Nine Quirky Courses You Can Take at Notre Dame

Author: Shannon Rooney


Notre Dame students are dedicated to learning, but there’s no reason they can’t have fun at the same time. Our colleges and academic departments offer a large number of unique undergraduate courses—including a few with really outstanding titles on some seriously quirky topics. They’re perfect for the student who, for example, delights in the morbid, is fascinated with the idea of technological revolution, or just appreciates a juicy story. One of them may strike your fancy. 

“Death​ ​Songs”:​ ​Remembering​ ​the​ ​Lost​ ​in​ ​Medieval​ ​Elegy (History)

Death, it is said, is the great equalizer. All things great and small fade and pass away under the ravages of time. Feeling existential? This history course addresses the way we make sense of the reality of death and makes a special study of the elegy, a genre of writing shared by many cultures throughout history that gives voice to the universal experience of mortality, decay, and ruin.

Hackers in the Bazaar (Computer Science and Engineering)

Are hackers trouble-makers or modern-day heroes? It's not a black-and-white issue. This elective explores the idea of a "hacker" and the practice of participating in the open source "bazaar." To examine the sociology of hackers, students read, discuss, and reflect on books such as Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, Hackers & Painters, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, and Just For Fun. Students also try their hands at applying the ideas and concepts explored in their readings by contributing to different open source projects. Welcome to the intellectual “Wild West.”

Unsolved​ ​Historical​ ​Mysteries (History)

Obsessed with true crime? So are we. This history course investigates three cold cases from the annals of history, including the trial of the Knights Templar, the conviction of Joan of Arc as a heretic, and the fate of the two princes in the Tower of London. Each case, investigated through careful reading of primary texts (in translation), illustrates the way historical narratives are constructed. Take a seat, Robert Stack. We’ve got this.

Rhetoric of the American Apocalypse (English)

No avid reader can ignore the recent rise in the popularity of apocalyptic fiction. But in the U.S., the impending apocalypse has been a concern from before the founding of the country. From Michael Wigglesworth’s “Day of Doom” (1662) to the best-selling Left Behind series (1995-2007), the apocalypse remains a compelling focus of American fiction. Literary genres as varied as the Puritan jeremiad, the abolitionist novel, the Cold War intrigue, and the cli-fi thriller use "the End” to argue for urgent action, reform, or protest. In this course, students analyze how and why the American apocalypse endures as a rhetorical means of constructing, challenging, reforming, and rewriting national identity.

Runaway Brides: Selfhood and Marriage in Female Fictions of Development (Gender Studies)

Julia Roberts wasn't the first woman to jilt a man at the altar. This course asks the question about why so many ambivalent brides appear throughout classic Victorian and early twentieth-century British novels at the height of the cult of feminine domesticity. In addition to classic Victorian and modernist readings from Jane Austen, the Brontës, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, the class ends with a study of contemporary representations of young female adulthood in film and fiction, including romantic comedies and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.  

How Did I Get Here and Where Am I Going? (Sociology)

Sociologists aren’t fortune tellers, but “life course sociology” may predict some parts of the future. The practice is a successful means of documenting the human life course enough to reliably understand how and why people’s lives are patterned in certain ways. Students explore how lives are shaped by specific historical contexts, how individuals actively construct their life courses within historical and social constraints, and how our lives are intertwined—no crystal ball necessary.

Blood, Guts, and Glory: The Anthropology of Sport (Africana Studies)

Whether you’re a diehard fan of the home team or just wonder what the fuss is about come football season, this Africana Studies course will give you an understanding of the complexity and interrelatedness of sport, culture, and society. From everyday sporting practices to highly ritualized events, the anthropology of sports can help us gain valuable insights into broader social and cultural phenomena. Students also explore the impact sports have on their own lives.

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling: The Irish Comic Tradition (English and Irish Language and Literature)

Fantasy. Humor. Ribaldry. The Macabre. The Grotesque. In this course, students read diverse examples of the long and fertile comic tradition in Irish literature (in Irish and in English), from medieval to modern, in order to enjoy a good laugh, get an alternative take on the Irish literary tradition, and think about the politics of humor. Authors include unknown acerbic medieval scribes, satiric bardic poets, Swift, Merriman, Sheridan, Wilde, and Flann O'Brien. Get ready to broaden your repertoire of wit and wisdom.

Inspiration Mars Project (Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering)

If you think Matt Damon’s forays on Mars were just a preview, you’re among friends. Students who have taken the prerequisite Flight Mechanics and Introduction to Design course are eligible to take this Special Studies course in which students design a space vehicle for a manned mission to Mars. The design is then submitted as an entry in the Mars Society Student Design Competition. Next stop: the Red Planet.

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