Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Graduate Seminars

2014-15 Evening and Summer Graduate Courses


The following courses are offered through the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program for the 2014-15 academic year. They have been approved by the graduate studies committee and await final approval from the Reed faculty in fall, 2013. All MALS courses must enroll a minimum of five students to be offered. Most enroll between six 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 2014

ART 551
Theories of Visuality

Theories of visuality are central to debates in the humanities. Interdisciplinary approaches to art have prompted reconsiderations of representation and reality, changing the parameters of our objects of study.  This has resulted in new relationships of words to images and objects, as well as innovative conceptual tools available to interpret all three. In this course we will examine the phenomena of cultural production and consumption of a range of media, asking how images and objects function, and how they mediate what we see and experience.  Through shared readings, student presentations, and written projects, we will consider issues of form, representation, and knowledge, and the politics of ascribing meaning and value.
Half course for one semester
Dana Katz, Joshua C. Taylor Associate Professor of Art History and Humanities
Tuesdays, 7:00–8:30 p.m.

LBST 578
Politics, Culture and the Great Depression

Since the Great Recession of 2008, pundits and average Americans alike have turned to history to reassess what made the Great Depression of the Thirties the signal event of the twentieth century.  What were the origins of this economic crisis, and what were the long-term effects on America's government policies and cultural life?

Students will consider new and older works on the political and cultural history of the decade. We will begin with an overview of World War I and the 1920s, especially the expansion of federal government and the fortunes of special groups in the inter-war period. The economic crisis from 1929 to 1939 saw the further extension of executive power under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the establishment of federal programs and agencies to deal with the effects of the Depression. Successful New Deal programs often favored men over women, and aided white Americans over African Americans. We will analyze how these gender and racial preferences structured opportunities for some, and spurred others to activism.  New Deal agencies funded both workers and artists, and we will look for public traces of federally funded roads and buildings, and we will travel to the archives to find traces of government-sponsored arts. We will also spend two sessions studying the commercial mass culture of the Thirties, and some of its products. Conference.
Half course for one semester

Jacqueline Dirks, Cornelia Marvin Pierce Professor of History and Humanities
Wednesdays, 5:30–7 p.m.

The Unknown Holocaust Cinema

A historian of cinema Jean-Michel Frodon writes, “An incredibly strong link connects the twentieth century on the one hand to the extermination of the European Jews by the Nazis and on the other to the legitimate art and industry of the cinema, which focuses particular attention on the interaction between two phenomena so obviously different in nature: the Shoah and the cinema.” The aim of this interdisciplinary course is to investigate the relationship between the Holocaust and film through historical, aesthetic, ideological, cultural, and psychological lenses.  According to the still dominant narrative, after the war discussions and memorialization of the exterminated Jews were largely shrouded in silence in Europe, the United States and the State of Israel, including the presentations and representations of the event on screen. When the topic of the Holocaust finally did reach the screens in mid-1950s and early 60s, its Jewish character was obfuscated. A significant number of recently rediscovered and forgotten films—Polish, Czech, Yiddish, American, and French—reveal the inaccuracy of this narrative.  Thus, the bulk of the course content centers on pictures as well as documentaries produced in the immediate aftermath of the war and the 50s.  In addition, we will also watch and analyze a number of recently made Holocaust films that have challenged the existing historical and artistic conventions. The films to be watched include: Border Street (1948), The Last Stage (1948), Our Children (1948), The Silence of the Sea (1947), Singing in the Dark (1956), Distant Journey (1950), The Juggler (1953), Kapo (1960), Black Book (2006), among others.  Conference
Half course for one semester
Marat Grinberg, Associate Professor of Russian and Humanities
Wednesdays, 7:30–9 p.m.

Spring 2015

Late Tolstoy: From Anna Karenina to a Religious Teaching
The course explores the second period of Leo Tolstoy’s career, from Anna Karenina (1870s) to his late fiction, such as Resurrection  (1899) and Hadzhi Murat (1904), as well as his aesthetic, ethical, theological, and political writings. We will pay special attention to Tolstoy’s transformation from a fiction writer to a moral theorist and religious activist.  Apart from a study of Tolstoy’s poetics and ideology, we will engage a number of cultural contexts for his works: Russian political and intellectual history, aesthetic and artistic developments in the late nineteenth century Russia, and Tolstoy’s role and reputation in Russian society. Conference.
Half course for one semester

Evgenii Bershtein. Professor of Russian
Tuesdays, 7:00–8:30 p.m.

Socrates and Plato

This course will focus on Socrates and Plato in their philosophical, literary, and historical contexts. We will begin by looking briefly at Greek philosophy before Socrates (the Presocratics and Sophists), and then study the ancient sources for the life and philosophical teachings of Socrates. We then turn to the life and philosophical writings of Socrates’ greatest student, Plato. Issues addressed in the course are the rise of Greek philosophy, the place of philosophy in Athenian democratic culture (including the critique of philosophy in Greek Comedy), Socrates’ major philosophical doctrines, Plato’s use of Socrates as his philosophical spokesman, Plato’s chief philosophical doctrines, and literary and philosophical aspects of the Platonic dialogue.  Works read will include selections from the Presocratics and Sophists, Aristophanes’ Clouds, Xenophon’s Memorabilia and Apology, and Platonic dialogues including the Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Protagoras, Gorgias, Symposium, Phaedrus, and Republic. We will also read a selection of essays by modern scholars on various aspects of Socratic and Platonic philosophy. Conference.
Half course for one semester
Walter Englert, Omar and Althea Hoskins Professor of Classical Studies and Humanities
Wednesdays, 5:30–7 p.m.

LBST 556
Islam in the Modern World

This course introduces students to how Muslim institutions and conceptions of authority changed in the modern era in relation to such historical developments as industrialization, scientific progress, European colonialism, the rise of nation-states, and feminism. From an interdisciplinary perspective, the course will provide students with introductory knowledge of Islamic beliefs, practices, and intellectual traditions. It also will introduce students to some of the analytical methods used in the study of religion to understand how Muslim lives, both individually and collectively, are shaped by the interfacing of Islamic beliefs and traditions with changing historical circumstances. Conference.
Half course for one semester
Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, Associate Professor of Religion and Humanities
Wednesdays, 7:30–9 p.m.

Summer 2015

LBST 523
American Dead and Undead

This course examines changes in the way Americans have understood and dealt with death from the Puritans through the post-modern era. Special attention will be paid both to elegies and to gothic literature about the “undead,” particularly the grim reaper, skeletons, ghosts, mummies, vampires, and zombies. Literary works by major American authors will be examined in the context of American history and material culture related to death, particularly cemeteries and places were the dead prepared for burial or cremation. The timid should beware, as course assignments will include field trips to local graveyards in order to do iconographic and seriation studies. This course offers an introduction to the methods of American Studies and Digital Humanities. Conference.
Full course for one semester

Laura Leibman, Professor of English and Humanities
Mondays through Thursdays, 2hours/day for 6 weeks starting in June

English 530
Race and Region: Representing the American South

In the decades after the Civil War, nostalgic myths of the Old South effectively undermined the political, economic, and military policies of Reconstruction. The pastoral ideal of a harmonious antebellum plantation shaped the attitudes and in turn the politics of Northern readers. This course examines the power of artistic representation in the “Age of Lynching” and its aftermath. How did innovations in printing technology, photography, and phonographic recording shape the techniques and ideologies of landscape painting and dialect writing? What is the connection between the oral culture of the African diaspora and the methods of Modernism? Why have the stereotypes of Mammy, the loyal Uncle, and the tragic mulatto proven so influential in US culture? We analyze the vogue for dialect fiction within historical and artistic contexts such as minstrel shows, the Realist Movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and WPA art.  Topics include identity and authenticity; constructions of racial, regional and national solidarity; and the contested politics of the African American vernacular. Texts include Uncle Remus, Pudd’nhead Wilson, The Conjure Tales, Light in August, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Everything That Rises Must Converge, and The Help. We will discuss the images of artists such as Thomas Cole, John Gast, Winslow Homer, James Van Der Zee, Aaron Douglass, and Dorothea Lange. Conference.
Half course for one semester

Sarah Wagner-McCoy, Assistant Professor of English and Humanities
TBA. Meets once/week for 3 hours over 7 weeks starting in June