Open Courses

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This is a list of free online course materials for Humanities courses, in a variety of formats such as video and audio podcasts, course notes, readings and supplemental materials. These courses are aimed at college-level participants. This list is not exhaustive - new contributions are welcome. Emphasis here is on complete courses - all lectures either in video or audio format - from the past four years. In some cases, older courses that seemed especially popular or valuable have also been included. These courses do not require registration nor do they offer assessment or certification of completion.

Classics

The Hero in Ancient Greek Civiliation - Harvard University. The true “hero” of this ancient Greek literature course is the logos, or word, of logical reasoning, as activated by Socratic dialogue. The logos of dialogue requires careful thinking, realized in close reading and reflective writing. The last “word” read in the course comes from Plato’s memories of the last days of Socrates. These memories depend on a thorough understanding of concepts of the hero in all their varieties throughout the history of Greek civilization and beyond. This course is driven by a sequence of dialogues that lead to such an understanding, guiding the attentive reader through some of the major works of the ancient Greek classics, from Homer to Plato.

English Literature

Literature in English, from Chaucer through 20th Century - UC Berkeley. Historical survey of literature in English from Chaucer through the 20th century. A. Literature in English through Milton. B. Literature in English from the late-17th through the mid-19th century. C. Literature in English from the mid-19th through the 20th century.

The Epic - UC Berkeley. Reading and discussion of epics, considering their cultural and historical contexts, the nature of their composition, and the development of the form.

Shakespeare After All - The Later Plays - Harvard University. Building on the discussions of individual plays in Marjorie Garber’s book Shakespeare After All, this course takes note of key themes, issues, and interpretations of the plays, focusing on questions of genre, gender, politics, family relations, silence and speech, and cultural power from both above and below (royalty, nobility, and the court; clowns and fools).

Introduction to Asian-American Literature - UC San Diego. This course provides an introduction to the study of the history, communities, and cultures of different Asian American people in the United States. Students will examine different articulations, genres, conflicts, narrative forms, and characterizations of the varied Asian experience.

Out of Ground Zero: Catastrophe and Memory - MIT. Within twenty-four hours of the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 politicians, artists, and cultural critics had begun to ask how to memorialize the deaths of thousands of people. This question persists today, but it can also be countered with another: is building a monument the best way to commemorate that moment in history? What might other discourses, media, and art forms offer in such a project of collective memory? How can these cultural formations help us to assess the immediate reaction to the attack? To approach these issues, "Out of Ground Zero" looks back to earlier sites of catastrophe in Germany and Japan.

German

German III - MIT. This course expands skills in speaking, reading, listening, and writing. Students develop analytic and interpretative skills through the reading of a full-length drama as well as short prose and poetry (Biermann, Brecht, Dürrenmatt, Tawada and others) and through media selections on contemporary issues in German-speaking cultures.

[German IV - MIT. This course focuses on development of interpretive skills, using literary texts (B. Brecht, S. Zweig) and contemporary media texts (film, TV broadcasts, Web materials). The emphasis is on discussion and exploration of cultural topics in their current social, political, and historical context via hypermedia documentaries.

History

Europe and the World: Wars, Empires, Nations 1648-1914 - UC Berkeley. This upper division course looks at the rise and fall of the European great powers from the Peace of Westphalia, traditionally perceived as the beginning of the modern states system, to the coming of the First World War, an era of state and empire building. Economic and technological trends are naturally part of the story as well as cultural, social, and political forces.

Early Modern Germany - UC Berkeley. From the period of the Protestant Reformation to the era of enlightened despotism and the French Revolution, German history was characterized by severe conflicts and problems unresolved. Early Modern German history contains many lessons concerning the relationship of war and peace, of violence and toleration, of reform and renewal and the rejection of any change, of Baroque splendor and widespread misery, of some progress and much disappointment, in short: of a most complicated legacy for future generations.

The Peculiar Modernity of Britain, 1848-2000 - UC Berkeley. For many years, Britain was seen as the crucible of the modern world. This small, cold, and wet island was thought to have been the first to develop representative democracy, an industrial economy, rapid transport, mass cities, mass communication and mass culture, and, of course, an empire upon which the sun famously never set.

Religion & Law: US History Civil War to Present - UC San Diego. This lecture-discussion course examines selected topics in the history of law and religion in American society from the mid-twentieth century to the present. It is a continuation of HIUS 155A. Major emphasis will be placed upon the Religion Clauses in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and their interpretation by federal courts.

The United States from the Late 19th Century to the Eve of World War II - UC Berkeley. During the first half-century before World War II, the United States became an industrialized, urban society with national markets and communication media. This class will explore in depth some of the most important changes and how they were connected.

World War and Society in the Twentieth Century: World War II - Harvard University. This course is a thematic exploration of the war and its time through feature films, primary sources, and scholarly interpretations. It seeks to provide a means for analyzing and evaluating what one reads or sees about World War II in terms of historical accuracy and for gaining a broader understanding of different perspectives. Themes include the impact of war on soldiers and civilians, on the home front, women in war, the Japanese and German viewpoints, and postwar issues.

War and Peace, International Relations Since 1914 - UC Berkeley. This course analyzes the turbulent transitions from the classical European balance of power system to the global multipolar system of today. The course explores the political, economic, ideological, and technological roots of international affairs.

International and Global History since 1945 - UC Berkeley. This course explores great and complex global historical changes that have taken place since the end of the second World War.

History of Information - UC Berkeley. This course explores the history of information and associated technologies, uncovering why we think of ours as "the information age." We will select moments in the evolution of production, recording, and storage from the earliest writing systems to the world of Short Message Service (SMS) and blogs.

The History and Practice of Human Rights - UC Berkeley. A required class for students in the human rights minor (but open to others), this course examines the development of human rights. More than a history of origins, it explores the relationships between human rights and other crucial themes in the history of the modern era.

History of Modern Medicine - UC San Diego. Explores the origin of clinical method, the hospital, internal surgery, and the medical laboratory, as well as the historical roots of debates over health-care reform, genetic determinism, and the medicalization of society.

Linguistics

Introduction to Philosophy of Language - MIT. This course explores the nature of meaning and truth, and their bearing on the use of language in communication. No knowledge of logic or linguistics is presupposed.

Language and its Structure I: Phonology - MIT. This course is designed to give you a preliminary understanding of how the sound systems of different languages are structured, how and why they may differ from each other. The course also aims to provide you with analytical tools in phonology, enough to allow you to sketch the analysis of an entire phonological system by the end of the term.

Myth, Ritual and Symbolism - MIT. Human beings are symbol-making as well as tool-making animals. We understand our world and shape our lives in large part by assigning meanings to objects, beings, and persons; by connecting things together in symbolic patterns; and by creating elaborate forms of symbolic action and narrative. In this introductory subject we consider how symbols are created and structured; how they draw on and give meaning to different domains of the human world; how they are woven into politics, family life, and the life cycle; and how we can interpret them.

Philosophy

Theory of Meaning - Language as social behavior. - UC Berkeley. Language compared to other sign systems. The foundations of semantics, truth, meaning, reference. Issues of logical form in belief sentences, indirect discourse, sentences about causality, events, actions. Relations between thought and language.

The Nature of Mind - UC Berkeley. Introduction to the philosophy of mind. Topics to be considered may include the relation between mind and body; the structure of action; the nature of desires and beliefs; the role of the unconscious.

Philosophy of Society - UC Berkeley. This course deals with the ontology of society and thus provides a foundation for the social sciences. The main questions discussed are: 1) What is the mode of existence of social reality? 2) How does it relate to psychological and physical reality? 3) What implications does social ontology have for social explanations?

Philosophy of Film and Other Media - MIT. This course examines works of film in relation to thematic issues of philosophical importance that also occur in other arts, particularly literature and opera. Emphasis is put on film's ability to represent and express feeling as well as cognition. Both written and cinematic works by Sturges, Shaw, Cocteau, Hitchcock, Joyce, and Bergman, among others, are considered.