Spring 2018 (un)common arts

These courses are discussion oriented, seminar courses centered on a book. All of these courses are one credit.

Please use the UF Schedule of Courses to find times, places, and other course information.

These courses are discussion oriented, seminar courses centered on a performance or exhibit.  All of these courses are one credit.

(un)common arts courses

IDH3931 Take Me to the River 058B  Edmund Kellerman  
IDH3931 Authenticity, Politics, & the Steep Canyon Rangers  06HC  Charles Levy/Charles Pickeral  Roots of Bluegrass-Steep Canyon Rangers 
IDH3931 Individual and Collective - 600 Highwaymen 055E  Kevin Baron Individual Rights Versus Collective Action 
IDH3931 The Aesthetics of Death-Art and Fascism 06A8  Matthew Jarvis Arte Fascista 
IDH3931 Come to Cabaret 1A00 Jeffrey Pufahl Cabaret 
IDH3931 Ramayana: Divine Loophole 1347 Allysa B. Peyton Divine Loophole 
IDH3931 The Muscial: Genre, Spectacle, Celebrity 24HD Margaret Butler The Musical: Genre, Spectacle, Celebrity 

Immigration to the Americas - Cabaret: Jewish histories and universal experiences

Immigration to the Americas:

Jewish histories and universal experiences

Spring 2018

Tuesdays, period 7, 1:55pm-2:45pm, Judaica Suite

An old joke reveals the salient role immigration played in modern Jewish history: Somewhere in Central Europe, a Jewish man contemplates emigrating and goes to the rabbi to ask for counsel. The rabbi tells him the story of an acquaintance of his, who got pneumonia, so the doctor ordered him to travel to the Alps to be cured by the mountain air. His lungs healed, but because of the cold, he got chronic back pain. So, the doctor recommended him to travel to south Italy, where the weather was pleasantly warm. There the back pain indeed disappeared, however, his liver could not tolerate the food and needed treatment. Following the doctor’s recommendation, he travelled to the famous spa in Karlsbad. His liver was soon cured there, but, unfortunately, his pneumonia reoccurred. As the rabbi finished the story, the man asked him: “Do you suggest not to emigrate?” “Do what you should do,” replied the rabbi, “but you must know that illnesses are everywhere, so it is best to be someplace where you at least know the doctor.”

Jews who immigrated to the Americas were not held back by stories like this also before the modern period.  Rather, as this course discusses, they left their homes hoping to start a new and better life in the American continent. Many were economically motivated, while others felt they had no choice but to leave. They made the decision of where to go based on various factors and, unlike the story related above, many migrated as part of a larger group, members of a community which planned to resettle as a collective (and had both a rabbi and a doctor nearby!).

Students enrolling in this course will be introduced to the history of Jewish immigration to South, Central and North America – a history, which offers universal lessons. It reveals how economic, political, ideological, and religious factors shape ideas of homeland and belonging as well as open new horizons that urge people to immigrate to new countries and start a new life. It draws attention to the difference between the experience of the immigrant and the refugee, and it shows that personal experience and the way society as a whole approaches the newcomer often collide. The course investigates how immigrants and their new fellow countrymen viewed the terms of integration and assimilation and how their relationship developed as the descendants of the immigrants reached adulthood. Additionally, it looks into how the descendants of immigrants perceive the journey of their fathers and grandfathers from the Old World to the New, their path leading from immigrant status to full-fledged citizenry.

The lectures in the course proceed according to chronological order, reconstructing the history of Jewish immigration to and life in the Americas from the 15th century until the 20th century. In addition, it looks at the different American countries separately. Taught in the Price Library of Judaica, each lecture in this course will focus on a unique item held in the Library that tells a chapter in the long history the Jews in the Americas. Additionally, as part of the course, we will visit the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to see the performance Cabaret, which takes us to Berlin in the 1930s – a period when the terms of modern immigration to the Americas dramatically changed.

Students in the course will have the opportunity to familiarize and work closely with the university’s outstandingly rich and diverse Latin American and Caribbean and Judaica collections. Students will be asked to submit short written assignments (120-250 words) weekly and prepare a final project in a chosen media that reflects on the course curriculum. The instructors of the course would like to prepare an anthology of the students’ work either in the form of a digital collection on the web site of the Isser and Rae Price Library of Judaica or as a printed volume.

Goals of the course:

  • To acquaint students with the history of Jewish immigration to the American continent(s)
  • To introduce students to the Latin American and Caribbean Collection’s and the Price Library’s diverse sources of Jewish immigration to and life in the Americas
  • To demonstrate the universal lessons the particular experiences of Jews in the American continent(s) offer
  • To inspire and ignite students’ creativity through the written word and/or other media that reflect their understanding of Jewish immigration to the Americas and the immigrant experience as a whole

Take Me To The River

"The Roots of American Music: Take Me To the River" is a course exploring Memphis, Tennessee as a nexus of blues, country, rhythm and blues, and soul music.  The course is anchored around the January 29  "Take Me to the River" live concert at the Philips Center for Performing Arts  featuring Grammy Award winners William Bell, Bobby Rush, and Don Bryant backed by the Hi-Rhythm Section​.  The curriculum will include attending live musical performances in Gainesville as well as a field trip to Memphis with a tour of blues clubs by Robert Gordon, author of several books and films on Memphis as a regional musical hub.

Authenticity, Politics, & the Steep Canyon Rangers

In the late 20th & early 21st centuries, there has been much discussion in both academic and populist media about the concept of “authenticity” as it pertains to the arts and culture.  Bluegrass music is frequently presented as a paradigm of authenticity, especially when juxtaposed against mainstream country music or other, more commercial, popular styles.  For many Bluegrass fans, issues of musical purity, social traditions, and cultural values are almost inseparable from the music itself.  Furthermore, observable political and social behaviors are often closely aligned with Bluegrass and its counterpart, Old Time music.

In this one-credit course, students will explore concept of authenticity in music and the arts.  Through selected readings, independent research, and discussions with guests from both fields, students will be introduced to the musical and social conventions of the Bluegrass & Old Time genres.

The centerpiece of the course is a performance by the Steep Canyon Rangers on March 23, 2018.  While the course will be of interest to fans of traditional American folk and country music, the concept of authenticity and social values in music invites input from fans of all types of music.

Individual Rights Versus Collective Action

How do you think about your place in the world? We are individuals seeking to better understand our own identities and find meaning in what we do. Yet we are also members of society, which can defined locally, nationally, or globally. How do we reconcile our needs as individuals versus those of our local communities, or country, or the world? Understanding the debate of the individual versus the collective is a central role societies have grappled with for centuries, and a very real questions for modern day governments. In the US, policies are constructed around the ideologies of individual rights versus collective action where we are seeking to balance our wants and desires with what is best for many. These tensions underpin the current partisan and ideological divides in US politics – just examine the debate on healthcare, taxes, military spending, environmental issues/climate change, and the list can go on.

A prime example, and one that will be explored in this course, is known as the Tragedy of the Commons, where we as individuals seek to maximize our own self-interest, but if we all do so independently, it will lead to the spoils of resources for all, and everyone loses out in the long-run. This problem is fundamental to capitalist economies.

This course will include attending a performance by 600 Highwaymen: The Fever at UF Performing Arts in February. This performance will be mandated as part of the class, and the tickets will be provided by the Honors Program. The performance is interactive, meaning it will require audience participation, and will be focused on exploring these very ideas of how we balance our individual needs with the communities in which we live.

The Aesthetics of Death-Art and Fascism

This course serves to educated students about the aesthetic theories and principals laid out in the
forthcoming photographic exhibition Corpus: Physiques of Arte del Fascismo, which I am
curating at UF in the Spring. The exhibition looks at the art of the Foro Mussolini and contrasts
the political philosophies of Fascism around masculinity and the aesthetic male form with the
artistic gestures of filmmaker and poet Pier Paolo Pasolini. Ultimately, the “consumptive” nature
of the Fascist state is revealed through its aesthetic choices — the Fascist ideal of male beauty
will be found to be flawed and doomed for destruction both in terms of classical aesthetic theory
and with regard to biopolitical constructs of masculinity. For his part, Pasolini reveals the
underlying insidious nature of the Fascist aesthetic by drawing parallels to the Marquis de Sade
in his 1975 film Saló. By using de Sade as a methodology of deconstructing the Fascist
movement, Pasolini, and we as viewers by proxy, will ultimately see the Fascist state as one of
total corruption; a corruption which in turn consumes, destroys, and kills the aesthetics it


In this course students will explore the world of the post WWI German Cabaret through the lens of the iconic musical production of “Cabaret.” Steeped in history, “Cabaret” tells the story of an American writer’s experience in the underworld of Berlin during the rise of the Nazis.  To understand the musical and its relevance, students will investigate the theories of revolutionary playwright and theorist Bertolt Brecht, the compelling music of Kurt Weill, iconic figures like Marlene Dietrich and the history of the Weimar Cabaret.  As well, students will investigate the source material for the musical, the musical itself, and the movie musical.

Students will attend the musical production of “Cabaret” on Saturday Feb. 3, 2018.

Course readings and films will be made up of selections from the following sources:

Christopher Isherwood Stories
I Am A Camera
Cabaret – Film Version
The Weimar Cabaret
Bertolt Brecht – The Epic Theater & Alienation Effect
Kurt Weill
Marlene Dietrich – The Blue Angel

Students will be expected to complete weekly readings and attend weekly class discussions.  One group presentation on a subject/reading/author will be expected from students.  This presentation will have an oral (in class) presentation element as well as a written element.

Ramayana: Divine Loophole

The Ramayana is an ancient Indian epic poem that follows the life and adventures of the divine prince Rama, who must rescue his wife Sita from the demon-king Ravana. In the Hindu tradition, it presents the teachings of Hindu sages on the duties of relationships and portrays ideal characters. Artist and veteran Pixar artist Sanjay Patel (Monster’s Inc., A Bug’s Life) illustrates one Hindu mythology’s best-known tales in a whimsical and accessible style, “teeming with powerful deities, love-struck monsters, flying monkey gods, magic weapons, demon armies, and divine love.” (http://www.gheehappy.com/)

The class will focus on the characters of the story, narrative, and methods of illustration. As a class, we will learn more about Hindu deities, the role of the Ramayana in historical and contemporary contexts, and study objects held in museum collections, including UF’s Harn Museum of Art, www.harn.ufl.edu.

Assignments will include book chapter readings/study, object studies and comparison, and some creative writing/drawing assignments to be assigned. (no prior creative writing or drawing experience required)


The Musical: Genre, Spectacle, Celebrity

The musical is one of America’s most popular entertainment genres, blending song, dance, acting, and stage spectacle. How has it maintained its broad appeal through time, changing to address needs and desires of different kinds of audiences? How have its celebrity performers helped shape certain famous shows in particular, and the genre, more broadly? How does its music relate to contemporary styles, and how do its themes reflect political, social, and cultural concerns?

The course will explore these questions and others through an examination of musicals and their creators from the vaudeville era through today. This discussion-based class focuses on questions addressed through short readings, recordings of shows viewed on YouTube, and live performances presented by the UFPA. An oral presentation on a specific show, creator, or performer, incorporating performance-related material from UF’s Belknap Collection for the Performing Arts, caps off students’ work in the course.