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The Center for cultural engagement

Center for Cultural Engagement
Course Descriptions

Session 1 – September 20 to October 22

You Did What? Epic Presidential Blunders
Mondays – Blackwood Campus
Randolph Voldish
Certainly, “hindsight is 20-20,” but certain presidential decisions have been so disastrous, so egregious, that historians still expend huge volumes of ink to try to explain them. This course will closely examine five such decisions that either wrecked a presidency, the country, or both.

Music in Cinema
Mondays – Online
Ben Vinci
This class will cover the types of music found in film, the purpose of a music score, and the history of music in film. We will also look at soundtracks that are considered to be the greatest in cinema history. In addition, I will personally interview fellow musicians and composers who have scored for movies, short films, and TV.

Coppola and Capitalism
– Online
Grant Gieseke
As the 1960s turned into the seventies, Francis Ford Coppola led an onslaught of visionary New Hollywood filmmakers who would both reflect and shape the zeitgeist of the decade. Coppola’s virtually unparalleled prime as a filmmaker will be examined in relationship to the dominant underlying themes of his 70s output: murder, paranoia, insanity, and above all, capitalism. Selections from each film will be screened in session; the films should be viewed prior to session, freshly if possible.

Desperate Measures: The American Civil War
Thursdays – William G. Rohrer Center in Cherry Hill
Herb Kaufman
This course concentrates on what they never teach you in high school: the many controversial and provocative personalities, unusual occurrences, and strange and highly curious and often bizarre incidents that occurred during the Civil War. We will also examine the true history of terrorism and medical science, dispelling myths and examining popular fiction.

Sacred Places in the World
Thursdays – Blackwood Campus
Venise Grossmann

At a time when so many of us are seeking healing of our bodies, hearts, and souls, we will learn about the relevance of spiritual sites around the world. We will discuss vortexes, sacred mountains, caves, pyramids, stone alignments, temples, shrines, churches, lost cities, religious centers, and natural wonders.

Professional Baseball in the Midwest
Thursdays – Online
Jason Love
Professional Baseball in the Midwest Baseball has been a part of the fabric of American life in the Midwest since the late-19th Century. This course will discuss the cities, the people, and the professional baseball teams from various cities in the Midwest.

Decisive Naval Battles of the Civil War
Thursdays – William G. Rohrer Center in Cherry Hill
Tom Thurber
The American Civil War was not only fought on land but on American rivers and the world’s oceans. This course will detail the often-overlooked naval battles that shaped the conflict’s course. These battles also highlight the North’s technological and industrial advantages that ultimately doomed the South.

Session 2 – November 1 to December 10

No classes the week of November 22

Presidential Elections Since 2000
Mondays – Blackwood Campus
Randolph Voldish

This course will examine the candidates, issues, deal-making, media handling, politics, and passions of the past five presidential elections. Special attention will be paid to the “culture wars” and increasing partisanship and fragmentation of the electorate.

Myth, Magic and Religion in the Middle Ages
Mondays – William G. Rohrer Center in Cherry Hill
William Ebert
As the Christian Church spread throughout Europe, it encountered varied cultures each with its own beliefs about Man and the unknown. Each of these encounters impacted the evolution upon what eventually became the Roman Catholic Church.

Monuments and Memorials of New Jersey
Tuesdays – Online
Erik Burro
Except for those of national reputation, most monuments in NJ are only known in or near their respective counties of the Garden State. This course will introduce a variety of commemorative monuments that reflect the interests, activities, accomplishments and events that have been significant to New Jersey citizens.

Great Battles and Commanders of the Western Theatre in the Civil War
Tuesdays – Online
Anthony Waskie

The Western Theater of the Civil War contained a huge portion of the nation, in fact, all the land east of the Appalachians. The fighting took place over many states and territories. The East received the most attention, but many historians believe the war was won in the West. The course will focus on Grant and Sherman for the Union; and Bragg, Johnston and Hood of the Confederacy. Great Battles such as Shiloh, Stones River, Vicksburg, Atlanta and the March to the Sea will be explored and discussed.

The Vanderbilt Dynasty from the Commodore to Anderson Cooper
Wednesdays – Online
Katherine Hoh
Learn about one of the wealthiest American families during the Gilded Age, including several very colorful characters, how they made their money, some scandals, their Dollar Princess, and their mansions, including the largest single family home in the country.

Ira Miller, Exotic Music: Influences on Western Music
Thursdays – William G. Rohrer Center in Cherry Hill
Ira Miller
When a composer hears interesting melodies, instruments, or rhythms, they often become part of the composer’s musical pallet. This class will introduce the student to music of cultures from around the world and to composers who have taken that music outside of cultural contexts to create new music in a Western context.

Foundations of Infectious Disease
Thursdays – Online
Nataliya Balashova
This course is an introduction to human infectious agents, the diseases they cause as well as infectious disease epidemiology.

New Horizons: The Age of Explorations
Saturdays – Online
Judy Okun
Travel through time as we chart the history of exploration from its ancient beginnings through the transoceanic voyages of the 15th through 18th centuries. Polynesian sailing voyages, Arabian caravans, Silk Road trading routes, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian, and British expeditions will be investigated through an adventure!

Lecture Series

New Perspectives on the Middle East

The United States, Iraq and the Experience of Exile
9/21/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood
Zainab Saleh, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Haverford College

From the US backing for the 1963 Ba’th coup and support for Saddam Hussein’s regime in the 1980s, to the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion and occupation, American foreign policy has always been deeply implicated in the modern history of Iraq. In her new book, Return to Ruin, anthropologist Zainab Saleh examines the ways this has played out in the experiences of Iraqi exiles — offering stories of aging communists, uprooted immigrants, and displaced elites, as well as her own narrative of loss and belonging.

The Iranian Nuclear Issue: A View from History
9/28/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood
John Ghazvinian, Executive Director, Middle East Center, University of Pennsylvania

As tensions between the United States and Iran continue, the controversy about the Iranian nuclear program is frequently cited as a central area of disagreement between the two countries. But is this, in fact, the core of the issue? Historian John Ghazvinian explores the broader story of Iran’s nuclear program, and discusses the history of US-Iran relations — situating the nuclear disagreement within the context of 40 years of US-Iran tensions.

Israel After Netanyahu: How Much Will Change?
10/12/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood
Nathaniel Shils, PhD Candidate, Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

After 15 years as prime minister of Israel, including a three-year stint in the 1990s, Binyamin Netanyahu went down in history as that country’s longest-serving leader — fundamentally transforming Israel’s domestic politics, its relations with the US, and what little remained of the Arab-Israeli peace process. As Israel embarks on a new chapter, led by an unlikely coalition under the premiership of Naftali Bennett, we ask what comes next. Join us as Nathaniel Shils, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania breaks down the question and offers his ideas about the road ahead.

Science in the Middle East
10/19/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood
Harun Küçük, Director, Middle East Center, University of Pennsylvania

Join us for a very special evening, featuring the new director of the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Harun Küçük. Dr Küçük will be discussing the role and importance of science in Middle Eastern societies, drawing on his work as a historian of the early modern Ottoman Empire. He will also cover the politics and significance of science in contemporary Middle Eastern cultures, including debates over the role of science and religion, technology, modernity and a wide range of themes.

China and the Middle East: Changes and Continuities in Contemporary Policy
11/2/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood
Bill Figeroa, University of Pennsylvania

This presentation will discuss the changes and continuities in contemporary policy with China and the Middle East.

Hollywood and Society Series

Hollywood, Politics, and Society: The Impact of Film on Politics and Society, 50s – 80s

The Psychology and Effects of Political Entertainment

9/22/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood
Dannagal Young, University of Delaware

We know that television and film can affect individuals and society in politically and culturally important ways. But how? What is it about entertainment that makes it such a unique source of information and influence. Media and Political Psychologist Dannagal Young will discuss the psychology of political entertainment – how dramatic narratives and fictional representations are processed in the brain in ways that may shape attitudes, behavior and knowledge. Dr. Young is the author of “Irony and Outrage: The Polarized Landscape of Rage, Fear and Laughter in the U.S.” Professor Hirsch is the author of 16 books including “The Hollywood Epic” and “Love, Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life: The Films of Woody Allen.”

The Blacklist in Hollywood, 1947-1955
Foster Hirsch, Brooklyn College – City University of New York

9/29/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood

This talk will examine the impact of the blacklist on Hollywood filmmaking of the period, with examples drawn from four films that are allegories of the contemporary political crisis: The Robe, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, High Noon, and On the Waterfront. Professor Hirsch is the author of 16 books including “The Hollywood Epic” and “Love, Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life: The Films of Woody Allen.”

America in Parallax: Conspiracy Films of the 1970s, Then and Now

10/06/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood
Bob Rehak, Swarthmore College

In the wake of Watergate, the Vietnam War, and countercultural social unrest, the 1970s saw a cycle of conspiracy-themed films that refracted public disillusionment with governmental authority and distrust of official knowledge. Viewed from the vantage point of today, these films seem almost quaint but still have much to offer as a commentary not just on their times but our own. This talk explores The Conversation, The Parallax View and Capricorn One as reflections of U.S. Society that continue to resonate in the contemporary mediascape of corporate control, ubiquitous surveillance, and fake news. Dr. Rehak is the “More Than Meets the Eye: Special Effects and the Fantastic Transmedia Franchise.” He also published articles in “Cinema Journal,” Film Criticism,” and “Journal of Film Studies.”­

A Tale of Two Political Satires, 1958/1972

10/20/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood
Chris Cagle

The political satire blossomed as a genre in the 1990s, with films like Primary Colors, Bulworth, and Wag the Dog. However, this boom in drama-comedies about politics had predecessors. This talk examines two earlier films as snapshots in the evolving political culture in the United State. 1958’s The Last Hurrah examines the big-city machine politics that seemed to be in decline in the postwar years of national consensus. Almost a decade and a half later in 1972, The Candidate chronicles the breakdown of that political consensus. Differing in the nature of their satire, these films both critique the role of mass media in society and offer cinema as a means to reflect on engaged citizenship.

After the End: “Nashville,” “Network,” and the late 1970s Malaise.
10/27/21 at 6:30pm in Civic Hall (Connector 105) in Blackwood
Jonathan Kirshner, Boston College

By the mid-1970s, America seemed uncertain and adrift, as expressed in movies like Network (in which oil shocks and recession were making Americans “mad as hell”) and Nashville (which reflected a celebrity-worshiping culture limping towards the bicentennial celebration of 1776). Bad times made for great films. But just as trends in the industry coupled with the social-cultural upheavals of the late 1960s gave rise to a wave of introspective, challenging, character-driven movies, ten years that window was closing. With the arrival of Star Wars, the blockbuster model and its large-scale, feel-good entertainments ushered in a new era. The “New Hollywood” spirit would endure in films like Manhattan, Raging Bull, and the Prince of the City – but the broader movie culture of 1980s was very different from the golden age of the previous decade. Professor Kirshner is the author of “When Hollywood Mattered: The New Hollywood Revisited Coedited with Jon Lewis)

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