Loitering For Credit This Spring

The most notable, curious and newfangled courses of the spring semester.

Quantitative Reasoning 48. “Bits.”

Class on-the-go! Now, thanks to podcasting, students can watch “Bits” lectures while sitting in the dining hall, walking to rehearsal, and even working out at the gym. “Bits,” which is also being offered as a distance learning course through the Division of Continuing Education, will become the first undergraduate course at Harvard to be podcast. Professor Harry R. Lewis ’68 said that while lecture videos will still be immediately accessible online, by the end of the course all lectures will also be available for downloading as podcasts through iTunes.

Dunster 71. “Histories of Dunster House, 1930-2005.”

Any student who has ever wondered how Mather House’s next-door, red-towered brick beauty evolved into the bustling community it is today should have his questions answered this spring. This house seminar, however, is not a simply the random creation of IBM Professor of Business and Government Roger B. Porter, nor is the course an underhanded attempt to boost Dunster’s reputation and House pride. Instead, “Histories of Dunster House” is actually being offered as a celebration of the House’s 75th anniversary as a residential community.

Visual and Environmental Studies 80. “Loitering: A Studio-Based Seminar: Studio Course.”

If the course title, “Loitering,” is not sufficiently puzzling, the course description should certainly be mysteriously vague enough to entice even the least artistic Harvard undergraduate to stop by the studio during shopping period. Offering no indication of the mediums and materials used or the methods taught, the brief course description merely informs students that they will “hang out in the vicinity of culture and make things in response to it.”

BS 60/Gov 1093. “Ethics, Biotechnology, and the Future of Human Nature.”

This innovative and wildly anticipated spring course, which will examine the clash between scientific pursuit and moral values, is being offered jointly by the government and biological sciences departments and should have a high turnout on the first Monday of shopping period. The two professors, Bass Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel and Cabot Professor of Natural Sciences Douglas J. Melton have shared a classroom before. “We and the students had such fun on those occasions that Doug and I decided to co-teach an undergraduate class together,” Sandel wrote in an e-mail. He called the course “an experiment in interdisciplinary teaching.”

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 1405. “Sex and the City: Gender, Architecture, and Space: Seminar.”

No, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda will not be discussed in this new seminar course, but students can be sure to find plenty of other wholesome material that might draw them away from old “Sex and the City” reruns for a few hours. With the goal of understanding “interrelationships among architecture, urban space, the body, and gendered identities,” the course will draw upon an intellectually stimulating spectrum of research, ranging from film history to geography to queer theory.

Psychology 950. “Psychology Live!”

“Psychology Live!” is a new, creative, and uniquely structured course involving a series of lectures each taught by a different professors in the psychology department. The course, which offers a “panoramic view” of research methodology and a novel blend of topics, from social psychology to psychopathology, is ideal for students who are overwhelmed by the plethora of fascinating psychology courses or indecisive about which professor or subfield they would most enjoy.

Historical Study B-41. “Inventing New England: History, Memory, and the Creation of a Regional Identity.”

Taught by newly appointed 300th Anniversary University Professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, this course should attract both native New Englanders and naïve newcomers. The course will expose the myths and falsehoods of New England while exploring 19th-century inventions in light of current research on the region’s history. The course will give locals the chance to bond with their home turf, and New England outsiders the opportunity to immerse themselves in the history of the region—including Harvard’s history—through a novel multimedia experience.

Science B-57. “Dinosaurs and Their Relatives.”

This ancient favorite is quickly becoming part of the “fossil record” of Harvard undergraduate course history. The course is being offered for the fourth time this spring, according to Professor of Biology and Geology Charles R. Marshall, who wrote in an e-mail that the fun material—which is “interesting, lively, accessible, and not too complex for non-majors”—is a large factor in its continuing appeal. “Dinosaurs” also provides students the opportunity to place the scenes of Jurassic Park into an intellectual, rather than cinematic, compartment of their minds.

English 146. “Sex and Sensibility in the Enlightenment.”

After two-and-a-half years of hibernation, this course has jumped back on the radar and should prove to be no less enlightening—and amusing—as its fall 2003 CUE Guide ratings proclaim. Cowles Associate Professor of English Lynn M. Festa, who taught the tamer English 147n, “Women and the Novel to Jane Austen” in fall 2004, appears prepared to once again educate and entertain with topics ranging from “what men and women want” to the “discipline of desire” to the “‘invention’ of pornography.”

Social Analysis 70. “Food and Culture.”

The allure of this course is obvious: We love to eat. Back again by popular demand, the course’s popularity last spring is likely a testament to students’ cravings for food beyond the routine dining hall menu. Over a quarter of students last spring took Social Analysis 70 as an elective, not to fulfill a Core requiremnt, and the course can be expected to draw another hungry crowd this shopping period as well.

—Staff writer Emily J. Nelson can be reached at