Course Descriptions: M.A. in Engaged Humanities and the Creative Life with Emphasis in Depth Psychology

Course Descriptions

Creativity and Aesthetic Sensibility HMC 100, 3 units

While on the surface, creativity seems a simple phenomenon, it is actually quite complex. Though often studied, it is still not completely understood. Nor do we know the source of creativity: is it the right-brain, is it our unconscious psyche, is it the muse, or is it God? In the first half of the course, students read a wide variety of interdisciplinary texts on the nature of creativity, ranging from science to psychology to spirituality to philosophy, identifying some of the key debates in the field. In the second half of the course, students will read about aesthetics and ponder questions such as is the sense of beauty in our biology, or is it socially constructed? Throughout the course, students critically reflect upon their own beliefs about creativity and the cultivation of aesthetic sensibility.

Engaged Humanities grows the Creative Life


Joseph Campbell and the Mythmaker’s Path HMC 110, 3 units

Joseph Campbell understood mythology to be humankind’s most creative act. Throughout his career Campbell focused on the creative mythopoetic act as manifested in the art and literature of the world’s culture in order to explore mythology itself. Through an exploration of Campbell’s work, students will learn the methods of comparative mythology which give them eyes to see the universal themes of humanity expressed through image and story. The story of Campbell shows how he saw the mythmaker’s path as extending into the present moment—the mythmakers of the ancient times become the modern day teachers, writers, painters, and poets, and it is through their works that the cosmos continues to come forth.  

The Complex Nature of Inspiration HMC 120, 3 units

Creative people have all experienced those moments when our work seems like it is coming from somewhere wholly “Other.” Characters become autonomous, surprising their writers. The hands chip away at the stone until a figure emerges. The fingers hover over the keyboard, then move seemingly with their own will. Later, we wonder to ourselves, “Who created that?” What is it that inspires, even possesses the creative artist? Do we draw from mythology and consider it the arrival of a Muse? Do we envision it as our daimon, an ancient idea revived by James Hillman? Or dare we wonder whether it is the presence of a psychological complex, which Jung called the via regia, or royal road, to the personal and collective unconscious. This course explores multiple theories of the source of inspiration. Students will read case studies of well-known creatives, their sources of inspiration and the complexes which are reflected in their work, and consider their own personal complexes and their connection to their creative life.  

Creative Influence Across The Humanities HMC 130, 3 units

This course explores the rich terrain of creative influence by examining several notable case studies of artists who have influenced one another, other forms of art, and history and culture at large. We define “artist” broadly as anyone working creatively in their fields; in this sense, environmentalist John Muir was an artist who was influenced by poets such as William Wordsworth, John Milton, and Ralph Waldo Emerson; civil rights activist and preacher Martin Luther King, Jr. was an artist who was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau; psychoanalyst and dancer Marion Woodman is an artist who was influenced by Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, and many other poets. Students will present their personal case studies of the artists, pieces of art, art forms, and movements which have most influenced them.  

The Expressive Power of Archetypes HMC 140, 3 units

Archetypes can be defined as universal patterns which reside in the collective psyche. We all know the characters when we see them: the Lover, the Innocent, the Sage, the Villain, etc. We all recognize the themes when we see them: the Fall from Innocence, the Battle Between Good and Evil, the Hero’s Journey, etc. These archetypes are found in classic pieces of art as well as the artifacts of pop culture; the stronger the archetypal presence, the more powerful, evocative, and resonant the product is likely to be. This course begins with an overview of archetypal theory, and then turns toward an examination of art and cultural artifacts which express archetypal themes. Particular emphasis is placed on the archetypes of the Artist and the Creator as they are manifested in film, literature, and other mediums. Throughout the course, students will become more aware of the archetypes which manifest in their creative projects, and discuss ways to amplify their presence and make them more emotionally satisfying to the audience.  

C. G. Jung, Individuation, and the Symbolic Life HMC 150, 3 units

Classical Jungian concepts such as ego, Self, persona, shadow, anima/animus, collective unconscious, transcendent function, and individuation are studied in light of the creative process. Jung’s own relationship with his creativity will be explored, especially his struggle between what he called Personality Number One and Personality Number Two, between the Scientist and the Artist within. This course also takes a tour through some of Jung’s seminal essays in Volume 18 of the Collected Works, The Symbolic Life, including the title essay which states that people “are far more civilized and creative on account of the symbolic life.” Jung’s example and theoretical works provide a process whereby students can utilize creativity in the individuation process, including finding their voice, following their calling, and discovering the myth they are living in order to create a more authentic life.  

The Purpose and Power of Image HMC 160, 3 units

Depth psychology has always maintained a close relationship with Image—the literal images which visit in our sleep, the fantasy images we flirt with while awake, the autonomous images that appear “out of nowhere,” the metaphorical images we have of ourselves and others. The psyche is always creating images. In turn, those images give shape to our psyches, an idea which archetypal psychologist James Hillman explored in his work. Hillman proposed that “at the soul’s core we are images,” and that life can be defined as “the actualization over time” of the images in our hearts and souls. Hillman went even further by suggesting that our unique images are the essence of our life, and “calls us to a destiny.” Students will study the writings of James Hillman and others on the purpose and power of Image in psychological and creative life, and meditate upon the core images meaningful to their lives and work.  

Project Workshop I: Creative Dialogue and Design HMC 170, 3 units

This course takes place at the end of the first year, and asks students to work together in dyads or small groups to envision, design, and then create a shared artistic product that arises from a creative, collaborative dialogue between them. For example, an animator may pair with a dancer, a chef may pair with a painter, a poet may pair with a photographer, a writer may pair with a filmmaker and a musician, etc. Students share their process through online journals, and share their final outcomes during the residential session. Readings for the course focus on the collaborative process and on examples of artists who have worked together. Pass/No Pass  

The Purpose and Power of the Moving Image HMC 180, 3 units

Film is one of the most dominant mediums of contemporary life and culture. As such, it can inspire numerous archetypal connections and transformational themes via the cinematic framing of reality, the complex process of creating a story in the moving visual idiom, and through the use of mythic themes, which have certainly been essential throughout cinema’s history. This course takes a relevant and useful approach to understanding films’ vocabulary of form and mythic connections by carefully examining some specific mythological patterns contained within notable films and specific genres. The course will also explore selected films and television shows through an archetypal and depth psychological lens that will allow us to recognize and analyze archetypal patters contained within them. The discussion will further include the amplifications of personal and cultural resonances contained within these mythic themes. A main aim of the course is to heighten our awareness of film as a primary vehicle for personal and cultural narratives, cross-cultural understanding, and the impact film has to give voice to the collective psyche. Students will also have the opportunity to creatively explore the course content by making their own short (30sec-1min) video.  

Active Imagination, Dreams, and Psychic Creativity HMC 200, 3 units

Active imagination is the name given to the technique C. G. Jung pioneered for accessing unconscious material in the psyche, often by working with an image or by dialoging with an inner figure; The Red Book contains 16 years of Jung’s active imagination within its covers. Students will study The Red Book in addition to Katherine Sanford’s The Serpent and the Cross: Healing the Split through Active Imagination which contains 62 archetypal paintings along with dreams and active imaginations representing 30 years of Sanford’s personal inner journey. In addition to active imagination, the role of dreams in the creative life will be explored. Across the humanities, people have received inspiration and guidance from their dreams while asleep, their visions while awake, and from the rituals they have undertaken to explore the creative unconscious. As one of the final products in this course, students will create and share an artistic product inspired by one of their own dreams or active imaginations.  

Mythic Narratives: Eternal Sources and Contemporary Inflections HMC 210, 3 units

In the book series The Myths, contemporary world renowned authors retell ancient myths, writing them in their unique styles with their own particular spins. Though a relatively new series, there is nothing new about the concept: artists across mediums have always drawn on myths for inspiration and source material. Sometimes, they recreate them using modern technology, such as the animated version of Hercules, or the 3-D version of Clash of the Titans. Other times, they borrow ancient mythic themes to create an entirely new story; for example, C. S. Lewis’ novel Till We Have Faces retells the Cupid and Psyche myth; the South African novel Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton retells the myth of the prodigal son. In truth, the most impactful films, novels, plays, and other artistic expressions not only reflect eternal mythic narratives, but do so in a way that feels fresh and timely. Students will compare several original myths with both historical and contemporary retellings of them, and will produce their own creative retellings of a myth.  

Time, Place, Space, and the Ecology of Creative Expression HMC 220, 3 units

Artists and creators have long been influenced and inspired by place. Ansel Adams had Yosemite; Woody Allen had Manhattan; and Georgia O’Keefe had the American Southwest. The Lost Generation had Paris in the 20’s; while in America at that time, what was known then as the New Negro Movement had Harlem, bringing about the Harlem Renaissance. In fact, it is difficult to imagine what these artists or groups of artists would have been without being in that place during that time in their lives, so intricately is the sense of time and place woven into the fabric of their creative being. Would anyone know the name “Julia Child” had she not found herself with time on her hands in postwar France? Could reggae have emerged anywhere else but Jamaica in the late 60’s? Students will explore the importance of time and place to the creative artist, including the literal space in which one creates, and consider ways to enhance their own creative ecologies.  

The Healing Power Of Creativity HMC 230, 3 units

Sand-tray therapy, dance therapy, psychotherapy, art therapy, music therapy, and narrative therapy are recently established therapeutic modalities in psychology today. An Internet search adds other therapeutic forms such as bibliotherapy, landscape therapy, film therapy, horticultural therapy, and architectural therapy, to name a few. Though these forms of therapy are relatively new to Western psychology, they have ancient roots and cross-cultural shoots. This course will study those roots and shoots, along with their contemporary manifestations. It will discuss the ethical implications of working with the creative psyches of others with the intent to heal or transform, meditating on relationship of the artist and therapist. Throughout the course, students will reflect upon the pieces of art, art forms, and creative practices that have been a source of personal healing and transformation.  

The Artist As Activist and Agent of Social Change HMC 240, 3 units

Artistic expression has always had the power to raise consciousness and contribute to social change such as, the photographs of Dorothea Lange which chronicled the tragic poverty of the Great Depression, Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle which highlighted the corruption of the meatpacking industry at the turn of the 20th century, the documentary films of Michael Moore. In fact, art and artists have played a powerful role in many revolutionary movements: for example, Mexican muralism which arose in the 1930’s in post-revolutionary Mexico, and the Black Arts Movement in the United States during the 1960’s. Great works of art often open up taboo conversations: one recalls movies like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner which used humor to explore interracial relationships, and Brokeback Mountain which used tragedy to challenge heteronormality. Through examples like these and more, this course explores the artist as activist and agent of social change. Working in groups, students will select a social issue of importance to them, and use various forms of creative expression to raise critical consciousness.  

Technology and the Psyche HMC 250, 3 units

From the alphabet to motion capture, technologies have been integral to human expression. Technologies shape the landscape of the physical worlds we inhabit as well as the stories and images of the human experience. The interchange between technology and the psyche stimulates the flow of creative thinking, influences our dreams, and is the gift from the gods that fires human enterprise. This gift brings with it light (literally, as in the case of Edison’s invention of the light bulb) and shadow (literally, as in the case of the atomic bombs which covered Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a shroud of darkness). Students will consider how technology affects not only the way we live, but more specifically, the ways we create and what we create, and what’s more, the ways we share what we create. A particular focus will be placed on the Internet and digital technologies as a democratizing force in human expression.  

Creativity, Vocation, and Alchemical Work HMC 260, 3 units

Given the rapid technological and cultural changes of the 21st century, a program that prepares students for the creativity of soul needs a space to develop ideas, theories and practices of vocation. To what are we “called” in our deepest selves? What is evoked within us that guides us to a life’s work; the work of a life that is both an inner direction and an outer calling? Alchemy has long beenregarded as the art of psychic, artistic, spiritual and social transformation. Creativity, Vocation and Alchemical Work explores alchemy as a way to orient students to the depths of their life work. The course will combine the study of alchemy as practical transformation, with an imaginal knowing that opens a way into vocation, calling, and creativity applied to “work” in its economic, social, cultural and spiritual dimensions. While the first half of this course will use the lens of alchemy, the second will enable transformative practice of creativity within practical applications, such as finding fresh ways to provide transformational creative work; developing outreach through the web; working new media in alchemical practice and applying depth psychological processes to existing employment and vocational models. Above all, the course seeks to re-configure vocation towards depth and meaning in the context of the alchemical transformation of psyche in the world.  

Project Workshop II: Creative Expression and Reflection HMC 270, 3 units

This course takes place at the end of the second year. Students will reflect upon what they have learned in the program, and will create a project or portfolio that expresses and reflects their learning. This may take the form of a performance piece, a series of photographs, a collection of essays or poetry, a digital media expression, collage work, sculpture, a film, etc. Students will share their work at the final residential session, and will submit to their instructor a written essay which summarizes their learning and growth while in the program. Pass/No Pass  

Selected Topics in Engaged Humanities HMC 280, 3 units

Course content varies and may be repeated for credit.