Other Electives

A variety of additional courses offered in the Upper School enable students to study subjects not typically found in traditional disciplines. They are often interdisciplinary in nature, and may involve significant off-campus study. Unless otherwise noted, the courses below are offered to students in Grades 10-12.


Recent advances in science and medicine have brought with them new ethical and moral problems. This course explores ways in which those concerns can and should be addressed, and includes in-depth studies of such controversial issues as genetic engineering and euthanasia from both scientific and philosophical points of view. Students read many actual case histories as well as opinions written by those most active in the field. Note: This course is open to seniors only.

Masterworks of the History of Art: A Thematic Exploration of Art and Architecture

“Masterworks of the History of Art” is a five-semester sequence of inter-disciplinary courses that explore the evolution of visual art and architecture. Rather than being a survey, each Masterworks course focuses on a specific era, delving into the philosophical and/or religious beliefs and the socio-scientific developments that gave rise to and shaped the artistic output of each period. Students develop the fundamental vocabulary and methods of art-historical study. They go on to develop the visual acuity and critical thinking skills necessary to understand and explain a broad range of art and ideas. In each Masterworks offering, students will make at least one off-campus visit to local museums, galleries, or religious sites, as well as one trip to a major regional museum. Note: These electives are open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors and may be taken individually or as part of a sequence.

I: The Medieval World

Masterworks I focuses specifically on architecture in Spain, France, and Italy between the 10th and early 15th centuries. Topics include:

  • Hispano-Muslim Art and Architecture in Córdoba and Granada
  • French Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals
  • Renaissance Florence: From Vitruvius to Alberti

II: Figurative Art of the Early Renaissance

Masterworks II traces the confluence of the “rebirth” of classical ideas and aesthetic ideals, and the innovative socio-economic forces that were reflected in the art of the Trecento and Quattrocento artists in Florence. Students also explore the vital technical and aesthetic contributions of the Netherlandish Renaissance painters of Northern Europe. Topics include:

  • Classical Revival and the Rise of Humanism
  • The Power of Perspective: Evolution from Giotto to Sluter
  • Florentine Humanism: Art and Architecture from Brunelleschi to Donatello
  • The Northern European Renaissance: The Conquest of Light

III: Art and Architecture of the High Renaissance to the Baroque

Masterworks III considers the works of the artistic titans of late 15th-century Florence and Rome, and explores the shift toward the emotive intensity of Mannerism and the exuberant dynamism of the Baroque that continued until the mid-17th century. Topics include:

  • The Artist Exalted: da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo
  • New Architectural Rhetoric: From Bramante to Palladio
  • Ascendant Venice: Disegno versus Colorito
  • Mannerism and the Counter Reformation
  • Rome: Cradle of Baroque Art and Architecture

IV: European Art: From Academy to Autonomy – 1600-1850

Masterworks IV focuses on the changing role of art in Europe from Post-Renaissance sacred art to art in the service of court and monarch, and ending with bourgeois art—an autonomous art that emerged in response to social and economic change. Guided by cultural theorist Peter Bürger’s categories, the course traces the development of artistic style from the High Baroque to Romanticism. Students explore the features of visual art from 1600 to 1850 in Italy, France, Spain, the Low Countries, Flanders and Holland, and Britain. Topics include:

  • Baroque to Rococo: The Power of Light to
  • Light-Hearted Frivolity
  • The Service of Art: Monarch to Merchant
  • Golden Age of Dutch Painting: Portrait, Landscape, Still-Life
  • Neoclassicism: In Service of Enlightenment and Revolution
  • Romanticism: Recourse to the Irrational

V: The Modern World – 1850-1950

Masterworks V explores the dramatic changes realized in European art in just 100 years, a product of and response to the rise of the modern city, the industrial revolution, technological innovation, and the turmoil of the early to mid-20th century. Beginning with French Realism, the course moves through Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, the birth of Abstraction, and then on to German Expressionism, ending with the ascendance of 1950’s New York as the new center of the art world. Topics include:

  • The Concept of Modernism and the Avant Garde
  • French Realism to Post-Impressionism
  • European Indebtedness: Japonisme, Oceania, Africa, and the Maghrib
  • New Century Technology: Vision, Speed, Color, Light, and Sound
  • Surrealism and Fantasy: The Search for New Realities
  • Artistic Impressions of World War
  • The Rise of the New World: New York and Abstract Expressionism

Introduction to Psychology

This course is an overview of the field of psychology, the study of human behavior and mental processes. Students examine the nature of human awareness and growth through the lens of recent scientific discovery, famous contributions to the field, and personal inquiry. Specific content areas include neuroscience, emotion and well-being, human development, ego psychology, mental illness, trauma and recovery, morality, gender, and end-of-life. Work in the course includes close examination of nightly readings, daily reflection, reaction papers, films, and experiments.

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