A-C Courses

Africana Studies

  • AFRC-006-401; ASAM-006-401; SOCI-006-401; URBS-160-401: Race & Ethnic Relations
  • The course will focus on race and ethnicity in the United States. We begin with a brief history of racial categorization and immigration to the U.S. The course continues by examining a number of topics including racial and ethnic identity, interracial and interethnic friendships and marriage, racial attitudes, mass media images, residential segregation, educational stratification, and labor market outcomes. The course will include discussions of African Americans, Whites, Hispanics, and Asian Americans and Multiracials.


  • ANTH-189-601; SAST-189-601: Islam in Modern South Asia
  • This course will examine Islam in modern South Asia, particularly in Pakistan, from multiple disciplinary perspectives. In popular discourse and media, Pakistan is usually presented as a volatile Muslim country primarily of interest as a "security problem." Most Western discussions and commentaries about Pakistan abound with stereotypical depictions of religious fundamentalism and/or the threat of the country's nuclear weapons to global security. This course will complicate and bring into question such stereotypes and alarming narratives. It will do so by examining the complexity of Pakistan's religious and political past and present. The focus of this course is on the intellectual history and traditions, as well as the lived practice of Islam in Pakistan. By drawing on a range of primary and secondary sources including film, literature, and anthropological texts, we will explore the diversity of Islam and Muslims in Pakistan. We will begin with the context of colonial India, and interrogate transformations in South Asian Islam during the 19th and early 20th century, before moving to Pakistan in the contemporary period. Among the major themes discussed in this course include modern South Asian Muslim reform movements, intra-Muslim poletics on questions of normative practice and ethics, contestations of religious authority, sectarianism, minorities, Madrases (Islamic seminaries) and Muslim traditions of education, religion and the state, Cyber Islam, and religion and the media. While focusing on modern South Asia and Pakistan, this course will also engage Islam in Afghanistan in both historical and contemporary contexts.
  • ANTH-258-401; CIS-106-401: Visualizing the Past
  • Most people's information about the Past is drawn from coffee table picture books, popular movies, video games, documentaries about discoveries of "ancient, mysterious, and lost" civilizations, and tours often led by guides of limited or even dubious credentials. How are these ideas presented, formed, and circulated? Who creates and selects the information presented in this diverse media? Are these presentations accurate? Do they promote or hurt scientific explanations? Can the artistic, aesthetic, and scientific realms be bridged to effectively promote the past? This class will focus on case studies and critiques of how archaeology and the past are created, presented and used in movies, museums, games, the internet, and art. In addition to exploring general concepts of archaeology and the media, students will work in teams to produce an interactive, digital media exhibit using the latest modeling and augmented reality programs for the new archaeological museum at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tiwanaku, Bolivia. Although nearly abandoned for a millennium and sacked by treasure hunters, the ruins are considered one of the most important archaeological sites in South America and visited by 45,000 tourists a year. Potential class projects include fly-throughs of architectural renderings; simulations of the design and engineering of the pyramids, temples, and palaces; modeling of human behavior within architectural settings; and studying artifacts in the Penn Museum. The results will be displayed in the Tiwanaku Museum and will serve to introduce visitors to the site.

Art History

  • ARTH-107-401; ENGL-078-401; CINE-103-401; COML-099-401: Television and New Media
  • As a complex cultural product, television lends itself to a variety of critical approaches that build-on, parallel, or depart from film studies. This introductory course in television studies begins with an overview of the medium's history and explores how technical and industrial changes correspond to developing conventions of genre, programming, and aesthetics. Along the way, we analyze key concepts and theoretical debates that shaped the field. In particular, we will focus on approaches to textual analysis in combination with industry research, and critical engagements with the political, social and cultural dimensions of television as popular culture.
  • ARTH-286-401: Modern Art: Picasso-Pollack
  • Early twentieth-century art in Europe is marked by a number of exciting transformations. This period witnessed the rise of abstraction in painting and sculpture, as well as the inventions of collage, photomontage, constructed sculpture, the ready made and found object, and performance art. Encounters with the arts of Africa, Oceania and other traditions unfamiliar in the West spurred innovations in media, technique, and subject matter. Artists began to respond to the challenge of photography, to organize themselves into movements, and in some cases, to challenge the norms of art through "anti-art." A new gallery system replaced traditional forms of exhibiting and selling art, and artists took on new roles as publicists, manifesto writers, and exhibition organizers. This course examines these developments, with attention to formal innovations as well as cultural and political contexts.
  • ARTH-289-401; COML-292-401; CINE-202-401; ENGL-292-401: Topics in Film Studies: Historical Films
  • This course is an exploration of multiple forces that explain the growth, global spread and institutionalization of international film festivals. The global boom in film industry has resulted in an incredible proliferation of film festivals taking place all around the world, and festivals have become one of the biggest growth industries. A dizzying convergence site of cinephilia, media spectacle, business agendas and geopolitical purposes, film festivals offer a fruitful ground on which to investigate the contemporary global cinema network. Film festivals will be approached as a site where numerous lines of the world cinema map come together, from culture and commerce, experimentation and entertainment, political interests and global business patterns. To analyze the network of film festivals, we will address a wide range of issues, including historical and geopolitical forces that shape the development of festivals, festivals as an alternative marketplace, festivals as a media event, programming/agenda setting, prizes, cinephilia, and city marketing. Individual case studies of international film festivals-Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary, Toronto, Sundance among others-will enable us to address all these diverse issues but also to establish a theoretical framework with which to approach the study of film festivals. For students planning to attend the Penn-in-Cannes program, this course provides an excellent foundation that will prepare you for the on-site experience of the King of all festivals.

Asian American Studies

  • ASAM-001-401; SOCI-103-401: Asian Americans in Contemporary Society
  • This class will introduce you to sociological research of Asian Americans and engage in the "model minority" stereotype. We begin by a brief introduction to U.S. immigration history and sociological theories about assimilation and racial stratification. The class will also cover research on racial and ethnic identity, educational stratification, mass media images, interracial marriage, multiracials, transracial adoption, and the viability of an Asian American panethnic identity. We will also examine the similarities and differences of Asian Americans relative to other minority groups.

Cinema Studies

  • CINE-036-401; NELC-036-401: The Mideast Through Many Lenses
  • This freshman seminar introduces the contemporary Middle East by drawing upon cutting-edge studies written from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. These include history, political science, and anthropology, as well as studies of mass media, sexuality, religion, urban life, and the environment. We will spend the first few weeks of the semester surveying major trends in modern Middle Eastern history. We will spend subsequent weeks intensively discussing assigned readings along with documentary films that we will watch in class. The semester will leave students with both a foundation in Middle Eastern studies and a sense of current directions in the field.

Classical Studies

  • CLST-140-401; COML-141-401: Scandalous Arts
  • What do the ancient Greek comedian Aristophanes, the Roman satirist Juvenal, have in common with Snoop Dogg and Eminem? Many things, in fact, but perhaps the most fundamental is that they are all united by a stance that constantly threatens to offend prevailing social norms, whether through obscenity, violence or misogyny. This course will examine our conceptions of art (including literary, visual and musical media) that are deemed by certain communities to transgress the boundaries of taste and convention. It juxtaposes modern notions of artistic transgression, and the criteria used to evaluate such material, with the production of and discourse about transgressive art in classical antiquity. Students will consider, among other things, why communities feel compelled to repudiate some forms of art, while others into classics.


  • COMM-125-001: Communication Behavior
  • This course is an introduction to the fundamentals of communication behavior. It focuses on social science studies relating to the processes and effects of mass communication. Research reviewed includes media use behavior and media influences on knowledge, perceptions of social reality, aggressive behavior, and political behavior.
  • COMM-237-301: Health Communications
  • An examination of the influence of public health communication on health behavior. The course will consider: intervention programs addressing behaviors related to cancer, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, drug use, obesity and others; theories of health behavior change; issues in the design of effective health communication programs; concerns about the portrayal of health and medicine on mass media.
  • COMM-290-301: From Beulah to Awkward Black Girl: Black Women On and In TV in the US
  • The course explores Black women's involvement in the television industry as actors and content creators, beginning in the 1950s with Beulah and then transitions throughout the decades into the contemporary moment with Black women's presence in unscripted programs, dramas and web series. The course engages Black feminist debates about Black women's representation in media, and interrogates the cultural and political conditions, and industry discourses and practices that coincide with many of the shifts in Black women's visibility on and in television.
  • COMM-294-001: Chicks and Cyborgs: Gender, Technology, and Culture
  • Information and communication technologies (ICT) are powerful tools of connectivity and social change, but they also contain embedded ideological tensions that can produce inequalities and deepen inter-group disparities. At the core of this class is a sustained analysis of the effects of gender on the development and use of ICT. Drawing on a range of theories for communication, gender, information, media, sexuality and technology, this course helps students understand feminist critiques of science and technology; develop critical analyses of public policies that have consequences; identify barriers to the recruitment and retention of historically marginalized groups in the technology industry; and understand frameworks for thinking about communication technologies as shaping everyday life.
  • COMM-301-301: Introduction to the Political Economy of Media
  • This course has two aims. First, assuming that communications are central to any society, it situates media systems within larger national and international social relationships and political structures. Second, this course critically examines the structures of the communication systems themselves, including ownership, profit imperatives, support mechanisms such as advertising and public relations,and the ideologies and government policies that sustain these arrangements. Considering case studies ranging from traditional news and entertainment media to new digital and social media, the course provides a comprehensive survey of the major texts in this vibrant sub-field of media studies.
  • COMM-374-401; PSCI-374-401: Communication & Congress
  • This course will examine how Congress goes about the business of translating the public's concerns into legislation and keeps the public informed of its progress. It will examine how the two chambers interact in this process, what role the media plays in shaping Congress's agenda and vice versa, and what impact the advent of 24 hour news, C-SPAN and the internet have had on Congressional deliberations. A historical approach will be taken in considering the evolution of both chambers and the media's coverage of them. Students will examine differences between the House and Senate in both their institutional development and how they go about communicating with each other, the general public, and the other branches and levels of government.