All about the Core Courses

How Core classes fit into your BU experience

For students in large and demanding majors, Core provides an opportunity to complement required coursework with studies in different subject areas. For students who are undeclared, and for students considering a change of major, Core is especially favorable, since it allows you to use CAS requirements to explore many different subjects. Additionally, Core classes count as equivalency credit for many majors. (Click here to see a factsheet listing all the current equivalencies between Core and major requirements: How Core Counts.)

Because Core courses are foundational in nature, Core is typically taken during the freshman and sophomore year. However, Core classes can be taken at any time during a student’s time at BU. Flexibility is built into the Core program: students are free to take as many or as few Core classes as they wish, to satisfy requirements or explore topics. That said, Core is designed to offer the greatest benefit to students who complete the entire course sequence.

Students who complete the entire Core program receive an annotation on their official Boston University transcript which reads: “Completed the Interdisciplinary Core Curriculum in Arts and Sciences.”

Course Descriptions

CAS CC 101: Core Humanities I: Ancient Worlds. An interdisciplinary study of the origins of civilization, from Mesopotamia and the Hebrew Bible to the development of Greek civilization through Homer, tragedy, and the philosophy of Plato. We consider the contrasting values of the very different cultures that have contributed to our own worldview with particular relation to the expression of those cultures in literature and the visual arts. Students also explore the nature of creativity as it is examined in the works studied and engage with the visual culture of ancient Greece in its relation to beauty and power by studying the Parthenon and works at the MFA. Hub credit: Aesthetic Exploration / Global Citizenship & Intercultural Literacy /Creativity/Innovation

CAS CC 111: Core Natural Science I: Origins—of the Big Bang, Earth, Life and Humanity. The origins of the physical world, a scientific parallel to CC 101. Explores how the fields of astronomy, earth science, biology, and anthropology help us to understand our place in the cosmos from a scientific perspective. Topics include the Big Bang, evolution of the stars and earth, evolution of life, and the origins of human life and society. Assignments include computer-based and experimental laboratory work as well as team-based investigation and original research. Hub credit: Scientific Inquiry I / Quantitative Reasoning I / Teamwork/Collaboration

CAS CC 102: Core Humanities II: The Way: Antiquity and the Medieval World. How to live: examining Aristotle, Confucius, Laozi, the Bhagavad-gita, Virgil, and the Gospels, students compare contrasting Biblical, Classical and Eastern views of “The Way,” or the best human life, concluding with Dante’s Divine Comedy. A focus on writing and oral / signed communication leads to an exploration of the nature of communication, while a study of Western and Asian art at the Museum of Fine Arts brings out the contrast of traditions and deepens Core’s overall study of the relation of the individual to culture and to nature. Hub credit: Foundational Writing (WR 120) / Oral and/or Signed Communication

CAS CC 112: Core Social Science I: Religion, Community, and the Birth of the Social Sciences. Examines the relation of religion and culture alongside various approaches to change or reform (St. Augustine, John Locke). Looks at early European attempts to understand other cultures (Spanish missionaries in Latin America, Jesuits in China) and concludes with twentieth-century social scientists analyzing culture, belief and society (William James, Durkheim, Evans-Pritchard). We discuss what is a just war, whether we have natural rights, and whether tolerance is a utopian ideal, with a particular focus on the nature of critical thought and the various modes of argumentation employed in the works studied. Hub credit: Social Inquiry I / Global Citizenship & Intercultural Literacy / Critical Thinking

Co-curricular Core Docent Program. Optional with CC 101 / 102. Trains students to interpret and articulate the literary themes studied in CC 101 and CC 102 and how to transform this learning through designing a museum experience for BU students. Core Docents will learn skills that enable them to look, reflect, interpret, organize, design and articulate visual art that engages with the formal texts and artwork studied in CC 101 and CC 102, and will work with various Boston museums as well as will Core faculty in leading museum tours. Hub credit: Individual in the Community

CAS CC 201: Core Humanities III: The Renaissance, Rediscovery, and Reformation. Reading Petrarch, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Descartes, we examine the revival of the Classics and explore the new focus on the physical world and questioning of authority. Topics studied include the rise of national literatures, the origins of modern political and scientific thought, and the beginning of the novel. A study of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Bach’s music adds to our understanding of the foundations of the modern world, and a focus on writing and research complements our concern with authorship and its multiple modes of communication. Hub credit: Research Writing (equivalent to WR 150) / Research & Information Literacy

CAS CC 211: Core Social Science II: Power, Political Forms, and Economics. Considers the major events and processes that have shaped the modern world both in the United States and globally and looks at the roots of these changes in the works studied in first year Core. Explores ideas of human rights and self-determination, the relation of the individual and society, and the roles of power and economics in society. Readings are drawn from classic works of social and political theory: Thucydides, Ibn Khaldun, Hobbes, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Weber, Adam Smith, Marx, Durkheim, and Malinowski. Hub credit: Historical Consciousness / Social Inquiry II / Writing Intensive

CAS CC 202: Core Humanities IV: From the Enlightenment to Modernity: Journey from the Enlightenment through the Romantic Revolt to the Modern World. Through Voltaire, Kant, Austen, the English Romantic Poets, Whitman and Dickinson, as well as the music of Beethoven, we examine questions of social hierarchy and what it means to know, the relation of subjectivity to reason, and our relationship with nature. Then, from the radical perspective of Nietzsche, returning to 20th-century America with W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk, and ending with Virginia Woolf’s Modernist response to World War I, we see the roots of the modern world’s questioning of what is knowable and our revaluation of the moral and philosophic bases of human life. Hub credit: Philosophical Interpretation & Life’s Meanings / Ethical Reasoning / Writing Intensive

CAS CC 212: Core Natural Science II: Reality, Science, and the Modern World. Studies the paradigm-shifting scientific theories of quantum theory and relativity that created a new world view and forced the 20th century into a new understanding of our relation to reality. Students parallel these theories with current debates about science, such as those concerning climate change and the phenomenon of “junk science.” Considers the role of science in the modern world, how we know what we know, the roles of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and chaos theory, and the nature of truth in a 21st century context. Hub credit: Scientific Inquiry II / Quantitative Reasoning II / Critical Thinking

CAS CC 220: Multimedia Encounters with Core Texts. Two-credit course. Prerequisite: completion of first-year Core. Allows Core students to reimagine a favorite Core text in a new, digital format and context. Each section will focus on a particular Core work and students will decide upon and develop a new mediation of that work, developing a final project to be made available to the Core community and beyond. Hub credit: Digital/Multimedia Expression

CAS CC 250: Core Capstone. Two-credit course. Prerequisite: completion of one of the Core Curriculum’s four two-semester course sequences. A workshop for students pursuing the Core Interdisciplinary Minor to develop skills in writing, presentation, and public speaking. Students learn to synthesize, refine, and share conclusions reached in pursuit of their capstone project.