2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Stages of Discovery: Revolutions in Art and Science


Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 quarters

Elizabeth Williamson English literature, theater studies , Andrea Gullickson music , Krishna Chowdary physics
Fields of Study
aesthetics, history, literature, physics, theater and writing
Preparatory for studies or careers in
literature, science, education and theater arts.

If you are interested in either art or science and are curious to find out what happens when art and science meet, this introductory program is for you. We will work to become familiar with the methods used by artists and scientists and see if these methods can help us make sense of, and live better in, an increasingly complicated world.

We will trace developments in art (primarily theater and music) and science (primarily physics) during two time periods: the Renaissance and the early 20th century. We will explore three major questions:

  • What does studying art and science reveal about attempts to make sense of the nature of the world and our role in it?
  • How can science serve as inspiration for art?
  • How can art shape our understanding of science?

Our study of the Renaissance will focus on major revolutionaries, including Galileo and Shakespeare. Galileo's scientific conclusions about the natural world conflicted with some deeply held church teachings. Similarly, Shakespeare's plays highlighted and challenged social conventions and their impact on the day-to-day lives of his audience. We will examine the roles of science and art in challenging commonly held beliefs and explore how society can be transformed through the new perspectives and insights they offer.

Our study of the early 20th century will focus on major revolutions in physics, theater, and music. Relativity and quantum mechanics challenged the idea that natural phenomena could be studied without taking into account the role of the observer in shaping those phenomena. In the arts, the observers were seen to play a central role in the artistic product. Brecht and Schoenberg, among others, challenged the notion that art should hold "a mirror up to nature," arguing that art should prompt us to take action rather than merely acclimating us to the way things are.

Our studies of art and science will come together as we work with plays that draw on science for subject matter and are experimental in structure, staging, and purpose. Together we will examine and critique the aesthetics and accuracy of plays that merge science and theatricality, such as Brecht's Galileo , Stoppard's Arcadia, and Frayn's Copenhagen .

Weekly activities will include workshops designed to develop skills critical to success in college and beyond. Collaborative workshops will emphasize improving your written and oral communication skills as well as your analytical and creative thinking. Hands-on activities will provide you with supportive opportunities to apply math and physics and develop scientific reasoning. Together we will approach the art and science content in a manner that is accessible to students with little background in these areas, while still challenging those with prior experience. As a final collaborative project, program members will produce creative interventions dramatizing a science topic.


Academic Website
Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Required Fees
$75 per quarter for theater tickets and telescope kits.
Offered During

Program Revisions

Date Revision
November 7th, 2011 Additional information for students joining the program in winter added.
October 14th, 2011 Winter fees have been reduced.
June 24th, 2011 The description has been updated
May 2nd, 2011 Andrea Gullickson has joined the teaching team; the enrollment has been increased and the program description has been updated.