Critical Inquiry: Minimalism

Harvey Mudd College
HSA 10 Section 1
Shanahan B454, TTh 2:45
Spring 2014

Professor Bill Alves
Office: Parsons 1273
Phone: x74170
E-mail: alves
Office hours: MTWR mornings 10:00-11:00 and by appointment
Office hours are subject to change -- please check the schedule posted on my door.

Class tutor: Katrina Sire

Library liaison: Alexandra Chappell

The Course:

This seminar course introduces students to inquiry, writing, and research in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts, through focused exploration of a particular topic in each section. To encourage reflection on the place of HSA within the HMC curriculum, the course begins with a brief unit on the history and aims of liberal arts education.

In the explosive 1960s, the mantra that "less is more" ricocheted across American culture, impacting visual arts, music, fiction, film, dance, and even fashion. Taken broadly, minimalist impulses have since resonated throughout the arts, their influences perhaps as profound as any artistic trend of the twentieth century and even the twenty-first. Rather than considering different types of art in isolation, this class will give you the chance to analyze and critique ways in which culture is reflected across multiple art forms. In addition to reading fiction, history, and criticism, we will also listen to music and view art and film (though no previous musical or artistic experience is expected). While exploring these topics, you will develop research skills, critical skills, and continue your development as a writer.

Upon the completion of HSA10, students should be able to:


Daily assignments: There are 13 assignments that will give you the opportunity to engage with the readings and listenings, usually by posting responses on Sakai forums. Unless otherwise noted, forum posts should be substantial, at least 100 words. These assignments are graded on a 2 point scale. Posts that are insufficient, do not adequately address the assignment prompt, or are late will get 1 point. At the end of the semester, the two lowest forum posts will be dropped. Note that these exceptions do not apply to the library tutorials (assignment 8), which will be graded separately.

Papers: During the semester, you will write three formal papers. Timely completion of interim assignments for the paper, such as topic proposals, annotated bibliographies, and initial drafts, and participation in peer editing will also be evaluated as part of the paper grade. In addition to writing the papers, you will also revise the Midterm paper for credit. Papers must be formatted correctly, saved in .docx or .doc file format, named according to the conventions in the assignment, and uploaded by the given deadline. Unless otherwise noted, you do not need to bring hard copies of assignments to class.

Presentation: You will give an oral presentation to the class based on the topic of your research paper. A representative of the class will also give a presentation during Presentation Days at the end of the semester. Presentations will be evaluated in part by peers. Because every presentation is scheduled, they cannot normally be made up.

Participation: Because this class is conducted as a seminar, it is necessary that you attend and speak up regularly, both for your own benefit as well as the benefit of others in the class. We want to see evidence that you are intellectually engaged in this class, though we recognize that your engagement might differ in character from someone else's. Your peer-editing efforts and other forms of engagement with your classmates will also help determine this portion of your grade. Because this engagement is critical for everyone in the class, I will deduct from your participation grade for each unexcused absence after the first two. In order to fully facilitate everyone's participation in discussions, there will be no open computers during class, unless specifically required for an in-class activity. Also, please make sure your cell phones are switched off.

Writing: Although there is no required textbook for this course, we will continue to make use of Joseph M. Williams and Gregory G. Colomb's Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. It is also important that you familiarize yourself with the guidelines for MLA format and style, which can be found online, here, for example. I encourage each of you to make use of the available resources to help you with your writing at any stage of the writing process. First, of course, please feel free to come seek help from me at any time in the course. Ideally, my written comments on a paper will be just a part of an ongoing conversation about your writing, critical thinking, and research. In addition, Ms. Katrina Sire is the tutor for our course and is available for consultations at any point in the writing process. I may sometimes refer you to her for extra help with an assignment, but you can also email her for an appointment at any time.

The Writing Center (Shanahan 1470) provides a welcoming space for writers to get feedback on their writing and presentation projects. Writing Center Consultants are prepared to assist students in any discipline with any stage of the writing process, from developing an idea to polishing a final draft. Even the most accomplished writers benefit from seeking feedback at the writing center. The center is open Sunday through Thursday evenings from 7-11 and Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 3-5. It is located in Shanahan 1470, just up the walkway from the cafe. You may schedule an appointment through their website,, or you may simply drop in during normal hours. If you'd like an appointment outside of normal hours, you may email writing_center@ with your request. YOU WILL LIKELY FIND YOUR WRITING CENTER VISIT MORE VALUABLE IF YOU GO EARLIER THAN THE NIGHT BEFORE YOUR FINAL DRAFT IS DUE. You can find many helpful links here.


In addition to achieving a passing average, students need to turn in both the Midterm and Research Papers in order to pass the class.

First Paper5%
Midterm Paper20%
Research Paper35%
Midterm Revision5%

Submitting Written Work: All work must be submitted on time and in a proper format. Extensions will be granted only in case of illness or emergency. Late papers will be penalized 10% per day late, though late papers will always get some credit, no matter how late.











Jan. 21

Class: Introduction: The explosive 60s

Jan. 22

Assignment 1 due 11:59 p.m.

Jan. 23

Class: The Liberal Arts & HMC

Jan. 24

Assignment 2 due 11:59 p.m.

Jan. 25

Jan. 26

Jan. 27

Jan. 28

Class: The Liberal Arts cont.

Jan. 29

Assignment 3 due 11:59 p.m.

Jan. 30

Class: Modernism

Jan. 31

First paper draft due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 1

Feb. 2

Peer edit complete 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 3

Assignment 4 due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 4

Class: Minimalist sculpture

Assignment 5 due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 5

Final draft of paper due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 6

Class: Robbe-Grillet's Fiction

Feb. 7

Feb. 8

Feb. 9

Feb. 10

Assignment 6 due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 11

Class: Minimalist music 1

Feb. 12

Assignment 7 due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 13

Class: Raymond Carver's Fiction

Feb. 14

Feb. 15

Feb. 16


Feb. 17

Assignment 8 due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 18

Class: Library workshop

Feb. 19

Midterm topic due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 20

Class: Documentation & theses

Feb. 21


Feb. 22

Feb. 23

Proposed thesis & bibliography due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 24

Thesis meetings

Feb. 25

Class: Thesis meetings

Feb. 26

Thesis meetings; Assignment 9 due 11:59 p.m.

Feb. 27

Class: Op art

Feb. 28


Mar. 1

Midterm first draft due 11:59 p.m.

Mar. 2

Midterm peer edit due 11:59 p.m.

Mar. 3


Mar. 4

Class: Global coherence

Mar. 5

Midterm paper due 11:59 p.m.

Mar. 6

Class: Minimalist film & theater

Mar. 7

Mar. 8


Mar. 9


Mar. 10

Assignment 10 due 11:59 p.m.

Mar. 11

Class: Nicholson Baker's Fiction

Mar. 12

Assignment 11 due 11:59 p.m.

Mar. 13

Class: Minimalist music 2

Mar. 14

Mar. 15

Mar. 16

Spring break

Mar. 17

Spring break

Mar. 18

Spring break

Mar. 19

Spring break

Mar. 20

Spring break

Mar. 21

Spring break

Mar. 22

Spring break

Mar. 23

Mar. 24

Mar. 25

Class: Ethics of style

Mar. 26

Assignment 12 due 11:59 p.m.

Mar. 27

Class: Minimalist music 3

Mar. 28


Mar. 29

Mar. 30

Mar. 31

Assignment 13 due 11:59 p.m.

Apr. 1

Class: James Turrell

Apr. 2

Midterm revision due 11:59 p.m.

Apr. 3

Class: Koyaanisqatsi

Apr. 4

Research topic due 11:59 p.m.

Apr. 5

Apr. 6

Apr. 7


Apr. 8

Class: Koyaanisqatsi

Apr. 9


Apr. 10

Library workshop

Apr. 11

Annotated bibliography and thesis due 11:59 p.m.

Apr. 12

Apr. 13

Apr. 14


Apr. 15


HSA curriculum

Apr. 16

Evidentiary outline due 11:59 p.m.

Apr. 17

No class: HSA advising

Apr. 18


Apr. 19

Apr. 20

Research paper draft due 11:59 p.m.

Apr. 21


Apr. 22

Class: Research presentations

Apr. 23

Research paper peer edit due 11:59 p.m.

Apr. 24

Class: Research presentations

Apr. 25

Apr. 26

Apr. 27

Apr. 28

Apr. 29

Class: Research presentations

Apr. 30

May 1

Class: Research presentations

May 2

May 3

May 4

May 5

Presentation Days

May 6

Presentation Days

May 7

Presentation Days

May 8

May 9

Research paper due 11:59 p.m.

May 10