Liberal Studies Program > First-Year Program > Course Descriptions > Explore Chicago
Courses that will be offered during Autumn 2023 are noted with (2023) in front of the course title.
Persons of all backgrounds and gender identities are encouraged to explore what it is like to be a Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, Asian or South Asian man of color in Chicago. Through neighborhood visits, storytelling, and dialogue we will explore the myriad challenges and opportunities that confront Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ2IA+ men as they navigate identities, relationships, sexuality, mental health, violence, racism, and healing. Our journey will take us to neighborhoods such as Uptown, Little Village, North Lawndale, and Hyde Park to build community with, and learn from, those who are deconstructing and recreating our understandings of masculinity through healing and liberatory practices.
Chicago has a long history of political organizing and activism. This course explores that activism in the period after 1960. During the 1960s, organizations like the Students for a Democratic Society, the Black Panthers, Jobs Or Income Now (JOIN), the Young Lords and Rising Up Angry organized protests throughout the city and engaged in community building by providing services including free breakfasts, medical help and legal assistance. Visiting sites across Chicago associated with these organizations, students will understand the geography of activism in Chicago, meet activists who participated in these events, and learn how these organizations and their members worked to build a more socially just city that recognized the diversity of Chicago residents. Student will explore how activists and activism shaped individual and social realities in Chicago, and assess the legacies of this past on the Chicago of today.
Inherent to artists’ books and zines is their accessibility. Artists' books are essentially books that are art, and they can be distributed more widely than other art forms; zines (abbreviated from "magazines" or "fanzines") are short, self-published works, historically photocopied. By nature, these types of publications allow for diverse voices and divergent interests outside of mainstream media, outside of advertising's purview. In this course, we will gain historical perspective by reading The Century of Artists' Books by Johanna Drucker and Notes from the Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture by Stephen Duncombe. We will handle and peruse old and contemporary artists' books and zines—many created by Chicagoans—at Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection (one of the largest such libraries in the world open to the public, with more than ten thousand artists' publications); Center for Book, Paper, and Print; Quimby’s Bookstore; and even DePaul's own Richardson Library. Local book- and zine-makers will visit our class to discuss their practices and show us techniques. As a final project, you will make our own artist's book or zine.
This course explores healing practices found in Chicago's different ethnic neighborhoods. Through a combination of field site visits, guest lectures and in-class activities, you will learn about Chicago's rich cultural heritage from the perspective of health, disease and healing. Several times during the semester, excursions to ethnic neighborhoods will provide students with the opportunity to experience the unique culture of a community and observe the role of healing practitioners. Some of the topics we will cover include ayurvedic medicine from India, unani medicine from the Middle East, acupuncture from China, herbal remedies and sobadas from Latin America. Students will keep a detailed field journal, combining text and images, as they observe and interact. During the quarter, students will reflect on their field experiences and gain additional knowledge through guest lectures, readings, and in-class discussions.
Chicago’s history is the story of meteoric growth and expansion. More than a century ago, its position as a transportation hub and manufacturing center made Chicago the envy of the Midwest, bringing those with diverse artistic traditions to the city. Accompanying the city’s commercial success, Chicago’s leaders set out to create a cultural city in which art, design, and architecture would contribute to a better quality of life – not just for the few, but for all its residents. This course will focus on Chicago’s rich visual art and design legacy. We'll explore the contributions of artists, designers, and creatives through visits to museums, architectural sites, and public art in diverse cultural neighborhoods. Our study will examine how Chicago nurtured and challenged a creative community to make the city a place where art and design are all around us.
Chicago is the capital of America’s “heartland,” a symbolically fundamental region to an imagined core of this nation’s identity. Fittingly for a “nation of immigrants,” Chicago has had a strong central community of immigrants since its inception and also steady immigrant migration. This course underlines the development of various Asian American communities through time in the Chicago area. Over the last two decades the suburban Asian American population has expanded dramatically mirroring demographic shifts taking place among similar communities across the nation. Due to the historical near invisibility of these communities within academic and popular literature in the Midwest, this course highlights the lived experiences of Asian immigrants in the third largest city in the U.S. – Chicago. Through community-based and participatory research, students will explore the historic, economic, cultural, and political contributions of Asian American communities to the United States, using Chicago and its surrounding areas as a case study. Disparate Asian American groups will be highlighted including but not limited to Chicago’s Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Filipino, and Vietnamese communities. Of particular focus will be issues related to economic development, class and gender relations, intra- and inter- ethnic conflicts, civil rights and institutional growth, social services, labor and job markets, and affordable housing.
While no knowledge of any Asian language is required, if you are planning to take this Explore Chicago course, now could be the perfect opportunity to learn Chinese or Japanese or to develop your existing Chinese or Japanese skills by taking a concurrent language class -- beginning, intermediate or advanced -- depending on past experience or results of the language placement test. For more information, contact: email@example.com.
The purpose of this course is to give the students an opportunity to learn about the history of business and politics in Chicago and to analyze the present situation regarding crime in the city. Chicago has a rich history of being the center of American business: from trains to planes (Union Station and the hub of the freight railroad system to Midway to O'Hare); from the old Chicago stockyards to Mondelez; from Marshall Fields, Sears and Montgomery Wards to Amazon and Target; and from First Chicago and Continental Bank to Chase. We will examine the loss of manufacturing jobs in Chicago and its effect and impact on crime and politics. The Board of Trade and the CBOE made Chicago the world leader in the commodities and futures markets. Today, these institutions are greatly diminished resulting in the loss of well-paying jobs for high school graduates. Fundamentally, we will explore the history and the evolution of Chicago business and discuss the future of the business environment taking into account the recently announced departure of Boeing. We will also explore Chicago's history of powerful mayors and how their terms affected Chicago and our status amongst other American cities: From the Daley's to Jane Byrne, Harold Washington and Lori Lightfoot, Chicago has quite a history which we will learn about and discuss. Finally, we will analyze the present crime statistics in Chicago and discuss the historical and future trends and what can be done to increase the safety in the city. The class will be taught in a Socratic method and a majority of the historical research will be done by the students in small breakout groups.
Rock 'n roll, reggae, funk, R&B, hip hop, and rap would not be what they are -- and possibly not exist -- without their foundation: the blues. Affectionately known as "the blues capital of the world," Chicago has arguably the richest blues heritage in the world. As a product of the Great Migration, African-American blues players -- mostly from Mississippi -- flooded to Chicago for a better life. The austere urban environment evolved their blues style into a rougher, faster, more aggressive version than what they played in their Delta home. This course provides students with an opportunity to examine the blues and explore the city where it evolved into more contemporary forms of music. The class will visit at least five different neighborhoods that exhibit Chicago's blues culture. Music, articles and video will support class discussion about the relationship between Chicago and the blues.
Diversity has strong presence in the dance community in Chicago. Students will understand the city of Chicago as they study this rich diversity in various neighborhoods through stimulating observation and thought provoking discussions with an experiential learning approach. Excursions include Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Thodos Dance Company, Joffrey Ballet Chicago, the Art Institute, and Athenaeum Theater in Lakeview. Students will grow in critical and creative thinking skills, observe rehearsals, attend a Chicago dance concert, and have meaningful in person conversations with Chicago choreographers to deeply understand Chicago history and diversity. We will learn about the Chicago 1893 Columbian Exposition through the award-winning story ballet “The White City” choreographed by Chicagoan Melissa Thodos and Ann Reinking.
This course is designed to introduce students to the food scene in Chicago. Students will explore Chicago's history and cultural aspects that affect the Chicago food scene. Students will reflect on how immigration and the settling of ethnic neighborhoods has affected the creation of Chicago classic foods, such as Chicago-style hot dog, Italian Beef, or deep-dish pizza. Historical events such as, The Great Chicago Fire, The Great Depression, and The Great Migration will be explored for their influence on Chicago foods. This course will place emphasis on discovery throughout Chicago neighborhoods to understand how various communities and cultures influence the Chicago food scene. Influential ethnic neighborhoods such as: University Village (Little Italy), Pilsen (Mexican cuisine), Chinatown, Ukrainian Village, and Greektown; influential Chicago restaurants, will also be toured and discussed, Gibson’s Steakhouse, RPM Portofino, and Alinea.
This class will discuss the Great War and how it affected Chicago. Our city like all of America, stood on the periphery of the Great War. However, the cataclysm of the war was so immense that places thousands of miles away from the conflict were transformed. This course will uncover the ways that the Great War defined Chicago history. We will discuss the war itself. We will consider how the war amped up Chicago as an industrial and food supply center, how it deepened fissures around ethnicities and race, and how it forced people to choose identities in new ways. The Great War defines the Chicago culture’s ethnic and racial relations and memorial practices in ways that are hidden but still important. Even though the war ended a century ago, the war still has a presence here that we will uncover.
Forget the Cubs. Forget the Sox. Forget the Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks. Politics is Chicago’s #1 spectator sport. That’s because politics in Chicago touches almost all aspects of city life from trash collection to social services and taxes. Chicago’s politicians are often flamboyant although sometimes corruptible figures. (Since 1972, 28 aldermen have gone to prison.) They both delight and enrage voters and are constant “front page” news. This course will introduce students to Chicago’s political institutions: City Hall, its system of 50 wards, current aldermen and women, its mayor, its elections, and its raucous history of scandals and reform movements. Students also will debate contemporary political/social issues which come before the mayor and city council during the Autumn Quarter. And they will explore the exploits of some of Chicago’s most memorable mayors and political “bosses” from Long John Wentworth, who guided the city during the civil war and Carter Harrison I, who presided over the 1893 Columbian Exposition before his assassination to Chicago’s newest mayor, Rahm Emanuel. They will also meet some of its most famous aldermen, such as “Hinky Dink” Kenna and “Bathhouse” John Coughlin, “Lords of the Levee,” the old First Ward, to current office holders.
It’s tempting to think of a metropolis as huge as Chicago as a monolith—a single, huge enormity—but we all know that there are really many Chicagos, sometimes changing character entirely from one block to the next and each of these characters has its own story. In this course, we will discover how various Chicago story-tellers have made their little slices of Chicago come alive in their work, and we will discover some of these neighborhoods for ourselves. We will look at some of Chicago’s most famous literature, stories that famously characterize Chicago and we will look at more recent attempts to tell different Chicago stories. Throughout we will pay attention how Chicago’s stories embody the social issues of the city.
In this class we will explore, through the lens of Peace, Social Justice and Conflict Studies, topics of socioeconomics, gentrification, and community building in neighborhoods such as South Shore, Chinatown and Pilsen and by the end of the course produce a documentary presenting the voices of Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Chicago’s historic cemeteries are a great way to experience the city of Chicago and many of its contemporary neighborhoods, while also learning about the vital history of the city. Cemeteries in the mid-19th century became places where individuals, families, and communities took great pains to erect monuments and markers that reflected the socio-economic, racial, religious, ethnic, and gendered ideals of their day. Information about families, immigration, social networks, and religious and secular communities can be gleaned from these monuments as well as many other important themes in local and national history. This course will use Chicago cemeteries as a way of exploring themes in the social history of Chicago, while introducing students to a variety of neighborhoods in the city. Students will be introduced to interdisciplinary study of cemeteries using documentary and material evidence as well as site visits to local cemeteries and lectures from local experts. Through these activities and explorations, students will be able to understand how the city of Chicago grew over time as well as many of the important social dynamics that have shaped people’s lives in the city on a very personal scale.
Every town or city has at least one cemetery, and they all hold important lessons, stories, and histories that we can unlock by taking the time to investigate these often-forgotten spaces. Chicago’s historic cemeteries are a great way to experience the city of Chicago and many of its contemporary neighborhoods, while also learning about the vital history of the city. Cemeteries in the mid-19th century became places where individuals, families, and communities took great pains to erect monuments and markers that reflected the socio-economic, racial, religious, ethnic, and gendered ideals of their day. Information about families, immigration, social networks, and religious and secular communities can be gleaned from these monuments as well as many other important themes in local and national history. This course will use Chicago cemeteries as a way of exploring themes in the social history of Chicago, while introducing students to a variety of neighborhoods in the city. As this is an online course, some of you won't be in Chicago -- and that's ok -- we can easily adapt the work we are doing to your local cemeteries, because there is nowhere in the world where you aren't close to one! Students will be introduced to interdisciplinary studies of cemeteries using documentary and material evidence and will be expected to undertake visits to local cemeteries and report back to the class online using audio, video, and other means. Through these activities and explorations, students will be able to understand how the city of Chicago (or their own local town/city) grew over time as well as many of the important social dynamics that have shaped people’s lives in the city on a very personal scale.
This course introduces students to the diverse musical offerings in the Chicago metropolitan area. Students will learn about the wide variety of music- and arts-related activities across many genres and musical styles. In addition to the excursions taken during Immersion Week and throughout the Fall Quarter, class discussions will focus on topics central to understanding Chicago's music scene in both its historical and contemporary contexts. Topics will focus on the relevance of the music industry as it relates to musicians, industry professionals, educators, and patrons; including fandom, race, gender, historical changes, music criticism, and current industry developments. Genres will span the diversity of the Chicago music community, including blues, folk, hip-hop, jazz, musical theatre, opera, rock, Western art and classical music, and various music of the world. Sessions will include lectures, open classroom discussion, and guest speakers.
Chicago is a city of museums. From the major tourist attractions such as the Field Museum of Natural History to the small and obscure, such as the International Museum of Surgical Science, museums are part of the city’s fabric. This course seeks to connect these museums to the diversity and rich history of Chicago’s neighborhoods and immigrant communities. Through field trips, multi-media projects, readings, and lectures students will learn about Chicago’s history and how museums changed from “cabinets of curiosities” to spaces for social reform, and ultimately to centers for informal learning, historical preservation, and community engagement. Students will discover how the development of Chicago as a global city coincides with the evolution of the museum.
Since ancient times, humans have had relationships with animals in one form or another. These relationships have been both symbiotic and predatorial. But how has this relationship changed over time and how does it inform our interactions today? This course will explore our relationship with animals from both historical and present-day perspectives. Along the way, we will explore both the positive and negative impacts we have had on the lives of animals (and they on us). Our excursions will take us to institutions like the Shedd Aquarium and the Lincoln Park Zoo as well as to nature sanctuaries. Along the way we will meet and learn from those who train animals who work in service of humans. We will also explore our complex relationship with animals as food; and, finally, we will have an opportunity to learn from people who compete with their dogs in dog sports. During our time together, you will not only learn about our relationships with animals but also become a more empathetic member of society as you learn to rationally discuss controversial topics and learn from those with opposing viewpoints.
Chicago’s visual art scene is varied and vibrant. The Hairy Who, Nonplussed Some, and False Image were self-titled groups of painters and sculptors who gained national recognition during the ’60s for their distorted figures, bright colors and irreverent attitudes. Since then art in Chicago has continued to develop and expand into an internationally recognized art community. This class will focus on Chicago art from the 1940s to the present: its major artists, influences, collectors, critics, and institutions. We will study the influence of art history, geography, politics and cultural movements on the development of a Chicago style. Students will explore Chicago art through lectures, readings, discussions, and virtual visits to some major museums, galleries, public and private collections with a focus on painting and sculpture by local artists.
In this course, we'll take up writing not only as authors in our own right but as readers and critics of the texts of others. In fact, that's the whole advantage of this course: learning how to respond to a text, and how to give specific, useful feedback, rather than mere approval or disapproval. Along the way, we'll visit several of the museums of literature and literary figures in Chicago, such as Hemingway House, Chicago Writer's Museum, Poetry Foundation, and some performances, depending on scheduling. But we ourselves will become authors and critics of life in Chicago, here and now. You can expect to read fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose. Your final writing assignment will be in a genre of your choice.
Chicago has a vibrant and exciting poetry scene that is steeped in the city's history. In this class we will learn how to read poetry, how to write about poetry, and how to write poetry, with a focus on Chicago poetry and poetics. We will learn how to use the skill of close reading, as well as explore different poetic forms and devices. We will read poems by Chicago-based poets such as Eve L Ewing, Krista Franklin, Nate Marshall, Jamila Woods, and more. We will visit poetry organizations around the city such as the Poetry Foundation, Young Chicago Authors, and the Chicago Poetry Center. We will explore and engage with the poetry scene of the City, find the poetry in Chicago, and discover the poetry within ourselves
Chicago is known world-wide for two people: Michael Jordan and Al Capone. Every February 14, Chicago celebrates lovers as it remembers the St. Valentine Day’s Massacre. From the ashes of the great Chicago fire of 1871 arose one of the world’s great cities, an architectural center. Chicago is home to jazz clubs, local theatre companies, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Arts curricula are also targets of the budget-cutters of the Chicago public school system. And Chicago, like many great cities, is the home of hospitals, universities, research centers and religious institutions as well as crime, illiteracy, ignorance and hopelessness. In this course, students will discover and explore a great human paradox played out in Chicago. Somehow, life and death, creation and destruction, weeds and wheat, love and hate, beauty and ugliness, good and evil, violence and peacemaking, sin and redemption all abide, mix and mingle in the life of a great city, the lives of its neighborhoods and the life of its residents – citizens, visitors and… others.
This course is designed to introduce students to one of the most critical and intriguing health issues in history—the AIDS epidemic. Students will learn about the diverse range of individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS and the range of prevention, education, treatment, and advocacy services that are offered throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. As students interact with those who live with HIV/AIDS and who provide AIDS-related services, they will experience the human face of AIDS, and will explore the social, psychological, political, religious, and legal dimensions of this epidemic. This course will cover the following topics in the AIDS epidemic: history and epidemiology; transmission and disease progression; education and prevention; traditional medical and psychosocial treatment; spirituality and alternative treatments; housing and hospice care; policy and advocacy. The course is also designed to present a multicultural perspective on the AIDS epidemic, thus students will interact with individuals and agencies representing a range of ages, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, and serostatuses (HIV+/HIV-).
In this course, students will explore the city of Chicago through creative drawing and research. We will become familiar with a variety of locations in the city through a combination of site visits, readings and discussions. We will draw on site to get to know the places as they currently are, research their histories to learn about their past identities, and encounter them through the works of contemporary and historic artists in order to see how they have inspired works of art in the past. Students will create a sketchbook that incorporates on-site drawings, information from readings, and independent research to produce a multi-faceted view of the city of Chicago. The course does not assume prior formal study in drawing, but students should have the desire to immerse themselves in drawing and explore it enthusiastically. The definition of drawing done in this course will be broad and inclusive of a wide variety of techniques and approaches, and experimentation with materials and processes will be encouraged. The course will include instruction in the basics of observational drawing as well as a variety of contemporary and nontraditional practices. Students will be introduced to the work of a variety of artists both historic and contemporary, and they will meet several contemporary Chicago artists whose works explore place and history.
Chicago is a city that lies at the intersection of the local and global, an immigrant capital in the heartland of the United States. In this class we will explore that intersection by visiting cultural centers and museums in neighborhoods ranging from Uptown to Pilsen, Andersonville to Humboldt Park, and then reflecting on, discussing and writing about those first-hand experiences in the light of readings about the histories and contributions of the city’s many ethnic cultures.
Whether you’re traveling, moving to a new place, or just re-discovering where you currently live, practicing some form of physical movement - walking, running, biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, etc. - can help you see a space in a unique way. In this course, we’ll explore a few key parts of Chicago: the lake and river that provide water access; the streets, sidewalks, and designated paths that provide exercise and transportation options; and the public parks that enable urban dwellers to access greenspaces. Though we’ll be using Chicago as a primary lens, this course also offers flexibility for students to analyze their own (outside of Chicago) living spaces and municipalities. A city’s public spaces contribute significantly to its character and culture, and we’ll develop a framework through which to analyze those spaces.
Americans, and many others worldwide, associate Islam with the Arabic language and Arab culture. Yet four nations in South and East Asia are home to more than 40% of the world’s Muslims. In the United States, and especially in Chicago, we often associate Muslims with Arab, Indian and Pakistani communities. But African Americans comprise between one fifth and one third of Muslims in the United States, and Chicago is home to the nation’s largest concentration of African American Muslims. In “Cultural Zones of Islamic Chicago” we will explore the origins and development of four Muslim communities: African American, Arab, Bosnian, and Indian/Pakistani. These communities trace their roots to three continents – Africa, Asia and Europe. How have these Chicago communities managed to survive and thrive, despite the adverse conditions of migration – voluntary or forced; culture shock and discrimination in a new homeland; and a contemporary world where a Muslim identity may put any individual at risk, whether he or she resides in Cairo, Damascus, Paris or Chicago?
While no knowledge of Arabic is required, if you are planning to take this Explore Chicago course, now could be the perfect opportunity to learn Arabic or to develop your existing Arabic skills by taking a concurrent Arabic language class -- beginning, intermediate or advanced -- depending on past experience or results of the language placement test. For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this course, we will use the considerable resources of Chicago—its museums, architecture, musical societies and theaters—to deepen our understanding of the early modern period. The course will be divided into four units: Renaissance Art, drama, music, and architecture. In our unit on Renaissance painting, we will use the Art Institute’s considerable resources; when we study Renaissance theater, we will attend performance of a Renaissance play by a Chicago theater company. We will explore Renaissance music by attending a concert of early music and we will complement our study of Renaissance architecture by exploring the use of Roman Renaissance architecture by Chicago eastern European immigrants when building Chicago churches. Throughout, we will ask such questions as the following: How is the early modern period central to Chicago’s identity as a world-class city? Why did the “founders” of Chicago’s arts and cultural community actively seek out the resources and culture of the early modern period? What are the “uses” of the European Renaissance to Chicago?
Spending time in nature, basking in the filtered green light, smelling the sweet soil, listening to the leaves crunch underfoot, brings calm to our busy, urban lives. Green spaces nurture both our bodies and minds, and in our rapidly developing world, taking the time to slow down and connect with our natural environment is essential to our well-being. In this course, we will explore Chicago as the “city in a garden,” considering the ways in which nature is a preserved and essential part of of our home. Site visits and readings will explore how spaces like parks, conservatories, nature museums, green rooftops, and urban farms reflect our relationship to the natural world and our efforts to sustain it.
The literary scene in Chicago is vibrant and original, as are its writers. In this course we will delve into the coming-of-age stories of a multicultural slew of contemporary Chicago writers, some true, some fictional. We will wander the neighborhoods and cultural landmarks where these writers' stories and lives unfolded and write our own stories of growing up, real and imagined, based on the themes and styles that our authors put forth.
Students will learn about the origins and purpose of the “ghost story” as both an oral and written tradition. Ghost stories, as well as traditions surrounding death, vary based on culture. This course will explore cultural traditions on the topics of death, belief in the supernatural, and the ghost story narrative. These issues will be explored in the context of Chicago’s culture and history. Cultural traditions from the cities major cultural groups will be included (i.e. Día de los Muertos, Irish wake, All Hallows Eve traditions, etc.). Excursions will provide supplemental learning experiences and could include the Chicago Ghost Tour, a visit to the Mexican Fine Arts Museum for the Día de los Muertos exhibit, and a Chicago Historical Society tour of Graceland Cemetery.
This course is designed to begin a conversation about health and healthcare in the city. Through readings, discussions and field trips, you will begin to explore the concept of health and the various ways it can be considered. Along the way you will address several important questions: What does it mean to be healthy? What does it mean to be ill? What resources are available to keep us healthy or return us to health? Healthcare in Chicago will provide you with an opportunity to explore healthcare careers and their impact on individuals and communities.
This section is open only to students in the CSH Pathways Honors Program.
What lessons can be learned from the experience of one of Chicago's minority groups during a time when issues of identity and community are challenged more than ever by the forces of intolerance and hatred? Featuring eight (8!) excursions to different sites around Chicago including a visit to one of Chicago's major league ballparks and the best kosher restaurant in the city, this course will introduce students to a vital community that contributes to the ethnic and religious diversity of Chicago. We will note the connections between this community and the many other communities that make up the diverse population of Chicago. This course is a valuable learning experience for all students to learn how minorities can both express and develop their own identities while still being part of America's common civilization. We will be visiting a number of Jewish organizations, institutions, and synagogues in order to examine the self-definition, public relations and advocacy work of Chicago’s Jewish community. We will cover local, national, and international issues in order to get a picture of where the Jewish community, in its diversity, stands and commits time, energy, and resources. The course will give students a sense of how the Jewish community fits into the social and cultural fabric of Chicago.
Justice in the City is designed to introduce students to the complex dynamics of social justice within Chicago’s urban context. Through classroom discussions, experiential learning, and fieldwork, you will gain a deeper understanding of the multifaceted issues surrounding justice, inequality, and community engagement. Drawing on disciplines such as sociology, political science, urban studies, and community development, we will examine the historical and contemporary factors that have shaped the social fabric of Chicago, including race, class, gender, and other intersecting identities. We will critically analyze the structures and systems that perpetuate inequality and injustice, while also exploring the efforts made by individuals and organizations to foster positive change. Through field trips and community-based projects, you will witness firsthand the challenges and triumphs of marginalized communities in Chicago. By interacting with local activists, grassroots organizations, and public institutions you will come to better understand the complexities of social justice work and also develop practical skills for effective community engagement, such as communication, collaboration, and ethical decision-making. This course is not only an academic exploration but also a personal and transformative journey. By combining classroom learning with immersive fieldwork experiences, this course aims to empower students to become agents of change in pursuit of a more just and equitable society -- an ideal choice for freshmen seeking a meaningful and impactful introduction to social justice issues, including gentrification, criminal justice reform, education equity, environmental justice, and more.
This Chicago Quarter course will examine historical, socially impactful Chicago events, figures, and places through the lens of the social change model of leadership and in line with DePaul’s mission, particularly in exploring “the great questions of our day, promoting peaceful, just, and equitable solutions to social ... challenges.” The social change model of leadership is composed of 7 C’s that exist in three levels: (a) community (citizenship), (b) group (collaboration, controversy with civility, and common purpose), and (c) individual (consciousness of self, congruence, and commitment). In this course, we will explore the 7 C’s in initiatives for social change in Chicago, as a class, in small groups, and as individuals. As a class, we will cover the activism of Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams, and Fred Hampton and the Black Panthers and visit sites relevant to their work. Then, in small groups based on common interests, students will identify a Chicago-based social change initiative, visit a site in Chicago relevant to the initiative, and present their findings to the class. Lastly, students will design their own Chicago-based social change initiative.
Natural history is a scientific study of organisms and natural objects, especially their origins, evolution, and ecological roles. As the third most populous city in the nation, Chicago is rich in ecology and evolution-related resources, such as the Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and our very own DePaul campus. This course provides students some insights into the types of natural history-related activities and conservation efforts carried out by people who work at those organizations. The course explores issues such as the structure and dynamics of ecosystem, biodiversity and its conservation, and the Earth and Chicago’s geologic history by utilizing these resources.
Photographing Chicago is designed so that we develop our own relationship to the city through the act of photographing it. We will become familiar with how other photographers have depicted the city as we venture into diverse neighborhoods that each have a distinctive history and architectural, social, and cultural imprint. We will comb through historical archives, visit the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and meet photographers in their studios. We will use the camera as a tool of inquiry, asking questions and letting the images stand in for answers (and sometimes prompting bigger questions). Together, we will shoot, edit, lay out, and publish a photography book of what we discover. Each of us will also dive deep into the perspective of either an historical or contemporary Chicago photographer and write about their work. No prior photographic experience is needed, but film nerds are especially welcome. Curiosity and a camera are required – any camera, analog or digital, that can make photographs is fine. Also, expect to explore independently (or traveling in pairs) outside class time because that’s when the really great images are made.
“Landscape” has multiple meanings. Traditionally it has meant the natural environment as seen and considered by human beings. Landscape is a construct, a human perception that cannot exist without us. Today the term broadly encompasses everything seen in the world around us, both natural and “built.” Cities, too, are landscapes, the quintessential human remaking of the natural world, and they define themselves by the structures we build. What do the buildings and infrastructures, decorated by history, teach us about Chicago’s roots, its present and its future? In class we will study the physical, architectural, social and cultural histories of several Chicago neighborhoods, such as the Loop, Gold Coast, Lakeview, Lincoln Park and others. How has the use of the land changed over time? How has the visual appearance of the built environment evolved? First-hand observations, aided by the camera, will be our starting point. Photographs remember everything and may later confirm our notions or invite a re-evaluation. With pencil and camera, we will walk the streets gathering impressions and interviewing residents. Readings, viewings, guest speakers and, primarily, first-hand observation will provide context for the neighborhoods we explore and study. Although the use of a camera is required, no prior photographic experience is needed. Several site visits will be required, not all during class time.
This class explores how race and power have shaped Chicago politics in the past and continue to shape it today. As we examine such recent events as the cover-up of the 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and the 2019 election of Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s first female African American mayor, our understanding will be informed by both studying the historical context and hearing different viewpoints directly from community residents, politicians, and community organizations from across the city.
Books. Magazines. Newspapers. Art. We tend to think of these items as inanimate objects, and not about the intentions of the individuals and communities that produce, distribute, and conserve them. In this class, we will explore Chicago as we ask ourselves about privilege, diversity, human dignity, and urban sustainability; how these concepts interact with printed works and the lives of Chicagoans. We will visit Streetwise to see how street magazines help combat homelessness, and Semicolon bookstore -- Chicago's only Black-owned bookstore with a focus on children's literacy efforts. We visit community art spaces and get to see how the artistic community participates in Chicago's print scene. We will visit Newberry Library to learn more about their special collections and printed works history. The American Writer's Museum is ready to welcome us back, and we explore The Art Institute as a group. We will learn all about print making at the Chicago Printmaker's Collaborative!
In this course students will learn about the architecture, politics and history of the Chicago park system, taking a psychological perspective. Exploring several parks, observing, experiencing and taking field notes, we will look into the history and development of the city’s particular landscape architecture with an emphasis on how built and natural environments affect individual and collective psychological experience. We will also meet and discuss with a Chicago landscape architect. With this perspective we will explore topics of well-being, identity, social interaction and social justice in light of Chicago’s unique and diverse population and history. Understanding the influence of green spaces on how people experience themselves and others will serve as a basis of navigating, identifying and establishing personal places of recreation and retreat, in the city’s wide range of green spaces.
Although not as (in)famous as other cities, the punk and hardcore scene in Chicago has its own unique character and contributions. More than most other cities, these music scenes are rooted heavily in the ethnic populations and associated politics of Chicago. We will study the migrations and settlements of various communities in Chicago showing how the city’s unique cultural makeup created a unique contribution to popular music. From the Celtic-punk of The Tossers and Flatfoot 56 to the Spanish language hardcore of Los Crudos and Si Dios Quiere to the antiracist hardcore of Racetraitor, Chicago’s scene proudly wears its culture and politics on its sleeve. This course explores the political and cultural history of Chicago as reflected through these musical genres, starting with the integral role that Chicago blues record labels played in the nascent genre of rock and roll. This exploration continues with the early punk scene centered around venues like La Mere Vipere, O’Banion’s and OZ, following with the hardcore scene of the 90s and 00s, and exploring the scene today.
This course examines the representation of Chicago's diverse neighborhoods. Students investigate what concerns constituents have, who represents them locally, and what those representatives do in Chicago and in Springfield. We explore some of the most important challenges facing Chicago, Cook County and the state of Illinois. The required readings will focus on Chicago's political and economic development history and how it relates to the city today. We will visit Lakeview, South Loop, Hyde Park and other neighborhoods and wards in the city. In addition to field trips, we will meet various elected officials from a diversity of Chicago backgrounds who will discuss their districts and their careers with us.
Chicago has long been a bastion for social justice, from the Contract Buyers League to the Freedom Movement to the Black Panthers all the way to Black Lives Matter. Today, the city of broad shoulders boasts an increasing number of restorative justice hubs, designed to respond to the growing needs of diverse neighborhoods. Across this storied urban landscape, community centers, courts, and classrooms have been erected with value-laden purpose to build relationships and deepen trust amongst stakeholders of all kinds. Students that take this class will learn about the ancient indigenous origins of restorative justice, and trace its philosophy, practice, and kinetic energy in modern day Chicago.
Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the country. On the surface, it might look like Chicago’s segregation is the product of class (the invisible hand of the market), or that people prefer to live by people who look like them. In reality, segregation in Chicago is caused by racist policies and practices; i.e. housing discrimination and structural racism. Throughout this course, we will examine how Chicago became segregated by exploring the various mechanisms through which this occurred. We will discuss: redlining, panic peddling, restrictive covenants, and blockbusting, and explore how even Chicago mayors were/are involved in creating and reinforcing policies that promote racial segregation. We will make the connection between these policies and their impact on people. In particular, we will see how they result in the creation of food deserts resulting in neighborhoods where over 50% of the population have stage 2 kidney disease. Through virtual field excursions to neighborhoods of Chicago, we will see first-hand the process of racial change. We will analyze the similarities and differences between ethnic enclaves and hypersegregated African American communities. For example, neighborhoods like Chinatown and Humboldt Park may appear to share similarities with hypersegregated communities, but they are qualitatively different. Lastly, we will explore the often simplified and misunderstood process of gentrification, paying particular attention to those that this process negatively and disproportionately impacts.
In this course we will use photography to advance our study of Chicago’s “vernacular landscapes,” the combination of human-built and naturally occurring spaces and structures that arise from and shape the everyday lives of ordinary people. As we venture into lesser-known areas of the city with cameras in hand, we will ask sociological questions and explore their answers through the creation of photographic imagery. Each week we will compose photo-essays and other image-centric meditations on social and cultural phenomena occurring in different areas of the city. In the process of clicking our way through Chicago’s byways and alleyways, its streets and its vaunted structures and institutions, we will develop new ways of viewing social, political, economic, cultural, and geospatial life in the City. Our main goal is to formulate a textured, image-conscious “sociological imagination,” a cognitive and analytical device for understanding the many and varied connections between the self and society, the material and symbolic, the micro and macro, the grain of sand and the world writ large. By the end of the course, students will have learned how to use photographic images to ask and answer important sociological questions about urban life.
This course explores how the city of Chicagoland promotes "the good life" for all residents equally through community engagement, environment, and architecture processes. It provides broad exposure to the theories and case studies explaining how race, identity, housing, mobility, public policy shape the urban experience, and how they inform efforts to create more just and equitable cities. A significant part of the course will focus on social justice issues in Chicagoland. Through readings, class discussion, field trips, and guest speakers, we will examine Chicago as a space that embodies both the challenges to, and opportunities for, social justice to “play out” on the ground.. We will explore the role various institutions and actors play in addressing social justice (eg. local government, community organizations, architects, etc.), and conduct ethnographic research on social justice issues in the city.
Students taking this course will explore the world of government within Chicago and gain an understanding of the structures of government that make up the larger governmental system in which "things get done." Particular focus will be on the City of Chicago; Cook County; and State of Illinois exploring each system of government and the major policy issues that each unit of government is currently dealing with. Students will learn about the interactions between the various levels of government and how they complement and compete for resources. As a culminating learning experience, students will participate in a team project where they become specialists about a particular ward within the City of Chicago. A variety of guest speakers and visits will be arranged to allow students to hear firsthand from elected leaders including a visit to Chicago City Hall and the City Council Chambers as available.
In this course, we will visit several important landmarks and discuss their aesthetic value. We shall use the city as our text and consider the city of Chicago as a kind of work of art. Since to fully appreciate anything at all, it is necessary to know something about its history and genesis, we will spend some time studying the history of Chicago, with a focus on the people and events behind the current layout of the city. In addition to introducing you to the city, this course will also serve as an introduction to philosophy, in particular to the branch of philosophy that deals with issues concerning beauty, that is, aesthetics. We might all agree that the view of the Chicago skyline from Buckingham Fountain or the view of the river from Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive is beautiful, but why do we agree? What makes a given thing or collection of things beautiful? Is a more diverse city a more beautiful city? Is a more beautiful city a more valuable city? In this course we shall explore such questions as we explore the city of Chicago.
The Chicagoland metro area has the nation’s fifth largest population of Asian Americans. Asian Americans from more than 15 distinct ethnic groups live in the city of Chicago, and more than two-thirds are foreign-born. This course examines the diversity and complexity of Asian American experiences through food and foodways. We will take psychological, sociological, historical perspectives toward understanding how Asian Americans shape and are shaped by the food they create and share. We will explore identity and identity development, community development and resilience, racism and xenophobia, and intergroup dynamics through exploring Chicago’s diverse Asian American communities and food establishments and immersing ourselves in multidisciplinary research on this population.
This course invites students to explore a variety of major architectural styles, movements, and structures that can be found in Chicago, as well as some of the styles and movements that have influenced architecture in Chicago since the Great Fire of 1871. Students will have opportunities to apply outside reading and in-class discussions as they experience Chicago’s architectural treasures firsthand on visits to significant architectural sites that we study in class. Highlights include Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mies van der Rohe.
This course will explore how Chicago is depicted, discussed, and understood in literature. We will analyze a variety of texts that offer stories about the city and its people. These texts examine Chicago through the lens of our course theme: Crime, Corruption, and Community
This course explores the Latino communities of Chicago by taking an interdisciplinary approach to literature and popular culture. We will explore the important presence and contributions of Latinas and Latinos in the social, cultural, economic, and political development of Chicago. We will study issues of cultural identity, language, gender roles, and sexuality in the novels, poetry, essays, and short stories of such noted Latina writers as Sandra Cisneros, Ana Castillo, and Achy Obejas. We will learn about the similarities and differences among Chicago’s Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Central American communities.
The Chicago Renaissance refers to a period of intense literary and artistic production emerging in Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871. Progressive novels, bold poetry, murky paintings, striking sculptures, and pioneering archi¬tecture together tell the story of a gritty, industrial, “city of big shoulders” that seemed to threaten the surrounding Midwestern prairie landscape, with its romantic veneration of nature and traditional small-town values. This course will examine a number of important Chicago-based authors and artists who shaped this era and the city’s artistic identity. We will read, view, and discuss a wide range of expressive forms—novels, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture—to gain a deeper understanding of how Chicago has been artistically portrayed. More importantly, we will walk the city that inspired these artists, traveling in their footsteps to consider some of the locations that were important to them, and visiting a number of landmark institutions important for Chicago artists.
This course is about learning to understand and appreciate Chicago’s architecture—the techniques and styles in which buildings are made, their functions and how they are a part of the city’s history. To learn these things we take walking tours each week, look at buildings firsthand and talk with experts. We examine the lives and works of America’s most famous architects and visit many of Chicago’s neighborhoods. We take a trip to Oak Park, tour several of the city’s most important architectural monuments, and give our field experiences depth by reading and discussing issues such as how and why architects design buildings, and how the buildings they design affect people.
This course will examine the influence of immigrant communities on the experiences of immigrants within each community as well as how they interact with those outside of the ethnic enclaves. We will analyze the impact of race on ethnicity and compare the differences between ethnic communities in Chicago that have enclaves and those that operate without a central, concentrated region from which to connect and support one another. This course will utilize neighborhood visits as well as guest speakers to round out the exploration of Chicago's diversity as it's connected to immigrant experiences.
This course is a study of the places in Chicago that host a public computer center (PCC). PCCs provide public access to computers and related technology to address the problem of the “digital divide.” Sponsored by the government or a foundation, PCCs are in nearly every community in Chicago, housed in libraries, public housing, senior centers, schools, public health clinics, designated community technology centers, and other places. The rationale for providing PCCs is driven by the fact that over the past two decades access to computers and the internet has gone from a convenience to a necessity. This course is a study of the social forces that influence PCCs with emphasis on the social problems in urban communities focusing on their economic, political, historical, and philosophical dimensions. The course seeks to understand how social dynamics play themselves out in a variety of settings and how participants can engage in these processes in productive ways. The class is designed to provide participants with an authentic, project-based opportunity and rationale to work with others for positive change in their communities using curriculum design as the focus of these efforts. The purpose of the course is to engage its participants in a critical examination of the many social and cultural forces that shape the nature and function of PCCs. Students will use a set of criteria to assess the PCCs and their effectiveness.
The power of community is one of the keys to Chicago’s current and future success. The impact of Chicago’s diverse communities is manifest, from the voices of citizens echoing in government meetings through the work of alderpersons to the network of community organizations, agencies, and stakeholders that serve day-to-day delivering services and implementing initiatives to improve the lives of citizens. In this course, you will have a unique opportunity to explore organizations, agencies, and stakeholders throughout the city who are working collaboratively with city leaders to improve the lives of Chicagoans now and for the next generation. Through encounters, conversations, and engagement with individuals and organizations working for the betterment of Chicago, you will experience first-hand the developing culture of community impact in the city of Chicago.
In this course, students will be introduced to an often neglected, but extremely important, group within their urban community—the Dead. In Chicago, as in every human community, we live with our dead: we share our urban space with them, our customs, rituals, and laws regulate how they should be treated and where they can reside, they participate in our lives through individual memory and communal monument, from statues to street names, and they appear in our art, literature, and architecture. During class excursions, we will explore our urban geography for sites where our contemporary attitudes toward the Dead and Death (and, thus, the Living and Life) come to light: the museum, the cemetery, the morgue, and the mortuary. And we will study comparatively the different attitudes toward Death among some of the different peoples, cultures, races, and classes that make up our urban community in Chicago.
This course will introduce students to Chicago’s revolutionary Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and to the vibrant experimental music scene the group has inspired. Formed in 1965 in Chicago’s black Southside by children of the Great Migration, the AACM began as a nonprofit devoted to "nurturing, performing, and recording serious, original music.” At a time when black jazz musicians, audiences, and critics often conflated individual musical expression and instrumental virtuosity with a symbolic freedom from the insidious effects of racial segregation and discrimination, the AACM pioneered a set of collective musical practices that challenged the soloistic foundations of jazz, and launched a series of music-related civic actions and education initiatives that would redefine the relationship between art and activism. In the wake of their 50th anniversary, the AACM claims over 150 of Chicago’s most prominent progressive musicians as members, and an influence that pervades every corner of Chicago’s dynamic experimental music scene. First-wave AACM bands like the Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Great Black Music Ensemble aggrandize the Chicago Jazz Festival, as a new generation of members like Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, and Saalik Ziyad continue the group’s legacy. Chicago’s most celebrated progressive musicians like Michael Zerang, Hamid Drake, and Ken Vandermark espouse the AACM’s collective performance principles at the Hungry Brain, Elastic Arts, Comfort Station, and other AACM-inspired artist collectives. Delmark and Nessa, the local record labels that first championed the AACM, have survived decades of record industry turmoil, and have inspired new generation of Chicago-based labels dedicated to local experimental music. Through live performances and other outings, students will experience this living music revolution that has transformed Chicago both sonically and socially.
“Libraries are the memory of mankind” (Goethe). Inevitably, the complex history of a diverse metropolis such as Chicago is reflected in its book collections. This class aims to read some of this history by exploring different city institutions. After a short introduction on the function of libraries and archives, the students will be exposed to four institutions that serve a wide variety of readers and neighborhoods. The DePaul Richardson Library tenders to the needs of an academic community in Lincoln Park, while also preserving the memory of its founders through the Vincentian collection. The Chicago Public Library represents the American effort at democratizing culture according to its core political and ideological principles. We will explore its Chinatown branch, devoted to a changing Chinese community. An important piece of civic history, the Chicago Black Renaissance, shapes the mission of the Center for Black Music Research, hosted at Columbia College. At the world-renowned Newberry Library, an independent research library open to the public, students and scholars can explore local and European history, and discover the history of the book through its beautiful rare manuscripts and early imprints.
From the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and Daniel Burnham and William Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago to Millennium Park opening in 2004, Chicago has undergone a transformation from an industrial metropolis to a global city. We will explore the development of Chicago, learn about what makes it a world-class city, and develop the design skills to create our own plan for a particular site in the city.
German-speaking immigrants to Chicago arrived during a time of intense industrialization and growth within the city, helping to make much of what we recognize as Chicago today while shaping its labor movement through radical politics. But Germany’s status as an enemy in two world wars resulted in a backlash against German immigrants and their descendants in the US, causing the German presence in Chicago to be virtually effaced. This course investigates the various and significant contributions made by Chicago’s German community, the palpable traces that group has left, while delving into more contemporary aspects of a German presence in Chicago, which range from revolutions in architecture and cutting edge visual arts to a healthy business community. Our site visits will take us from Lincoln Square, Chicago’s German neighborhood, to landmark architectural sites in the Loop and elsewhere and into the Art Institute of Chicago, the crown jewel of Chicago’s art scene. And along the way we'll find time for stops in quieter places where Chicago’s German heritage remains undisturbed.
In the latter half of the 19th century Chicago was the fastest growing major city in the world, and to most observers the quality of its growth was appalling. Immigrant workers were squeezed into unpleasant and unsanitary neighborhoods. The city's manufacturers poured vast quantities of pollution into the sky and local waterways. After the turn of the century the Chicago became a center of organized crime, and during Prohibition the city's speakeasies and gangland conflicts made it possibly the most interesting and dangerous city in the country. Against this backdrop, Chicago's politics, by the end of the nineteenth century, took a form that emphasized personal and neighborhood loyalties and the pragmatic use of government as a means of rewarding friends and punishing enemies. From the early years of the Great Depression, the institution that most embodied this type of politics was the Cook County Democratic Party. In many ways, the image of “broad-shouldered,” “political machine”-dominated Chicago continues to shape popular understanding of the nation’s third largest city. In this course we trace the rise and impacts of machine politics, but also examine how Chicago in the early 21st century has emerged as a vibrant, post-industrial, though still one-party city. Without forgetting the city’s rich and controversial political heritage, our focus is just as much on the city’s present and future. With that being said, our course will have an emphasis on race and segregation in Chicago and how the city, for it to be one of the largest in the country, is still one of the most segregated.
This course introduces students to exploring and examining food and food ways in the city of Chicago. We will focus on the historical, social, cultural, political, economic and biological perspectives of food in neighborhoods in Chicago as a way of learning about inequality. Health & Food Justice in Chicago places emphasis on health and place; and its relation to food and food justice. Using site visits, strategically selected readings and course discussions, we will explore questions concerning food, food movements and waste in the urban landscape and neighborhoods in Chicago. The course is organized in two parts: the industrial and the organic. Central questions of the course include: What does it mean to eat a healthy diet? What kinds of access to food are present in various Chicago communities and how does it relate to the historical, social, political and economic contexts? What is a food desert? What is waste? What are some of the politics surrounding food and waste in Chicago? What are the resources available in each neighborhood we visit to keep residents healthy or unhealthy?
This course studies immigrant Catholicism in Chicago through history, theology, sociology, art and architecture. We will visit ethnic Catholic parishes in Chicago—Irish, African-American, Chinese, Polish, Mexican, and more—meet interesting people, have some good ethnic food, and see some stunning churches and art. Throughout the course, we will study the various groups of Catholic immigrants who have made Chicago, and found a home away from home in the Catholic Church. At the same time, we will address larger questions about the Catholic Church, a community of 1.3 billion people that is simultaneously global and local. The Church is found in every part of the world, but the Church adapts to each local culture: a Catholic Mass in Kenya can be very different from a Catholic Mass in Poland. How does a local church be true to its local culture without excluding those from other cultures? How does the Catholic Church maintain both unity and diversity? This course uses the city of Chicago as a workshop to examine these questions.
Chicago’s Italian immigrants began arriving in the 1850s, most of them poor, illiterate farmers and agricultural workers from the central and southern parts of Italy. Today, in the Chicago area, there are 300,000 Italian Americans of various generations. Economically and socially, they have entered the American mainstream and are solidly middle-class. How did Chicago affect who they became? How has their presence affected Chicago? What does it mean to be an Italian American in Chicago today? Finding the answers to these questions will be the subject of our course, as we explore the story of Chicago’s Italian-American community through written texts, interviews, films, oral histories and virtual field trips to neighborhoods and cultural institutions. Our reading material will draw on a variety of ethnographic, historical, sociological, journalistic and literary texts.
While no knowledge of Italian is required, if you are planning to take this Explore Chicago course, now could be the perfect opportunity to learn Italian or to develop your existing Italian skills by taking a concurrent Italian language class -- beginning, intermediate or advanced -- depending on past experience or results of the language placement test. For more information, contact Eunice Amador (EMORAL11@depaul.edu).
What does it mean to call Chicago a “city”? For example, are cities vast networks of roads, buildings, and institutions? Sets of ethnic communities living side by side and interacting together? Are cities more like living and growing biological organisms, or more like sacred communities seeking God and beauty together? What makes Chicago a unique kind of city, and what makes it a city like other cities that have thrived over time and space? To answer these questions, this class will study some of the ways in which the urban spaces and life of modern Chicago are similar to, and different from those of cities that thrived during Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance in the Mediterranean world and Europe. We’ll explore some of the Chicago institutions and people that connect Chicago to the Middle Ages. And we'll visit virtual sites in Chicago that give us information on urban spaces both today and in the Middle Ages: museums, churches, and libraries.
We will not only read some of the most important Chicago literature, but we will also walk the places and spaces at the heart of these writings. We will explore a range of contemporary Chicago works about a variety of themes as diverse as urban nature and youth violence. We will also read books from contemporary Chicago writers such as Kevin Coval, Stuart Dybek, and Alex Kotlowitz. These different voices share common themes about Chicago’s immigrant experience, diversity, work life, and influence on those who grow up and grow old in the city. You will read critically and creatively, at times analyzing the texts’ style and themes, and at others using the texts as models for creating your own poem, short story, and essay about Chicago. Furthermore, we will venture into the city—taking inspiring walking/writing tours.
A vibrant part of Chicago’s Black history unfolded in Cabrini Green, 20th-century public housing for “working families” and “the poor” on the Near North Side. The intention behind public housing was noble, but Cabrini Green was made on the cheap and isolated its mostly Black residents in deteriorating, underserved, over-policed enclaves. Yet, community thrived there. Our focus is on “neighborhood” in Cabrini Green and on the nearby church that was a center of community life. Now vacant, the church was left standing when Cabrini Green was leveled in 2011 for new commercial development and luxury housing, the effects of which we will assess through guided tours in that part of town. Other activities include supervised research and conversations with preservationists and former Cabrini Green residents trying to save the church from demolition, including its 1970s murals celebrating the Black family and martyrs of social justice (Jesus, Emmett Till, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King). Their “David & Goliath” contest with developers is part of a growing effort to reclaim Black history (and historically Black neighborhoods) on the Near North Side.
In this course, we will a) watch a series of popular films set in Chicago, b) visit landmarks and locations shown in those movies, and c) learn about the history of those neighborhoods and of Chicago as a whole. After viewing Howard Hawks’ 1940 screwball comedy “His Girl Friday,” for example, we will visit the Criminal Courts Building and discuss Chicago’s history of patronage politics, organized crime and hard-nosed journalism. And after watching John Sayles' 1988 sports drama "Eight Men Out," we'll visit the park where the Chicago White Sox play and tour some important historical landmarks near the park. In addition to studying films, we'll get to know new classmates and other Chicagoans, work hard, learn some vital skills and have a lot of fun.
The Maxwell Street neighborhood on Chicago’s Near West Side has had a colorful past, acting as port of entry for many immigrant and migrant populations, as home to a world-famous open-air market and retail district, and as the birthplace of electrified Blues music. For years, the city of Chicago and the University of Illinois engaged in a concerted “clean up” of the area, moving the market, displacing the community, demolishing the built environment, and eventually creating a new neighborhood called “University Village.” The historic outdoor market has been relocated three times, downsized, upscaled, and regulated. Just to the south of the Maxwell Street area lies Pilsen, a predominately Mexican neighborhood in the early phases of gentrification. It is facing many of the same issues and challenges that Maxwell Street once did. We will make field trips to Pilsen, the Maxwell Street neighborhood, and the Maxwell Street Market, as well as other Chicago places that inform our ongoing discussion of gentrification and urban change. What we see and hear on these trips will add to our discussions of the City of Chicago’s attempts to beautify/sanitize its public areas and the implications of this for neighborhood culture, community, place, and issues of social justice. The course will consist of academic readings and discussions, observation, interviewing and documentation at the Maxwell Street Market and in Pilsen, guest speakers, student presentations, and field trips as a class.
In this course, we will explore how different Chicago yoga communities use yoga to inform their social justice activism. These yoga communities provide different perspectives on how to take the practice off the mat and into Chicago. The course content and interaction with some Chicago yoga communities will be another look into the Vincentian question of "what must be done?" Yoga is more than a physical practice; it is a philosophy of connecting the mind and body. This involves being conscious of the community you are in while reflecting on how the physical practice of yoga brings connections to those spaces. Through practicing introductory yoga as a class and with some yoga communities, we will consider the ways in which Chicago yoga embraces mindful recognition of underserved community needs and the ways to meet those needs as a form of social justice activism.
This course introduces students to the diverse musical offerings in the Chicago metropolitan area. Students will learn about the wide variety of music- and arts-related activities across many genres and musical styles. In addition to regular excursions to music venues throughout the quarter, class discussions will focus on topics central to understanding Chicago’s music scene in both its historical and contemporary contexts. Topics will focus on the relevance of the music industry as it relates to musicians, industry professionals, educators, and patrons; including fandom, race, gender, historical changes, music criticism, and current industry developments. Genres will span the diversity of the Chicago music community, including blues, folk, hip-hop, jazz, musical theatre, opera, rock, Western art and classical music, and various music of the world. Sessions will include lectures, open classroom discussion, and guest speakers.
Rock ’n roll, reggae, funk, R&B, hip hop, and rap would not be what they are – and possibly not exist – without their foundation: the blues. Affectionately known as “the blues capital of the world,” Chicago has arguably the richest blues heritage in the world. As a product of the Great Migration, African-American blues players – mostly from Mississippi – flooded to Chicago for a better life. The austere urban environment evolved their blues style: into a rougher, faster, more aggressive sound than what they played in their Delta home. This course will provide students with an opportunity to explore the city through at least five different neighborhoods that exhibit Chicago’s blues culture. Music, DVDs, articles and video clips will support class discussion about the relationship between Chicago and the blues.
The literary scene in Chicago is vibrant and original. Emerging and accomplished writers and Live Lit storytellers are working, reading, and performing all over the city. We are the original home of the Poetry Slam, which began in the mid 1980’s in a Near West side jazz club and has since become a national and international phenomenon. On any given night of the week, you can find a poetry open mic, and on almost any given night of the week, you can wander into a live storytelling event. In this course, we will read and discuss the work of contemporary and iconic Chicago authors. By day, we will visit some of the neighborhoods where these writers’ stories and lives unfolded. By night, we will have the opportunity to attend readings and lit performances. We will also experiment with our own creative writing, including an art-inspired activity at the Art Institute.
“Photographing Chicago” is designed to examine the city by venturing into its many diverse neighborhoods using the camera as a tool of observation and inquiry; to learn how other photographers have depicted the city; and to develop your own relationship to the city through the act of photographing it. Our subject will be the city itself and the many ways in which we observe it. First we will consider the observations of others who have come before us. We will be looking at how Chicago photographers have pictured the city by visiting their studios, looking at their photographs, and having the opportunity to ask questions about how and why they make their work. We will think about how neighborhoods are structured and how each of these neighborhoods has a distinctive history and architectural, social and cultural imprint. This we will do with our cameras in hand, asking questions and letting the images stand in for answers (and sometimes prompting further questions). You will be conducting research and writing short essays about various neighborhoods that will be included along with your photographs in the capstone project for the course, a neighborhood photo book. Although the use of a camera is required, no prior photographic experience is needed. Several site visits will be required, not all during class time.
Books. Magazines. Newspapers. Art. We tend to think of these items as inanimate objects, and not about the intentions of the individuals and communities that produce, distribute and conserve them. In this class, we will explore Chicago as we ask ourselves about privilege, diversity, human dignity, and urban sustainability; how these concepts interact with printed works and the lives of Chicagoans. We will visit Streetwise to see how street magazines help combat homelessness, and Women and Children First bookstore--the largest feminist bookstore in the nation. We will view special collections at one of Chicago's most iconic libraries. We will visit community art spaces and get to see how the artistic community participates in Chicago's print scene. Open Books is a favorite as we learn more about printed works and literacy efforts for Chicago's school children. You'll get to type stories on old-fashioned typewriters at the American Writer's Museum, and tour the massive printing presses at the Chicago Tribune. Join us as we journey throughout Chicago examining communities that surround words...and art...on paper.