Now that September has officially begun, many are returning to school (our apologies go out to those who started in August). With that comes a whole bevy of new teachers, classes and assignments, and we at LD are having a little post-graduate nostalgia, so we’re recounting the best college classes we’ve ever taken.
Gender & The Internet, University of California, Santa Cruz
This is the course I wish I could have taken in freshman year, but was in no way prepared to make the best of it until spring quarter of senior year. Offered as an upper division within my major, the class was small—40 students—and led by Dr. Anna Cooper. Let me tell you about Dr. Cooper: The first day of class, clad in a cute vintage dress and cat-eye glasses, she established herself as a peer, forgoing traditional professorial authority for a stronger bond and a joint learning experience with her students. Then, she prefaced the entire course by politely reminding the class of gendered speaking biases, and asking those with traditional social power (straight/white/rich/male/able-bodied) to pause and let others speak first. This set the tone for the course content, which explored power structures from gender to race to class to body type at all technical levels. She allowed the entire course to be shaped by us, using general consensus to alter the course direction and customize individual assignments. As a class, we grew so tight that we were able to comfortably view and discuss the radical merits of queer, independent porn in an academic environment. I produced some work that I’m truly proud of, maybe the best of my entire academic career. This class focused on topics I cared so deeply about beforehand and amplified my passion for them. It felt like an academic revelation and I would pay at least $5,000 to take it again (lol money isn’t even real to me until my loan payments start in December).
Copyright Controversies, University of Iowa
Everything about this class was great. The professor (Kembrew McLeod) was very engaging and entertaining. I took it with a friend, which made it twice as fun. Class topics varied a lot, which kept the semester interesting. Plus, it’s not every day you get to listen to old school hip-hop for an hour or watch documentaries like “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes” and “Exit Through The Gift Shop” for class. We discussed super interesting issues including copyright laws in the publishing industry and the music industry, and how seed and gene patent works. It also allowed me the opportunity to write a paper about lawsuits the Sherlock Holmes estate has been in due to current copyright law disputes. Fun fact: copyright for written materials is now absurdly long, thanks in large part to Disney (due to their heavy influence on the passage of the Sonny Bono Act). The result? It takes much longer (the life of the author +70 years for individuals, and either 95 years or the life of the author +120 years for corporations) before creative work can enter the public domain (this makes me die a little inside every time I think about it).
Interpersonal Relations, Virginia Commonwealth University
This class is every social butterfly and every hopeless romantic’s wildest dream come true. It was a course that analyzed how people connect, form relationships, the ups and the downs, what goes right in a relationship, what goes wrong in a relationship, why this all happens and why it matters. This class was such a nice getaway from the realities and the hardships of relationships current and past. Focusing on lectures, and studying case studies, theories, experiments, and terminology always hit home for us students one way or another. It was a way to better understand ourselves and each other. This class taught me that people are a lot more common than we like to admit, and that this is a good thing. Our feelings are rationalized, always, and we never have to feel alone in our thoughts or ideas. This class gave me answers to the relationships that ended with question marks and uncertainties, and left me a sense of security.
The Life and Legend of Abraham Lincoln, University of Alabama
I took this class in the May-mester (a four-week course taught in the month of May that counts as a semester-length course in credit hours) with a well-known history professor who had an obsession with Abraham Lincoln. He had a big marble bust of him in his office and bookshelves overflowing with biographies. I signed up because I had a few credit hours to finish up for my history double-major, but I had no idea it would change my life. After four weeks of being inundated with every possible fact about Lincoln (did you know he pulled his knees up to his chest when he laughed really hard?) and watching a few great biographies (and “Young Mr. Lincoln,” the 1939 movie with Henry Fonda), I quickly developed my own obsession. Now I’m the one with a bust of Lincoln and a dedicated Lincoln bookshelf in her apartment. Love that guy!
Queer Literature, Virginia Commonwealth University
So many reasons why I have listed this as one of the best classes I’ve ever taken, and I have no idea where to begin. The professor was immensely passionate about the subject, and I felt like I was in a very honest, open, and raw learning environment. I joined this course for the sole reason of understanding the LGBTQ community more. I grew up in a Catholic school environment with a homophobic family member, and I wanted to be able to expose myself to a lifestyle I had never really had a chance to understand. I wanted to understand the people in my life who identify in the LGBTQ community. I wanted to know the history behind the LGBTQ community. And when it comes down to it, a hopeless romantic like me just loves love and loves the idea of writing and reading about it. This course allowed for all of that. I was able to build a close relationship with my professor, and ask questions and raise thoughts I was always too nervous to articulate out loud. We dived into so many facets of what the community has and continues to face. I only wish this class were a gen-ed, because I found it to be such an important topic that I personally feel everyone should be educated about it.
Circus in America, University of Virginia
After my first day of Circus in America I had to rush back to my apartment before my next class to change shirts because I was so excited about the former that I’d sweated through two layers of clothing. This class was amazing and not just because I am a self-affirmed circus freak. My professor was a 75-year-old man with a heart as big as Texas and an enormous passion for his course and its subject matter. He worked as an archivist for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Clown College before he began teaching Circus in America in the UVA drama department. I was lucky enough to be a part of his last class before his retirement and in the midst of a pretty hectic semester, this class reminded me of the importance of learning for learning’s sake instead of seeking out the most competitive courses for the most competitive majors in order to attain the most competitive careers. This was an absolutely fascinating course and I doubt I’ll ever take another one like it.
Anthropology of Islam, Columbia Summer Session
This is the class that inspired my career path. I took this 300 level class the summer before I was a senior in high school. I was 100% out of my comfort zone. The professor was a very tiny, very sweet PhD student who was full of passion. There was an entire section of the course dedicated to women in Islam. Being a naive high schooler, I thought it would center around the hindrances to women. However, it focused on how Islam liberated women and enabled them to be their best selves while remaining independent and autonomous being. It reshaped the way I thought about empowerment.
Ekphrastic Poetry, Illinois Wesleyan University
I signed up for Ekphrastic Poetry in the fall of my senior year at IWU, primarily because I knew I had to get at least one more class with Professor Theune in before graduating. At this point, I had taken my fair share of poetry writing courses, but there was something about the intensity of this class and the material we covered that had me fearlessly and excitedly pushing boundaries in my own writing. Ekphrasis, in a nutshell, is the graphic, dramatic description of a work of art. My class spent weeks perfecting the art of descriptive writing. We did everything from visiting art shows and creating personal galleries to analyzing paintings, artwork, and personal belongings as a group. Not only did we have the best of IWU’s creative writers in my class to write, discuss, and critique with, but Theune knew how to ignite our entire class. We had regularly scheduled one-on-one conferences with him to review our progress and portfolios. And we shared our work, as a class, at poetry readings (one of my biggest fears, yet proudest memories). Theune’s enthusiasm for the subject has stayed with me for the last four years (and counting). I read and wrote some of the best poetry of my college career in that class–and I have ekphrasis, my classmates, and Theune to thank for that.
What was the best class you ever took? Tweet us @litdarling and tell us about it!