Pop Music, Paris and New York, and Chinese Religion: A Sampling of 2018 Spring Courses

For students, the start of a new semester means a brand new class schedule full of possibilities. This spring, Saint Anselm professors are offering a multitude of special topics for students to enjoy. From time traveling in famous cities to discovering the body through Tai Chi to analyzing popular music throughout the decades, there is no shortage of variety this semester.

PH 305 Paris and New York in the 20’s and 30’s
Professor Max Latona, Ph.D., philosophy

Paris and New York in the 20’s and 30’s is an all-encompassing course following changes in culture, values, and tradition during a “dramatic and clearly defined historical period,” according to the course syllabus. The class offers an interesting combination of history and philosophy, as well as several other subjects, to all students wishing to explore not simply the events, but the “new principles for life and art” that arose in these two famous cities.

According to Professor Latona, in an age when students are encouraged to compartmentalize and specialize their education, this course offers a more genuine liberal arts experience. Combining professors and topics from philosophy, psychology, music, history, literature, and more, this course gives students the opportunity to delve into subjects outside of their major.

The course also expands outside of the classroom by traveling to New York City for three days. The students will visit several museums, attend a Broadway show and a jazz club, and view examples of Art Deco architecture. Latona states this a great way for students to apply their knowledge and realize the “layers and layers of history and culture beneath modern city life.”

TH 286 Chinese Religion and Christianity
Professor Bede Bidlack, Ph.D., theology

Based on German scholar Max Müller’s philosophy, “He who knows one, knows none” the course Chinese Religion and Christianity encourages students to learn and understand (rather than simply tolerate) religious traditions outside of Christianity.

The course, designed and taught by Professor Bidlack for seven years now, centers around comparative theology, a relatively new concept in the world of theology. Bidlack has always had an interest in Chinese religion, and particularly in Daoism, one of the main focuses of the course. Bidlack’s extensive knowledge of Chinese religion is one of the main highlights of the course, incorporating everything from the Chinese language to Tai Chi practices.

The course is split into four categories: God, the human body, ethics, and spirituality. During the spirituality section, the class goes to the Abbey Church for a private lecture on monasticism by Abbot Matthew Leavy, O.S.B.. Bidlack says this is a “powerful moment” in the course as the students absorb the smells and sounds of a quiet church. The course’s final requires students to place themselves in theology, to answer the spiritual and philosophical questions they have been asking all semester.

“Students get the opportunity to have tools to have rich discussion with anyone who thinks differently than themselves,” says Bidlack. He argues the concepts learned in this course can be applied beyond just religious differences, and so can be utilized in the students’ everyday lives.

CM 325 Pop Music and the Rhetoric of Sound
Professor Chani Marchiselli, Ph.D., English/communication

Sound, and specifically music, enters and influences our lives every day. However, we don’t often stop to appreciate the way music affects our world both personally and culturally. Professor Marchiselli’s course Pop Music & Rhetoric of Sound does just that.

Marchiselli begins each class with a minute of silence to prep the students for any material they will be listening to that day, and to encourage open minds. According to Communication student Ben Scheffler ’18, the class has listened to a variety of music, including “a 12-minute heavy metal song, classical music, and more recently some jazz.”

The course aims to discover how music has influenced culture, Scheffler explains, ranging from periods of “jazz and ragtime up to modern day hip hop and rap.” The class also discusses how our perceptions of listeners who favor certain genres changes over time. The definition of Rock and Roll has changed over the years, but so has our view of the “rocker.”

Rhetoric of Sound also focuses on the listener themselves, says Scheffler, taking into consideration “how much we wear our headphones to the kind of music we listen to.” Students can easily relate these concepts to their everyday lives.