: Exhibiting Cultures

Biology 10. Biology of Invertebrate Animals

Chinese 113a. Advanced Conversational Chinese

English 192x. Writing for Performance

Linguistics 110. Introduction to Linguistics

Linguistics 122. Introduction to Indo-European

Music 1a. Introduction to Music I

Music 1b. Introduction to Music II

Psychology 1051. Topics in General Psychology

Spanish Cd. Spanish Oral Survival Course


For those sassy men and womyn with a keen devotion to a politically correct schedules, we recommend a few courses that you might otherwise have overlooked:

General Education 103. AIDS, Health, and Human Rights: "Conceptual and practical dimensions of the health/human rights linkage including consequences of human rights violations (in peace and wartime)...Emphasizes social responsibility."

Anthropology 120. The Archaeology of Women and Children Topics include...the application of feminist social theory to archaeological research: and the identification of women and children in the archeological record."

Modern Greek 113r. Ritual and Metaphor in Greek Songs of the Life Cycle: "An exploration of the interdependence of ritual and metaphor, relating the imagery of songs to rituals performed primarily by women, at each stage of the life cycle."

Biology 221. Bacterial Diversity. Is affirmative action for prokaryotes next on the progressive agenda? We'll keep you posted.


Some courses just defy explanation. Here's a look at some of the most original among this year's offerings, ranging from the mildly intriguing to the purely puzzling. We have even provided some snippets of official description. Each of the following courses are really in the Courses of Instruction (trust us; we couldn't make all this stuff up even if we tried). Some of them might actually be worth checking out:

Historical Study A-42. Nation, State, and Empire in West Eurasian Space: Where Romanov Writ Has Run (1613-1991)

Literature and Arts A-18. Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood

Literature and Arts B-35. The Age of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent: Art, Architecture, and Ceremonial at the Ottoman Court

Science B-30. Reproductive Biology: "Reproductive biology of the human organism is emphasized..."

Eliot House Seminar 124. The Salem Witchcraze of 1692

Quincy House Seminar 121. A History of Zoos: "What challenges face the zoos of today?"

Astronomy 14. The Universe and Everything

Biology 143. Biology of the Fungi: "Students learn how to collect, isolate, and identify a variety of fungi."

Biology 167. Herpetology

Celtic 130. Introduction to Scottish Gaelic

Latin 110. Neronian Literature

Economics 1030. Delay of Gratification

Economics 1380. The World Food Economy

Engineering Sciences 159. Introduction to Robotics

English 90yd. Fictions of Feminine Desire

English 195h. Travel Writing: "Students are given an opportunity to try their hand at travel writing."

Fine Arts 106y. Etching

Fine Arts 147p. Popular Cults and the Formation of Sacred Places

Fine Arts 155g. Andrea Palladio: Problems and Approaches: "Despite the fame of Palladio's work, many problems remain unsolved..."

Fine Arts 183m. Art of the Gupta Period

Fine Arts 185x. Art, Space, and Ritual: The Culture of Tea in Japan

Fine Arts 246y. Gothic Tomb Sculpture and Courtly Imagery: A Walk With Madness, Love, and Death

Government 90zp. The Politics of Black Urban Regimes

Government 1283. Making Revolution

Government 1731. The Causes of War

History 1511. 19th-Century Ukraine

History 1512. 20th-Century Ukraine

History 1668. The Gilded Age, 1877-1900

History 1902. Alcohol in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1850 to the Present

History of Science 110. Alchemy, Astrology, and Magic: The Occult Sciences

Linguistics 158r. From Indo-European to Old Irish

Linguistics 226r. Advanced Hittite: "Special provision made for students with no previous knowledge of Hittite."

Music 167ar. Composition in the Digital Electronic Medium

Music 185r. Topics in Ethnomusicology

Akkadian 154a. Peripheral Akkadian

Sumerian 149. Sumerian Legal and Economic Texts

Aramaic 124a. Readings in Syriac

Berber A. Elementary Berber

Ethiopic 122ar. Readings in Amharic

Iranian 142br. Avestan III

Semitic Philology 152. Introduction to Ugaritic

Psychology 1853. Experimental Psychopathology

Religion 1031. Sun, Stone, Sea, and Tree: Supernatural Aspects of Natural Elements

Religion 1032. Sacrifice: Theory and Praxis

Religion 1635. Medieval Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism

French 127. The Book and Its Vicissitudes

Visual and Environmental Studies 156ar. Intermediate Film Animation

Visual and Environmental Studies 104r. Body (parts), Identities, Powers: "...The second half addresses contemporary issues, including the modernist occlusion of the face, the totalitiarian power-head, and the cinematic face, ending with the 'probe-head.'"

Visual and Environmental Studies 120s. Painting with Attitude: "Designed to help students develop their own studio practice, the course addresses issues of emotional content in painting from the refined and sublime to the irreverent and annoying."

Happy hunting!

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