Shimer College


As a distinctive feature of Shimer’s Great Books curriculum, you’ll choose electives that complement and deepen your engagement with the classics of Western thought. As a four-year student at Shimer, about one-third of your coursework will be elective courses, most of them in an area of concentration you choose.

Spring 2015 Electives:

Philosophy of Race and Gender

5 credits, IIT Equivalent: HUM 300-level
Prerequisites/Co-requisite*: Social Sciences 2
(* co-requisite option available only with instructor approval)

In this course we will explore issues of gender and race from a philosophical perspective. While the central vein of the class will be following the specific philosophic frameworks of post-structuralism and critical theory, we will also visit other themes such as global ethics, post-colonialism, and intersectionality. The introduction of voices of diverse and historically under-represented writers has problematized philosophies of liberation in fruitful and innovative ways. These problems, decentered and intersectional, are the focus of this course.

Calculus I

5 credits, IIT equivalent: N/A

This course will begin with a review of functions, continuity and other topics covered in pre-calculus and will proceed through limits, differentiation, and integration of polynomial and transcendental functions, including the definite integral.

Reading the Qur’an

5 credits, IIT equivalent: HUM 300- level

A close study of the holy book of Islam, in dialogue with medieval and modern commentators.

Great Equations: Their Meaning and Beauty

3 credits, IIT Equivalent: HUM 300-level
Prerequisite: NatSci 3 or equivalent

This course will investigate some of the greatest equations in Mathematics and Physics, from 1+1=2 to the Einstein field equation with pride of place given to the most beautiful of them all, Euler’s equation. Readings will generally be short and will range widely, from number theory and physics through aesthetics. Participants will receive an equations mug as part of their syllabus.

Old Norse I

3 or 5* credits, IIT Equivalent: 3-credit, HUM/SOC free elective; 5-credit HUM 300-level

Learn the language of the Vikings! This course introduces Old Norse grammar and vocabulary through selections from the Icelandic sagas and the Prose Edda.
(* the 5 credit option will include literature in translation.)

Hysteria and the Modern Psyche

5 credits, IIT Equivalent: SOC 300-level (Psychology)

This course will explore the flourishing of hysteria as a diagnostic category in 19th and early 20th century Europe and its connections to new conceptions of the self and to the emerging science of psychology. We will look at scientific, literary and artistic renderings of this phenomenon. Readings will include J.-M. Charcot, Pierre Janet, A. Binet, Sigmund Freud, Flournoy (From India to Planet Mars), Du Maurier (Trilby), Flaubert (Mme Bovary, related trial), etc.

American Women Writers

5 credits, IIT Equivalent: HUM 300-level

In this course we will explore selected short novels by a number of great American women authors of the late 19th & 20th centuries. Through a close reading of these texts we will approach these novels from a number of perspectives. There isn’t any particular “feminist agenda” or “ideological lens” through which we should study these texts; rather, a careful reading of the texts will reveal the subtlety and complexity of these works of narrative fiction in terms of themes, narrative structures, technique, voice and style. On a thematic level, these works treat a large number of topics such as a woman’s sexual awakening, work, retirement and old age, loss and grief. By reading these works in chronological order, we can follow the development of narrative techniques in fiction over this time period as it moves into the modern age. Authors will include Chopin, Wharton, Cather, Hurston, McCullers, and Welty.