Fall 2020

Thinking Through Improvisation

Listed in: First Year Seminar, as FYSE-114

Moodle site: Course

Faculty

Darryl Harper (Section 01)

Description

Have you ever had to solve a problem that you had never encountered before, on the spot, to come up with a new, original idea? It turns out that we human beings have a tremendous capacity for such feats. We all improvise. Improvisation is a complex activity stretching across disciplines and across domains of human experience. Often, much preparation lies behind a successful improvisation: the expert tennis player who can, in the moment, deliver or adapt to a powerful serve; the chef who can make a delicacy out of ingredients thrown in front of her; the freestyle rapper who can pull compelling lyrics seemingly out of thin air, the scientist who achieves a creative breakthrough after countless hours of testing hypotheses.

In this course, we will examine improvisation as a mode of thinking. We will consider how it is similar to, and different from, other ways of thinking. Through readings and class discussions, we will study various concepts of improvisation. Drawing from such diverse fields as theater, neuroscience, dance, medicine, music, psychology, religion and physics, we will explore the variety of techniques and strategies used in improvisation, and we will consider what is gained or lost when improvisational skills are cultivated or suppressed. We will test our ideas by performing simple improvisations in class, by observing expert improvisers in action and by critically reflecting on this work. The course culminates with a final research project. Remote format with two synchronous meetings per week; individual meetings as needed.

Fall semester. Professor Harper.

Keywords

Online Only

Offerings

2020-21: Offered in Fall 2020
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020