The American Culture and Ideas Initiative works toward implementing its mission through interdisciplinary course offerings that highlight the broad nature of its interests. Below are a list of courses that are currently offered, as well as some that will be available in the future. 

Human Achievement & Innovation in the Arts

The understanding of European and American masterpieces of visual art, classical music, and dance are explored from the point of view of the innovations they signify within their historical setting (technological and aesthetic), their enduring legacy in the present day, and their role in humanity's construction of civilization. By enrolling in this interdisciplinary course, students become familiar with the formal elements of the arts and how they relate to the viewer/listeners subjective experience as designed by the artist/composer. Philosophical notions of Beauty permeate all aspects of the course.  The concepts of innovation and achievement in other disciplines are reinforced as crucial lessons that can be learned from engaging with this cultural material.

MUS 160D1- Asia, Gordon - since Spring 2013 - 3 credit hours

Sample Student Reviews:

"Human Achievement and Innovation in the Arts is the best class I have ever taken in the University of Arizona." ~Monica Chang, 2019

"Dr. Gordon is one of my favorite professors and Human Achievement & Innovation in the Arts still ranks as one of my best classes ever!"    ~ Karen Schaffner, 2015

The Arts, Economics, and Entrepreneurship 

An essential component of arts education is understanding how economic development and entrepreneurship have contributed to the creation of the significant artifacts of culture. Students become competent in the basic principles and terminologies of each area under consideration as they develop an understanding of how artistic creativity, economic activity, and entrepreneurialism correspond to each other within today’s society.

Developed and implemented with the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, the  course brings together major non-political forces of civilization in order to foster a holistic appreciation of the human element embedded in their discourses. The idea of “movement” is central to this goal. It is a concept essential to aesthetic experience, economic exchange, and the motive force of the entrepreneurial spirit. Business, or “busy-ness,” explicitly references both physical and economic movement. Artists and composers use the formal elements to “move” an individual intellectually, emotionally, or visually across a picture plane. Finally, entrepreneurship has been likened to ocean waves, where innovation and imagination coalesce with problem solving and real life to generate new “waves” of thinking and living, thereby moving society forward. These ideas are all brought to bear as students find ways to engage them practically and thematically.  

MUS 150A1 - Gordon, Asia, Alsua - Fall 2019 - 3 credit hours 

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, 1851

Art and the Founding Fathers: Freedom and the Fine Arts

The idea of freedom is an important aspect of the American experience, penetrating all realms of cultural and political life. The same can be said of the arts with respect to civilization in general. But, what is the relationship between freedom and the fine arts? Why is it important to understand these two together? The beaux-arts (fine arts) were institutionalized in Western political consciousness in the 17th century with the formation of the Academie de Peinture et de Sculpture in France, which later included both music and architecture, and came to be known as the Academie des Beaux-Arts. Its beginnings thus developed at the same time in Europe as the Age of Reason, when the Enlightenment concept of individual liberty developed in the West as a high social and political cause. This course explores various theories of freedom and how they relate to the history and creation of art from Ancient Greece through the contemporary period. Students learn about important artists and composers with respect to philosophical notions of political freedom espoused by thinkers such as Plato, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, John Locke,  Jeremy Bentham,  Alexis de Tocqueville, Isaiah Berlin, as well as more contemporary thinkers. Jacques Louis David's 18th century revolutionary paintings together with the U.S. government's use of American Abstract Expressionism as a foil against communist regimes in the 1950s and 60s help bookend the topic historically.

3 credit hours - Gordon

Buddhist Visual Culture and the West

This course explores Buddhism’s history, basic tenets, and visual culture as it has emerged in Europe and America since the 19th century. It penetrates the philosophical shell of important Buddhist artifacts and investigates the religion’s development within Western consciousness vis-à-vis art, architecture, film, and other visual media. How has Buddhism’s visual culture become assimilated into the West over the last 150 years? Working in collaboration with the College of Humanities, students are exposed to an interdisciplinary curriculum spanning the fields of art history, religious studies, and visual culture to address this question.

The course also explores how Buddhism, as a foreign religion, contrasts with the cultural worldview of the West. Buddhist thought hinges on recognizing that attachment to the idea of a fixed, immutable “self” is a delusion. However, in the West the idea of an autonomous self and its actualization is of central importance, and is the foundation of the individual freedom so important to its democratic institutions. The ideas and artifacts of the course bring this difference into sharp focus as a function of engaging in Buddhism’s artistic legacy, philosophical principles, and cultural distinctiveness.

REL2xx - Dachille, Gordon - Spring 2020 - 3 credit hours