Contemporary Culture and the Arts

I.     Course Prefix/Number: HUM 122

       Course Name: Contemporary Culture and the Arts

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course concentrates on culture and arts of the last fifty years, with focus on appreciation and critical evaluation of contemporary culture. Content provides interdisciplinary perspectives on literature, music, drama, visual arts, architecture, TV, film, and cultural theory, as well as forces that influence the arts.  

IV.   Learning Objectives

After completing the class, students will be able to:

  1. Describe some important cultural, intellectual and artistic developments of the last sixty years.
  2. Explain and appraise the global interconnections and dimensions of these developments and exemplify the rich cultural diversity of our contemporary culture. 
  3. Identify, interpret and assess some major contemporary works from a minimum of four distinct art forms – taken from literature, performing arts, music, visual arts, architecture, photography, film, television and digital or cybernetic art. 
  4. Recognize the elements of the basic art forms presented and the interrelationships of these art forms.
  5. Analyze and evaluate some acknowledged art works using the basic analytical and critical vocabulary associated with the art forms studied.
  6. Analyze and evaluate these cultural, intellectual and artistic works in their historical, social, political, and economic contexts.
  7. Explain cultural theory, identify and describe the main concepts in a variety of theoretical approaches and apply some of these concepts in debates about important ideas regarding the production of art and its relationship to culture.
  8. Exhibit values related to teamwork and collaboration, fostered by the pedagogy of shared-inquiry and critical dialogue appropriate to the humanities and philosophy.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

(The instructor may elect to organize the class according to historical development in
the arts, by individual art forms, by geographical region, or by contemporary issues.  The instructor’s outline should specify the dates when specific topics will be covered and should list important dates such as exams and paper deadlines.)

Sample of an outline organized by art form—a unit on each of the following:
Cultural Theory
The Visual Arts: Painting, sculpture, photography, graphic and design arts.
The Performing Arts: Theater, TV, Film, Performance Art
Music: Popular music, hip hop, salsa, world music, jazz, classical music.
Literature: Poetry, short stories, novels, graphic novels
Sample organized by topic—a unit on each of the following:
Representations of Violence in Contemporary Visual, Performing and Literary Arts
The Arts, Race, and Gender
Art, Politics and Freedom of Expression
The Debate over Postmodernism
The Impact of Globalization and Post Colonialism on Diverse Contemporary Art Forms
The Future of the Arts

Sample organized by a geographical region—a unit on each of the following:
Architecture in Chicago
Public Art in Chicago
Blues, Rap and Hip-hop in Chicago
Contemporary Theater in Chicago

VII.  Methods of Instruction

The course will involve lectures, as well as seminar style discussions and small group activities.  Students will listen to music, view slides, and when appropriate, view sections of videos.  Students will be expected to participate actively and to come prepared for discussion.  This means students should have read all assigned material prior to class meetings. Students will also be expected to participate in field trips to concerts, plays, art exhibitions, and similar events.

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

(Please include information here about expectations you have for your students regarding behavior, work, etc.  The following are sample topics you may wish to cover.  Please be aware that Illinois state guidelines require students in this course to produce at least 15 pages of critical written assignments over the course of the semester.  These may be assigned in a variety of ways including journals, response papers, field trip projects, etc.)

  • Attendance
  • Standards for written work
  • Quizzes/Exams
  • Participation
  • Essays
  • Final Project
  • Special policies about make-up exams, late papers, or other matters of concern

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

(The choice of specific instructional materials – books, films, artworks, articles, music, TV, videos, etc is at the discretion of the instructor.  This choice should reflect a commitment to the interdisciplinary nature of the class. What follows is a list of sample materials.) General Texts and Anthologies
Ashcroft (editor), The Post-Colonial Studies Reader
Fiero, The Humanistic Tradition, Volume 6
Jameson and Miyoshi (editors), The Cultures of Globalization
Kushner, Angels in America
McClatchey (editor), Vintage Book of World Poetry
Morrison, Beloved
Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
Satrapi, Persepolis
Wilson, Fences
Chung King Express
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Bohlman, World Music: A Very Short Introduction
Strode and Wood (editors), HipHop Reader
Berger, Ways of Seeing
Freeland, But is it Art?
Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others
Anzaldua, Borderlands
Barber, Jihad Verses McWorld
Hooks, Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations
Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man
Said, Selections from Reflections of Exile

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

(In this section, please present the percentages or point breakdown of their final grade.  The writing assignments should count for at least 40% of the final grade.  An example follows.)
Quizzes/Exams……40 points
Essays/Reviews……40 points
Final project with oral presentation……10 points
Attendance and participation………10 points

Grading scale: 90-100, A…….80-89, B………70-79, C……….60-69……..D

XI.   Other Course Information

Instructor information
Office and office hours:
Email and website:

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.