Humanities 2

Introduction to the Humanities: Music and the Arts in the Twentieth Century

Dr. Bill Alves - Spring 2001

Jacobs 132, MWF 10:00-10:50

Office: Parsons 278 - Phone: x74170

This document includes class description, goals, and policies.
Click here for the semester assignment schedule.
Click here for contents of the listening CDs.
Click here to go to writing tips

Click here to go to my list of courses.

Class Goals and Background

The study of the diverse, volatile, exciting history of the arts in our own century can give fascinating insights into our culture and help us to comprehend works of frequently astonishing beauty. Like our century, some of these works may seem difficult to understand at first, but many people feel the effort is abundantly rewarded. On the other hand, the reputation modernist arts have for inscrutability is frequently overblown, and the diversity of artistic approaches in this period can hold something for just about everyone.

 While this course will be mainly "about" these arts, there are several goals that are at least as important as learning about the fine arts in the twentieth century. First, I want you to come away from this class with keener insights about the interpretation of art and art criticism in general. Creative interpretation is much more important than the memorization of facts in this class. A second goal is continuing improvement to your ability to clearly express yourself in oral presentations and especially in writing. This goal includes the good organization of thought, clarity of communication, and the depth of insights. A third goal is to prepare research skills that will be valuable for future courses both within and outside of the humanities and social sciences.

 This course focuses on the "fine" or "classical" arts in the twentieth century. We will not be covering popular or folk arts or arts completely outside of the European tradition. This restriction is entirely one of practicality, and it is not meant to imply that these arts are better or more worthy of study than others. Only paper topics within this broad field will be appropriate for this course.

Required Materials for this Course


Class participation20%
Three interpretive papers30%
Research paper20%
Three listening essays15%
Class presentation8%
Field Trip7%

Class Participation

This is a seminar class, in which active participation in class discussions is vital. Your ability to analyze the issues associated with the readings and listening excerpts and to contribute thoughtfully to the discussion of these issues will be a significant part of your evaluation. Therefore it is crucial that you keep up with the reading, including taking notes as you read and formulating questions and discussion points before class. Your constructive and thoughtful peer editing as well as your consistent attendance will also be considered in this part of your grade.

Class Presentation

You will do one oral presentation to the class during the course of the semester. The schedule of these presentations will be announced early in the semester. The general topic I will assign randomly, though if you have a particular interest, I will be happy to try to arrange that with you. Presentations will be no longer than 10 minutes, not including discussion. Before each presentation, you will submit to me a specific topic or thesis, then an outline and discussion questions. Evaluations of the presentation will be made by both me and your peers.

Writing Assignments

There will be four main writing assignments during the course of the semester and three shorter essays. The interpretive papers and research paper will include a peer editing and revision process that will be discussed in class. None of these papers should be purely historical in nature. The writing assignments should be interpretive and critical, including evidence of your own original thought and ability to synthesize and evaluate sources. All writing assignments should follow standard and consistent formats as used in Hum 1 or other scholarly disciplines and should be computer printed (not hand-written). A creative project may be substituted for any one of the three interpretive papers, but not the research paper (see below). Page counts below do not include bibliography.

Creative Project

You may substitute a creative project for any ONE of the interpretive papers (that is, not the research paper or listening essays). This project may be a set of poems, a short story, a musical composition, a work of fine art, or other work of art. However, the style of the project must relate to one or more of the styles we will be discussing, and you must submit a proposal just as those doing papers will. The following types of projects are NOT acceptable: cut-and-paste poster collages, spoken word audio cassettes when the work could have been submitted in written form, group projects, or works not done during this semester for this assignment. Proposals for projects involving some styles are less likely to be approved, such as Dadaist poems, Cageian chance music, free verse poems, and happenings.

Field Trip

During a semester weekend I will arrange a field trip to an art museum, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Participants will write an essay of at least two pages on their museum experience and the ways in which it related to issues discussed in class and in the readings. Students unable to attend this field trip may substitute attendance at two concerts of mostly twentieth-century music and a similar reaction essay. Other "emergency substitutions," such as writing a book review, may be available, depending on the situation.

Click here for the semester assignment schedule.
Click here to go to my list of courses.
Updated on January 10, 2001 (