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.

Fall 2014 Electives:

Abnormal Psychology

5 credits, IIT equivalent: Soc 300-level 

This course will explore some of the fundamental topics of the vast field of abnormal psychology, also called “psychopathology.” Some of the questions we will explore are: Is there such a thing as mental illness? If so, how is it to be defined? And, by whom? We will examine the role of the family, and models of treatment. Readings will include essays, case studies, historical studies, and autobiographical and fictional accounts of mental illness by authors such as Freud, Styron, Goffman, Jamison, Sacks and Foucault. This is not a course in applied psychology and will not survey diagnostic categories or teach you to become a therapist. Instead, this course will lead to a deeper understanding of the complexities of this area of psychology.


5 credits, IIT equivalent: Hum 300-level

What does it mean to describe the world scientifically? When are we being “objective”? Objectivity has not always been a defining characteristic of science, and its history (it first emerges in the mid-nineteenth century) is surprisingly short. Recent work in the history of science has shown that there are different “epistemic virtues,” the qualtities that make knowledge scientific, and that these qualities and their interrelationships have changed over time. Different periods have had different regimes of knowledge, and our current notion of scientific objectivity has resulted from a layering of these various regimes. This course will chart the emergence objectivity and look at how this concept differs from past ways of viewing the natural world and what this means for the status of our knowledge. This course will include scientific, historical, and philosophical perspectives on this issue.

The Films of Akira Kurosawa

3 credits, IIT equivalent: Hum 300-level 

When successful film directors are asked to name their most important influence, one of the names they give is often Akira Kurosawa. Although most well know for his samurai adventures, Kurosawa also directed historical feature films, detective movies, and a great Macbeth adaptation, Throne of Blood. This course explores the themes of violence, loyalty, and death through the films of the versatile director.

Introduction to Islamic Thought

3 credits, IIT equivalent: HUM 300- level

A survey of representative texts in Islamic theology and philosophy from Muhammad to the present day. Major themes will include scriptural interpretation, legal reasoning, the influence of Aristotle on medieval Islamic though, and mysticism.

W.H. Auden: Poetry, Prose, and Music

3 or 5 credits, IIT equivalent: HUM 300-level 

Among 20th century literary figures, W.H. Auden stands out for the range of his writing. This class will cover all the different forms in which Auden excelled: poetry, prose, plays, libretti, song lyrics, long-form poems, and even a television documentary. Our focus throughout will be on close readings of his verse, through we will also discuss the ideas found in his prose pieces. Through frequent focus papers, students will become comfortable using the technical language appropriate to the analysis of poetry. Students taking this class for five credits will be required to write a 12-15 page term paper.

Looking Back at the Twentieth Century

5 credits, IIT equivalent: HUM 300-level

This course is an interdisciplinary, multi-media cultural history of the twentieth century in the western world, with attention to the transitions form the late nineteenth century to modernism and from modernism to postmodernism.