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Summer Institute Courses at Carlisle

CTY’s Institute for Advanced Critical and Cultural Studies

Courses are designed to help students become more adept, informed consumers of all aspects of culture and media, and to become better assessors of the validity of arguments and opinions in everything from scientific journals to online documentaries. Instructors emphasize the rigorous evaluation of information in a variety of texts and formats, as well as the honing of one’s rhetorical skills in order to communicate effectively with any audience.

In every course, students develop their critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem-solving abilities, skills necessary not only for succeeding in a rigorous college or professional environment but also for being an engaged citizen who can empathize with others inhabiting diverse perspectives and who can effectively negotiate an ever complex, changing world.

Program Disclaimer
Students in these courses at CTY will engage in frank discussions and analyses of contemporary issues and will use materials typical of college courses. For example, students may view an R-rated film or engage topics of a politically or socially sensitive or controversial nature.  

The following courses are offered:


Playing God: The Ethics of Human Subjects Research

From the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to Stanley Milgram’s psychology lab at Yale, human subject research has often been conducted using horrifying methods without the participants’ informed consent. This course examines the troubling history of human subject research in social context, and the harmful, lasting sociological implications of the exploitation of vulnerable populations for the “greater good.” Students grapple with key ethical concepts in research, including questions of consent, the role of privacy and confidentiality, and evaluating the potential benefits of research against harm that may come to the participants. Through multiple disciplines and case studies, they analyze some of the most challenging ethical issues that surround human subject research today, including under what circumstances, if any, may researchers deceive participants or justify harming them because of potential benefits.

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Madness and Insanity: A Social History

Collectively, humanity’s view of what constitutes psychological normalcy—and how to regain or maintain it—has never been static. Despite our growing scientific knowledge about brain chemistry and anatomy, even today it remains unclear what “insanity” actually entails. This course explores psychopathology through the lenses of history, sociology, philosophy, and the law. Beyond simply learning about the contents of the DSM-5, students will question the very premise of “abnormal” psychology, coming to understand it for the construct it is.

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You Will Be Offended: Satire, Comedy, and Public Discourse

At its most potent, humor—satire in particular—is an indispensable tool for revealing uncomfortable truths and exposing hypocrisy. In doing so, it usually manages to provoke, shock, spark debate, and, yes, offend. In this course, students explore the role satire and comedy have played in American cultural and political debates via newspaper cartoons, editorials, essays, TV shows, and stand-up routines. Humorists under consideration include Mark Twain, Lenny Bruce, Don Rickles, Richard Pryor, Norman Lear, Joan Rivers, Gary Trudeau, and Samantha Bee.

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The Psychology of Religion

The human species has always had a sense of the mystical. Even as our beliefs about what is sacred differ and fluctuate, the presence of these beliefs remains constant: the human psyche is hardwired for religion, myth, and ritual. This course will explore the psychology behind humanity’s affinity for the divine, examining religious experiences, doctrines, and institutions through scholars like Freud, Jung, and Maslow. It will also investigate what happens when the scale tips from belief to fanaticism—when and how a prosocial paradigm mutates into a cult, for instance—using examples from history, politics, and literature as case studies.

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Persuasion and Propaganda

During the Vietnam War, U-10 Super Courier aircrafts dropped thousands of leaflets on North Vietnam encouraging the combatants below to lay down their arms and defect. It’s easy to recognize actions as political propaganda when they’re this overt, but what about when a population is targeted through subtler means? In this course, students examine historical and contemporary instances of propaganda through the numerous ways humans have swayed others to their points of view, tracing these efforts from World War II to the present. Students learn to not only identify problematic arguments as they develop the rhetorical strategies necessary to question and dissect their compelling messages, but also to construct and deliver persuasive arguments in a variety of forms, including editorials, oral presentations, brief films, and public speeches.

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