HUM101A: Introduction to the humanities (6 credits)    |  TTh 1:30-4:20   HNR 103


There are many ways to define the humanities. In this course, we will consider them as how humankind thinks about and responds to the world. We study several disciplines within the humanities – visual arts, literary arts, theatre arts, and ethics philosophy – to discover common human needs and aspirations that exist across cultures and time periods. We will consider in particular cultures of ancient Egypt, ancient China, ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the indigenous people of the Colombian coastline, the Haudenosaunee of Northeastern America, and the Samish of Northwestern America. This is a discussion-based class. 


Textbook: Sporre, D. Perceiving the Arts: An Introduction to the Humanities.10th ed. Pearson, 2011. This textbook can be purchased in the WCC bookstore and online; one copy is on reserve in the WCC library. 

Additional required readings from online sources. No purchase necessary. URLs provided in class by instructor.

COURSE THEME: Representing Social Values through the Humanities


WCC’s core learning abilities (CLAs) – quantitative literacy, information literacy, communication, critical thinking, and global awareness – are skills taught and reinforced throughout the WCC curriculum. These skills are integral to students’ professional and personal lives. This course will give you the opportunity to practice and develop information literacy, communication, critical thinking, and global awareness.


After successfully completing requirements for HUM101, students will be able to:

compare conventions, principles, and styles in the arts across cultures and belief systems with sensitivity and respect to diversity; analyze various artistic media; distinguish among thematic, aesthetic, and functional elements across various artistic media; and construct arguments for their interpretive and personal positions. 

COURSE ACTIVITIES are designed to help students improve their abilities in critical thinking and critical expression, both verbal and written. Within the context of the humanities, students will learn how to better analyze and evaluate information, to recognize assumptions as different from facts, and to consider alternative perspectives with respect. This course encourages the exchange of information and experiences, to break down barriers to understanding and to foster the appreciation of diversity. 

Student learning is encouraged and assessed in multiple ways: in-class discussions and activities, creative assignments, essays, and written exams.


WCC is committed to maintaining an environment in which every member of the college community feels welcome to participate in the life of the College, free from harassment and discrimination. We welcome people of all races, ethnicity, national origins, religions, ages, genders, sexual orientations, marital status, veteran status, abilities and disabilities. Toward that end, faculty, students and staff will treat one another with respect and dignity; promote a learning and working community that ensures social justice, understanding, civility and non-violence in a safe and supportive climate; and influence curriculum, teaching strategies, student services and personnel practices that facilitate sensitivity and openness to diverse ideas, peoples and cultures in a creative, safe and collegial environment.

Students with a disability

If you require auxiliary aids, services, or other accommodations, please contact the Disability Support Services Office. Whatcom Community College is committed to making education at Whatcom equally accessible to all students.

Academic integrity is expected of all students. Please consult Whatcom Community College Rights and Responsibilities for details on student conduct.


Your overall grade for this course is based on the following:

- Participation: attendance + class discussions        10%

- Exams (4)                        30%

- 2 Critical Analyses (700 word minimum for each paper) 30%

- 1 Review of an artistic event (700 word minimum) 10%

- 1 Creative Project, presentation, and essay (500 word minimum) 10%

- Short writing assignments, identified in class throughout the quarter 10%

ATTENDANCE and PARTICIPATION: Your presence and active participation in class count for 10% of your overall course grade. The textbook is supplemented in class by outside materials, class discussions, and lectures. Therefore class attendance and participation are critical for a full understanding of the course material and for successful completion of the course.

ABSENCES: It is the student’s responsibility to contact classmates for notes on what was missed during an absence. Your instructor cannot reproduce missed discussions.

EXAMS: There are four (4) exams for this course. Each exam focuses on specific works, artists, concepts, and terminology covered in the course. A study guide is posted before each exam. There is no midterm, no comprehensive final exam. Unless prior arrangement is made with the instructor, exams must be taken on the date indicated on this syllabus and/or in class.

ASSIGNMENTS: Assignments are due by the dates indicated on this syllabus. Late work receives a reduced grade. Any change in assignment dates will be announced in class. There is no extra credit option for this course.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS PAPERS: 700 word minimum each, double-spaced

These two papers give you the opportunity to express in writing what you think about a specific reading or work of art that we cover in this class; other subjects are not accepted. Your paper must have structure, focus, clarity, vocabulary appropriate to a scholarly paper, and correct English grammar. Be sure to include: 

basic information such as title, artist/author, medium, date and country of creation; 

an analysis of the work;

a discussion of how and why the work did or did not engage you. 

A critical analysis is a not a research paper. Please speak with your instructor if you have questions or need guidance in writing a critical analysis. You may also find it useful to visit the WCC Writing Center. If you would like to read an analysis from a past HUM101 class, please contact your instructor. Papers must be submitted as hard copies, on the date due, unless prior arrangement has been made with the instructor. Emailed copies are not accepted.

REVIEW OF AN ARTISTIC EVENT: 700 word minimum, double-spaced

Attend a local artistic event focusing on music, improv, dance, theatre, or artwork in a museum or museum-like venue or a sculpture park.

Write a review that gives an overall account of your experience: What was it? Where was it? When was it? Who created it? Who participated in it? How was it executed? Etc.

In addition to an overall account of the event, relate your reactions to it: What did you see, hear, feel? How did it stimulate or not stimulate you? 

To read an example of a past HUM101 Artistic Event Review, please email your instructor.


The Creative Project is comprised of 4 parts: 1) a project, 2) a project journal, 3) an in-class project presentation, and 4) a short reflective essay about your project experience.

1. Creative Project

Outside of class, you’ll create an original artistic work, either individually or in small-groups (4 person maximum). Your project may be anything that actively involves you in the humanities, that is substantial, and reflects you in a meaningful way. Challenge yourself by doing something that you haven’t done before, that you don’t know how to do, that you would like to try. Possibilities are wide-open: a dramatic reading, an enacted scene from a play, a musical performance, a dance selection, an interview, a carving or sculpture, a video, a work of creative writing, creation of a blog or web site, a painting, sketch, cartoon story, pottery, glass-blowing… 

If you choose to work within a group, each member of the group must assume a specific role for the project and must document his/her work individually.

Before beginning your project, submit a short project proposal to your instructor for approval: Think about what you would like to do and how you plan to do it. Also think about how you plan to document your work; for some projects, photos of each step work well. For other projects, a written account may work better. 

Your project proposal is due by Thursday April 13.

Grading for your Creative Project is Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.

2. Creative Project Journal

This is basically a diary to keep track of your progress on your project. The first journal entry will describe your idea (what you’re going to do), your plan (how you’re going to do it), and what supplies you’ll need. For the remainder of your journal: As you work on your project, write down what works, what doesn’t, what you plan to do next, etc. You may also want to include your thoughts about what you’re learning about yourself as you work on your progress. For group projects: each member of the group must submit an individual journal, documenting what s/he does to contribute to the overall project. Your journal is due on the day of your in-class project presentation. Grading for the journal is Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.

3. Creative Project Presentation: 15 minutes max (this includes a question-answer period)

Towards the end of the quarter, you will present your project in class. Grading for your presentation is Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. 

4. Creative Project Reflective Essay: 500 word minimum

Look back on your project, from start to finish. What did you do? Why? Would you change anything? What? Why? How did your project stimulate or not stimulate you? What did you learn about yourself? This assisignment is due on the last day of class. Grading for this essay is Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.


ASSIGNMENT DUE DATES (any change in due dates is announced in class)

  Thursday April 13 : Creative Project Proposa

2-3 typed or hand-written paragraphs describing what you plan to do and why

Tuesday April 25: Critical Analysis 1

Tuesday May 2: Review of an artistic event (no movies)

Thursday June 1 : Critical Analysis 2

Thursday June 8 - Thursday June 15  : Creative Project Presentations and Journals

You’ll sign up for a specific date towards the middle of the quarter.

Thursday June 15 (last day of  class): Creative Project Narrative Essay

EXAM DATES (any change in exam dates will be announced in class)

Tuesday April 18 RUBRIC ONE Visual Arts

Thursday May 4 RUBRIC TWO Literary Arts

Thursday May 18  RUBRIC THREE Theatre Arts

Tuesday June 6 RUBRIC FOUR Ethics Philosophy

GRADING STANDARDS for writing assignments


A paper graded “A” excells in content and style. A clear thesis is effectively developed. Ideas are original and organized in a logical structure. Paragraphs are unified, coherent, and well-developed. Transitions within and between paragraphs are fluent and guide the reader along a clear line of reasoning. Sentences are varied in structure and consistently correct. Vocabulary is well-chosen and precise. There are few, if any, errors in form, grammar, spelling, or punctuation.


A paper graded “B” discusses the topic with engaging and interesting ideas. It has a clearly stated thesis and logical structure, but may contain minor lapses in development. Paragraphs clearly relate to the paper’s thesis; however transitions between ideas may be less fluent and supporting evidence may be less effective that in the “A” paper. Words are used accurately and effectively; there are few errors in form, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. 


A paper graded “C” demonstrates a satisfactory response to the assignment. This is an acceptable grade. The paper may present the central idea in general terms, but relies on platitudes, clichés, superficial reasoning, or broad generalizations to develop its points. It shows some organization; however, transitions from point to point are not sufficiently fluent. Sentence structure tends to be repetitive and word choice imprecise. A “C” paper may contain some mechanical errors, but these are not so numerous that they hinder the communication of ideas.


A paper receiving a “D” grade has inappropriately responded to the topic or has failed to present a clear thesis. Its organization may be illogical, using few internal transitions between ideas. Paragraphs may not relate to the central idea, may lack development, or may rely solely on repetition and generalization. The sentences lack variety, and contain inappropriate or limited word choice. A “D” paper often contains frequent errors in sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.


A paper receiving an “F” grade may lack a thesis and display no clear logical pattern. Development may lack complexity, may be repetitive, or may be too brief. Paragraphs may be absent or undeveloped and disorganized. Numerous mechanical and grammatical errors may impede the clear communication of ideas. Occasionally a paper is graded “F” because it has not responded to the assignment.

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