Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Graduate Courses

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2015-16 Evening and Summer Graduate Courses

The following courses are scheduled tentatively through the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program for the 2015-16 academic year. All MALS courses must enroll a minimum of five students to be offered. Most enroll between five and ten students and all are capped at 15 students. The MALS degree paper, MALS 670, is a one-unit, one-semester course, and may be written any term.

Fall 2015

Turn-of-the-Century Vienna and Prague

The term Wiener Moderne (Viennese Modernism) designates multi-faceted new artistic and cultural currents at the turn of the nineteenth century.  These heterogeneous manifestations include the literary group Jungwien; coffee culture; the empirico-criticism of Ernst Mach; Freud’s psychoanalytic theory; Weininger’s misogynistic and anti-Semitic study of race and gender; Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language; the Secession movement in the visual arts; Schoenberg’s music; Austrian anti-Semitism, and the rise of radicalized ideologies.  We will explore the emerging cultural and political movements as different modes of a crisis of identity.  Cultural historians often characterize the Viennese atmosphere at the fin de siècle, before the collapse of the Danube Monarchy, as a “gay apocalypse.”  Resulting from the crisis of liberalism in late-nineteenth century, dominant modes of tradition were encountered with skepticism, leading in the poetic, cultural, and political discourse to new definitions of individual and social life.  We will approach representations of the vibrant “crises of identity” through an interdisciplinary method.  Through an excursus to Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, we will explore the Prague culture and its most prominent figure, Franz Kafka. Conference.
Half course for one semester.
Ülker Gökberk, Professor of German and Humanities, emerita
Tuesdays, 6:00–7:30 p.m.

ART 544
Video, Media, Politics (1968 - Present)

Video art began in the late sixties with artists turning the camera on their own bodies in their own studios. But far from being a privatized or insular art form, the video medium draws on various popular media, including home video, cinema, television, and more recently, webcams and online video. We will discuss these popular media as well as the contemporaneous fine arts practices that video art both cited and critiqued. But at exactly the same time as video was emerging as an art practice and a popular commodity, new forms of politics were emerging that we now associate indelibly with the sixties: civil rights, queer politics, and feminism. Each of these movements employed video in various ways and we will spend a significant portion of the semester thinking about these intersections. Connecting our discussions of video and its politics will be questions of media, and especially the reception of new media (or media at the point of its emergence) and in this we will draw both from art history’s focus on medium-specificity and media theory’s focus on mediation. We will be interested in a wide range of video practices (analog, closed-channel, broadcast, digital, and eventually networked) as well as the theories that accompany them. We will spend time each day watching and discussing video art together. Writing assignments will start with short, descriptive exercises meant to attune us to particularities of writing about video and build to longer historical and analytical writings. We will also write or edit articles for Wikipedia as an experimental media practice.  Conference.
Half course for one semester.
Kris Cohen, Assistant Professor of Art History and Humanities
Wednesdays, 5:30–7 p.m.

The Trials of Galileo

This course will provide an introduction to Classical Astronomy, with particular attention to the Copernican Revolution.  It will consist of three parts.  The first part will study the problem of Plato, who required explanation of the anomalous motions of the planets in terms of circular motion at constant speed. Computer graphics programs will be applied to implement the basic geocentric constructions put forward by Eudoxos and by Hipparchus (c200b) as solutions to the problem. The latter construction, refined ad libitum by Ptolemy (c200a) and later by Arab mathematicians, will be of central interest, because the move to supplant it by a corresponding heliocentric version constitutes what in retrospect we have come to call the Copernican Revolution. The second part of the course will study excerpts from the basic work of Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543a). The objective will be to explain the criticisms by Copernicus of the current form of Ptolemaic astronomy, to describe the revisions, which he proposed, but then to show that Copernican astronomy improved upon the Ptolemaic neither in clarity of structure nor in predictive force but only in an aesthetic sense imperceptible to all but a few. Given the authority of Aristotelean physics, which loomed in conflict with the proposals of Copernicus, one must ask why the new astronomy did in time prevail. This question will be the focus of the third, the most refined part of the course. Excerpts from the relevant works of Kepler, of Galileo, and of the Jesuits will be introduced to show the gradual accumulation of observational evidence in favor of the new astronomy. The significance of the telescope will be emphasized. The celebrated Trials of Galileo (1633a), in context of Counter Reformation politics, will set the focus for discussion. The course will conclude by considering, briefly, excerpts from the definitive work of Newton: The Principles of Natural Philosophy (1687a). This great treatise marked unequivocally the end of the old and the beginning of the new world order. As a coda, we will examine the efforts of John Paul II, in the last decade of
the Twentieth Century, to review and revise the judgement of the second trial of Galileo (1633). Conference.
Half course for one semester.
Thomas Wieting, Professor of Mathematics

Wednesdays, 7:30–9 p.m.

Spring 2016

Critical Race Theory
Critical race theory began as a movement in the 1970s, primarily fueled by those in the legal profession, who came to the conclusion that the gains of the civil rights era had either stalled or were being rolled back; and that too often, the legal profession was complicit in upholding white supremacy and the hierarchies of gender, class, and sexual orientation. Critical race theory thus attempted to reinterpret and remake the world to reveal silenced suffering and to relieve social misery. Critical race theorists responded to the “objective” notion of the law by positing that race needed to be brought to the center of any analysis, and that the notion of a colorblind society needed to be challenged and constantly fought against. One of the ways they did this was by abandoning traditional legal objective language and instead writing from a subjective perspective, using storytelling, parables, and autobiography to confront what Derrick Bell has called “the permanence of racism,” and arguing that pedagogy, scholarship, and struggle  are intimately connected. Among others, we will read works by Derrick Bell, Patricia Williams, Michelle Alexander, Lani Guinier, and Kimberle Crenshaw.Conference.

Half course for one semester.
Pancho Savery, Professor of English and Humanities
Tuesdays, 6:00—7:30 p.m.

The Incas

Drawing on recent work in history and archaeology, as well as 16th –century accounts by Spanish chroniclers, this course will examine the Incas from their origins as a tribal power, through their extraordinary creation of a pan-Andean empire in the 15th and 16th centuries, to the collapse of Inca hegemony in the face of Spanish conquest and the construction of a colonial society.  Particular attention will be given to the political and economic organization of the empire; Inca ideology; and the development of the Inca core around Cusco and the enormous variation in provincial societies.  Methodologically, the class will address the challenges and limits of studying non-literate civilizations through the archaeological record and postfactum accounts by Spaniards. The class will end by studying post-conquest society, addressing cultural continuity and syncretism, identity formation, and the organization and ideology of Spanish colonialism. Conference.
Half course for one semester.
David Garrett, Professor of History and Humanities
Wednesdays, 5:30–7 p.m.

Transformation and Identity in Roman Empire

Surveying several of the major literary, religious, and philosophical texts that emerged from the Roman Empire from the first through fourth centuries of the Common Era, this course focuses on some of the modes (Stoic, Christian, Neoplatonist, etc.)  that writers of the period sought to come to terms with the immense changes afoot in the governance of the Mediterranean world.  Specifically, the course explores some of the major responses to the deterioration of traditional Greco-Roman forms of civic participation in political life.  We begin with a study of sections of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, emphasizing how Ovid’s project—an epic of transformation—relates to the political realities of life under the Principate of Augustus.  We then move on to a consideration of the Stoic philosophy of Seneca as a different way of shoring up individual identity in the wake of the changes to the body politic under the early Roman emperors.  The Gospel of John will supply us with a useful lens for thinking about the interplay between transformation and identity at the edges of the Roman world, as will our study of The Golden Ass, an early novel by a North African writing in Latin.  Apuleius describes the misadventures of the hapless Lucius, who is magically transformed into a donkey and wanders the backroads of a deteriorating Empire in search of his true self.  After a brief look at the Neoplatonic philosophy of Plotinus, this course will conclude with an examination of Augustine’s remarkable Confessions, which stage so memorably the tensions between the self and the ultimate, conversionary submission to the will of God. Conference.
Half course for one semester.
Michael Faletra, Associate Professor of English and Humanities
Wednesdays, 7:30–9 p.m.

Summer 2016

James Joyce

This course surveys the fiction of the writer often called the most influential and innovative novelist of the 20th century. For all its vaunted modernist difficulty, Joyce’s fiction, when read in chronological progression, actually educates its readers in strategies of reading each of his successive new styles. Just so, we will in this course first look at some of Joyce’s most accessible naturalistic stories from Dubliners, and then progress to his experiments with stream-of-consciousness in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man before tackling his mature explorations into varying rhetorical styles in Ulysses. We will also look at the contexts of popular, social, and political culture from early twentieth-century Ireland and Europe in which Joyce situated his fiction, as well as at critical scholarship on the fiction. Conference.
Full course for one semester.
Jay Dickson, Professor of English & Humanities
TBA: Mondays-Thursdays, 2 hours/day for 6 weeks, starting in June

Classical Traditions and Receptions

In this course we will read a selection of major works of Greek and Roman literature in translation, and analyze them through two lenses: their own historical context (focusing on cultural and political events) and their reception through specific examples in later literature, mostly in English but including writers from many different countries. The syllabus will be reading-intensive, including (1) Greek and Latin texts in translation—epic poetry, drama, lyric poetry, comic dialogue, and novel, (2) a selection of readings from 20th and 21st c. poetry, drama, prose literature, and graphic novel, and (3) critical readings in theories of reception and specific analyses of classical receptions. Classical authors may include Homer, Sappho, Simonides, Aeschylus, Euripides, Lucian, Virgil, Catullus, Horace, Ovid, Longus, Petronius; later authors will include at least Derek Walcott, Christopher Logue, Anne Carson, and Seamus Heaney. Depending on interest and availability of resources, we will also look at examples of classical receptions from the visual arts, particularly artists’ books, and contemporary performance.

The fundamental goal of this class will be to develop deep knowledge of a selection of major classical texts and critical acumen through reception. We will emphasize the diversity of “classical” texts (and interrogate the term itself) as well as the diversity of their reception—even within a limited survey we will explore critical literary questions regarding colonialism, war, education, translation, imitation, inheritance, and resistance. The course will serve as a gateway to further exploration of Greek and Latin literature as well as other literatures using classical motifs. To this end, students will be encouraged to find examples apart from the course syllabus for their final research papers. Conference.
Half course for one semester.
Sonia Sabnis, Associate Professor of Classics and Humanities
TBA:  Meets once weekly, 6-9 p.m. for 7 weeks, starting in June