Courses with a Local Flavor

Seeking something with a local flair or unique to Pittsburgh? These Pitt instructors have designed these courses with the city of Pittsburgh in mind. These courses range from history to current events. Note that the courses may not be offered each semester. For the most recent listings, students should review what is available in PeopleSoft at the time of registration.

ENGLIT 1412: Secret Pittsburgh

How much do you know about the city outside Pitt? Have you explored a hillside neighborhood using stairways instead of streets? Visited the church with the largest collection of relics outside Europe? Eaten a macaroon prepared by a transplanted French baker? Pittsburgh has a rich cultural history, from labor disputes to a vibrant arts scene. It's also a city with secrets. Students in this course will explore Pittsburgh's most unusual sites and locales; learn about the city's history and the literature it has inspired; and research and write entries for a public guide to secret Pittsburgh.

ENGLIT 1635: Children in Pittsburgh

"Pittsburgh is Kidsburgh” is the slogan of a recent advertising campaign highlighting the range of child-oriented institutions, programs, and activities available to children in Pittsburgh. Organizations like the Carnegie Museums, the Carnegie Libraries, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, WQED and the Fred Rogers Company, Hope Academy of Music and the Arts, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, the Remaking Learning Network, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Gemini Children’s Theater, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and many others are continually creating spaces and developing programs aimed at fostering children’s knowledge of and participation in various forms of culture: from literature and poetry, to theater, music, and dance, to fine art, to new forms of digital communication and artistic production. This class surveys the range of cultural institutions serving children in Pittsburgh, with two main goals: (1) to see these institutions as a key part of the way childhood is experienced in Pittsburgh and similar cities across the United States, and to understand the historical background, social contexts, and political and cultural implications these institutions have on the experience of being a child today; and (2) to introduce students to a range of careers paths that make use of the historical knowledge and analytical skills cultivated in Pitt’s children’s literature and childhood studies courses. We will visit a wide range of institutions and host several guest speakers to survey the field of children’s culture in contemporary Pittsburgh. Students will conduct independent research into the history and composition of an institution of their choosing, and students will profile the career of an active professional in this field.

ENGLIT 0380: Slovak Transatlantic Cultures

Slovak European history and the interaction of Slovak and American cultures during the 120-year history of Slovak immigration is conveyed through readings in Slovak and Slovak-American literature, and through issues in literary theory that concern this theme. The syllabus follows the changes in Slovak culture and society over time, with a special emphasis on the changes brought about by the interaction of Slovak and American cultures. The content of the readings in literature follows the temporal sequence, while the actual sources for each period are grouped to illustrate a variety of literary genres. The course is structured around the history of Slovak, and in a broader cultural sense Central European, immigration to the United States with a special focus on Pittsburgh. It is examined within the context of the developments in Slovak culture and history with an emphasis on literature. The students are encouraged to investigate Pittsburgh's rich ethnic heritage and to research and write on topics tailored to their individual interests.

HIST 1668: History of Pittsburgh

Is Pittsburgh someplace special? The examination of one city in depth reveals a great deal about our urban past and its relationship to the present. This course explores the development of Pittsburgh's life and landscape from its colonial origins to the late-twentieth century. The city and region are viewed as a case study in American urbanization and social history. Questions of historical interpretation and regional identity or uniqueness are also raised. Classes are organized around readings and discussion. Student participation in the classroom is expected and important to the course's success.

HIST 1669/AFRCNA 1538: History of Black Pittsburgh

This course will provide a general overview of the history of black Pittsburgh--economic, political and cultural. We will cover the colonial era to the present, with an emphasis on the twentieth century, particularly the civil rights era. Students will conduct some original research based on the files of the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper and photographs of Teenie Harris. There will be two field trips, one to the Heinz History Center and the other to the Hill District. The class relies on active, committed student participation, and so students are expected to do the readings before class and come prepared to discuss them.

HIST 1083: History of Sports

This course surveys the history of sport, focusing primarily on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Its emphasis is on the changing nature and meaning of sport. It tackles several questions, including why and how sport evolved from a community pastime to today's corporate money ball, what sport has meant to people in different societies and epochs, and what roles race, gender, and the media have played in sport. We will look at sport in settings that range from baseball in the Caribbean to football in American Samoa, and rugby in South Africa, as well as focus on the role of sport in Pittsburgh.

SOC 1286: Race and the City

This course offers a historical and contemporary look at racial inequality in the United States through the lens of the city. As large-scale, concentrated spaces of wealth accumulation, poverty, habitation, education, social control, and, periodically, counter-hegemonic social mobilization, cities are and have been major sites of inequality generation and amelioration. With its abiding focus on how “the state” and “the market” combine to determine “who gets what, how, and why,” this course takes a political economy approach to race-making in urban America. More specifically, we will explore the racial, political, and economic dimensions of a number of topics, including the policies and processes related to urban redevelopment, housing, education, and policing. This course will give considerably more attention to the city of Pittsburgh than is reflected in the general literature on urban sociology and race relations.

SOC 0444: Urban Sociology

Most Americans now live in urban areas -- cities and their suburbs. Around the world, more and more of the population are living in cities. Residents of big cities increasingly have more in common with the residents of cities halfway around the globe than with their rural countrymen just a few miles away. As human civilization becomes primarily an urban civilization we need to understand cities as distinct social entities. In this class we will study the development of the city from small mercantile enclaves to the modern sprawl of activity. We will look at urban polities, social ills, environmental issues, and consider those factors that make a city good, enjoyable, and pleasant. As we do, we will use the city and region of Pittsburgh as our living example.

URBNST 1614: Urban Sustainability

This course provides a critical introduction to the concept of sustainability in relation to cities in the United States and internationally. We will investigate how the fuzzy concept of sustainability has developed, and look at how principles of urban sustainability are put into practice. In particular, we will look at the Pittsburgh city-region, and draw on examples from Singapore, Auckland (New Zealand), and Tianjin (China). In particular, the class will concentrate on how sustainability is embedded in planning urban structures, organizing for sustainable communities, and mitigating environmental risks and vulnerability. Students will hear from a variety of professionals engaged in sustainable urbanism, and learn about specific tools used to assess sustainability at different geographic scales.

HIST 1677: American Jewish Experience

This course is designed to get some perspective on the development of the Jewish community in America up to the present time. While the history of American Jewry is more than three centuries old, we will focus primarily on some themes from the late 19th century up to the present time. In our discussions we shall look at the American Jewish experience through a Pittsburgh lens. We will also try to put this discussion against the backdrop of some American history, European history, world Jewish history and your family’s own history- Jewish or non-Jewish. While the course is two thirds historical, we will spend nearly a third of the semester looking at contemporary issues and perspectives. To do that we will have several academic forums in which students can present varying viewpoints on current concerns which might include such topics as Israel and the Palestinians , the BDS movement, anti-Semitism today, the impact of the Holocaust, challenges on the college campus, the future of the American Jewish community, etc. Students will also have the opportunity to meet with Jewish leaders active in the Pittsburgh community to gain their perspective and to make contacts. The aim of the course is to make each class provocative, lively and informative by raising issues and questions regarding the past, present and future of the American Jewish community.

HAA 1400: Special Topics-Modern

For over a century, world's fairs were some of the prime places for people to learn about cutting-edge architecture, new technologies, foreign cultures, and even find entertainment. In the last fifty years or so they have precipitously declined in importance as their functions and appeal have been increasingly taken over by other events and venues. This course explores the design strategies used in the architecture of world's fairs in the first hundred years of their existence to attract and amuse visitors and market the items on view. We will examine the role of buildings and fairgrounds planning, on the one hand, to bring people together and promise a better future, and on the other, to reinforce existing class, political, and cultural structures and inequalities and even to fuel international rivalries, as well as their role in launching new architectural styles and movements altogether. The course will take advantage of and feature field trips to several Pittsburgh-area collections of material culture from international expositions, including those at Pitt, the Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Heinz History Center, and students will be expected to use items from them in completing class assignments.

HAA 1510: Pittsburgh Architecture/Urbanism

This course will show how we shape the physical environment of Pittsburgh and how it shapes us. We will use the interaction of architecture and urbanism to see how Pittsburgh was created and sustained. Like the instructor’s book, Pittsburgh: A New Portrait, the course studies the physical environment of Pittsburgh from its beginnings to the current shift from production to a service-based economy. A fieldtrip will explore the city “hands on."

THEA 1393: Special Topics: Theatre and the Black Lives Matter Movement

We will collectively read contemporary theatrical, political, theoretical and sociological works that engage with race in the United States, Black Lives Matter, white silence, and ally capacity building. Some of us may be just learning how to talk about the above; some of us may live it daily. Theatrical pieces—plays and performance—function as the spine for our work, around which contextual critical and historical works will coalesce. We will also actively engage with journalistic and social media, as well as films, music and dance, both in Pittsburgh and beyond. The reading and viewing materials in the course are inspired by American Theatre Magazine’s “Ferguson Theatre Syllabus” and Prof. Frank Leon Roberts’ (NYU Gallatin) Black Lives Matter Movement syllabus.

HAA 1030: Special Topics: Museum Studies

This course will explore the ways museums seek to co-create programming and exhibition projects with their audiences through evaluation and visitor studies by working with the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh as a laboratory. We will spend class time engaging with the history and theory of visitor studies and the ways in which museums and audiences interact, and in practicum through evaluating past, present, and future projects at the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History in the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s Oakland campus. We will learn museum evaluation through conducting informal and formal audience evaluation and visitor research in conjunction with the temporary exhibit Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion and for projects in CMNH’s Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt and CMOA’s Art before 1300 gallery, the Hall of Architecture, and the Forum Gallery.