Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

2019-20 Evening and Summer Graduate Courses

MALS photo

The following courses are scheduled through the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program for the 2019-20 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 thesis, MALS 670, is a one-unit, one-semester course, and may be written any term.

Fall 2019

ART 530

Art & Life in Renaissance Florence
Giorgio Vasari describes in Lives of the Artists how “the arts were born anew” in Renaissance Florence.  The city’s streets and piazzas, palaces and churches, paintings and sculptures give visual form to the cultural and social changes that impacted Florentine life. This course, in its study of artists such as Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Cellini, concentrates on the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as a period of innovation, both in terms of artistic theory and practice. Through an examination of Florence’s public and private spaces, we will consider how visual and material culture served as markers of civic identity and social distinction. Conference.

Half course for one semester.
Dana Katz, Joshua C. Taylor Professor of Art History & Humanities
Tuesdays, 6:10–7:40 p.m.


Introduction to Literary Theory
This course is a historical and analytical introduction to the major theoretical movements of the past century primarily in Russia, Europe, and the U.S. The course will cover structuralism and semiotics, post-structuralism and deconstruction, psychoanalytic theory, Marxist theory, Foucauldian theory and new historicism, post-colonial studies, and gender and feminist studies.  We will trace the philosophical origins and conceptual affiliations of the major developments in these movements. We will unpack the central concepts or master tropes of these theories to think about their function in literary criticism. Throughout the semester, Gertrude Stein’s Three Lives will serve as the testing ground for our readings in theory. Conference.

Half course for one semester.
Nathalia King, David Eddings Professor of English & Humanities
Wednesdays, 5:40–7:10 p.m.


Global Health: Critical Perspectives
Taking an interdisciplinary approach that combines perspectives from history and anthropology, this course entails a critical examination of contemporary global health. We begin by identifying the main actors, institutions, practices, and forms of knowledge production that have defined global health. We then examine the social, political, and economic factors that shape patterns of suffering and disease across societies as well as the efforts taken to ameliorate them, and place present-day developments in historical perspective. We will consider the unexpected consequences of global health programs—for the individuals who compose “target populations,” but also for global health professionals themselves as well as local experts. And we will scrutinize the values that underpin specific policies and practices of global health. Key topics we will explore include: the management of epidemic diseases, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS; the rise of transnational humanitarian intervention; relationships between participation in biomedical research and access to treatment in colonial and postcolonial contexts; the difficulties entailed in evaluating the effects of global health interventions; and the increasing importance of transnational public-private partnerships. Conference.

Half course for one semester. CANCELLED
Betsey Brada, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Wednesdays, 7:30–9 p.m.

Spring 2020


20th Century Avant-Garde Theatre Histories

A play is a blueprint of an event: a way of creating and rewriting history through the medium of literature. –Suzan-Lori Parks, Possession
This class is a rigorous investigation into the study and practice of theatre history, with a focus on American and European avant-garde theatres of the 20th century. Through reading plays, examining primary documents, and reading both historical and theoretical texts, we will investigate the dominant theatre paradigm of the 20th century: realism, with a focus on how some the century’s boundary-pushing theatre artists vigorously challenged it, and in the process altered understandings of what theatre can be and do. This course is designed to help us develop an understanding of some of the more influential work of such challengers (including playwrights, directors, designers, theorists, and actors) through an examination of their work, and a look at what they were working against. This conference incorporates both theory (theatre historical approaches), as well as practice (reading aloud, focusing on plays as blueprints for performance). Throughout the course, we will continually question the very idea of the “avant-garde(s)”, especially as we see plays considered avant-garde repeatedly become mainstream. Studying theatre history invites us to probe our own contemporary theatre making and viewing practices, and to ask: in what lineage do I make and see theatre? What do I want to take from the past? What do I aspire to change? Through studying and practicing theatre history methodologies, we become better scholars, artists, readers, and spectators. Through theatre, we will learn more about our world as it was, it is, and may be. Conference.

Half course for one semester.
Kate Bredeson, Associate Professor of Theatre
Tuesdays, 5:40–7:10 p.m.


The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde
This cultural history and theory course explores in detail the key works, artists and projects of the Russian avant-garde emerging between 1912 and 1928. The course will acquaint students with the history of the Russian avant-garde by examining the textual and visual practices of leading representatives and the theoretical bases, ideological positions, and objectives of the movements. The chronological sweep will move from Symbolism and Neo Primitivism, to Futurism, Suprematism, and Constructivism. The readings— in English translation—and visual documents are intended to provide training in analyzing a range of media, from visual (painting, photography), to film, theater, and architecture. The inclusion of different media is intended to provide a summary of the arc of styles, social and political functions. The impact of political and social upheaval on the definition of the nature of art; its social function; and the revolutionary model of the artist will be studied with particular reference to the emergence of the utilitarian art of Constructivism—one of the first to announce the death of easel painting. The films of Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein will be examined as paradigmatic new forms of mass communication, produced in response to official mandate. Conference.

Half course for one semester.
Lena Lencek, Professor of Russian & Humanities
Wednesdays, 5:40—7:10 p.m.

Biology 550

Fire Ecology in the Pacific Northwest
Fire is a natural component of Pacific Northwest ecosystems. From oak savannas in the Willamette Valley to temperate rainforests along the Olympic Peninsula, fire plays an important role in shaping ecological and evolutionary processes. However, fire is also a primary medium for anthropogenic influence on natural systems. Climate change and past land use are contributing to shifting fire patterns across the region. In this course, we will explore the complex interactions between climate, vegetation, and human activity that define the fire ecology of the Pacific Northwest. The course will include two field trips to observe fire’s effects on ecosystems with contrasting fire regimes and engage with TNC and US Forest Service foresters dealing with the complexities of managing fire prone ecosystems. Conference.

Half course for one semester.
Aaron Ramirez, Assistant Professor of Biology
Wednesdays, 7:30–9 p.m.

Summer 2020


Politics & Policy in America: Does the Government We Want Give Us the Policy We Need?
This course is designed to create an informed understanding of American politics, specifically: what happened in the 2016 & 2018 elections, what might happen in 2020, and, importantly, why (or if) elections matter in producing public policy. Americans discuss politics without regard for academic distinctions between institutions, behavior, and policy—the result is a mismatch between how researchers think about democracy and how people actually experience it in the United States. Both groups—academics and citizens—could learn from the research strategies of the other. This course intends to meld together the existing specialized research in American politics and public policy to create a holistic understanding of American governance. The course will work through important academic books that have laid the foundation for a modern understanding of American politics both in terms of the leaders we have selected and the outcomes of the democratic process in the form of specific policies. Conference.

Half course for one semester.
Chris Koski, Associate Professor of Political Science & Environmental Studies
Wednesdays, 6–8 p.m., June 10 through August 5


From Los olvidados to Roma: Contemporary Mexican Cinema

This course provides an overview of contemporary Mexican cinema, from the 1950s to the current day. The class introduces students to the thematic and stylistic breadth of narrative fiction films from Mexico. Through film screenings, readings, discussion and writing assignments, we will examine a series of questions related to the content, form and politics of films. Topics covered will include relations between cinema and the state; questions of ideology and national identity; representations of class, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality; concerns about historical representations and political memory; the use of film as a tool for social change and the promotion of human rights; and expressions of hybridity in migrant, immigrant, diasporic and borderlands cultures and communities. We will screen works by Luis Buñuel, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Arturo Ripstein, María Novaro, Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Alonso Ruizpalacios, among others. The course includes a weekly film screening that students stream from home.

The course is interdisciplinary by nature as it draws on different disciplinary perspectives including film, gender, and performance studies, literature, history, psychology, sociology and anthropology in order to address and explore questions, problems, issues, and ideas. These different disciplines also will help us approach the topic of contemporary Mexican cinema and will inform our analysis of our proposed main texts—the actual films. By considering these diverse insights and perspectives, we hopefully will arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of the subject at hand. Conference.

Half course for one semester.
Iliana Alcántar, Visiting Associate Professor of Spanish
Tuesdays, 6–8 p.m., June 9 through August 4