Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

2024-2025 Evening and Summer Graduate Courses

cohen-kris.jpg breen-michael-p.jpg brashier.jpg silverstein.jpg
caffee-naomi.jpg Ben_Lazier.JPG mixon-candace.jpg grinberg-marat.jpg

Top (L to R): Kris Cohen, Michael Breen, Ken Brashier, Paul Silverstein

Bottom (L to R): Naomi Caffee, Ben Lazier, Candace Mixon, Marat Grinberg

The following courses are scheduled through the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program for the 2024–2025 academic year. Typically, 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.

See Reed's academic calendar for important dates.

Visit this page for information about summer 2024 classes.


Fall 2024

Art 537

Queer Arts After Stonewall
What did queer art become when the closet was no longer the dominant structure of queer life? In this class, we will study how queer art practices re-imagined artistic modernity as well as the social and political values that structured heteronomativity. In this framing, we will think together about technology and modes of production; race and racialization; public spheres, counter-publics and other models of collective life; sex and sexual practices; and other experiments with sex, gender, embodiment, and personhood. Some of the artists and writers we discuss include: Douglas Crimp, John Paul Ricco, Andy Warhol, Isaac Julien, Glenn Ligon, Zach Blas, Susan Stryker, Jonathan Flatley, Homay King, Sadie Benning, Cheryl Dunye, David Wojnarowicz, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Samuel Delaney, Sharon Hayes, Tavia Nyong'o, Vaginal Davis, Jacolby Satterwhite. Conference.
0.5 units
Kris Cohen, Jane Neuberger Goodsell Associate Professor of Art History and Humanities
Wednesdays, 5:40–7:10 p.m.

History 546

Whole Earths, Globalizations, World Pictures

Hear the word "Earth" and the image likely to flash through the mind is the descendant of a photo commonly known as "Blue Marble" (1972), which reveals the disk of our terraqueous planet suspended alone in the void. It is reputed to be the most widely disseminated photograph in human history, and together with other views of the Earth from beyond has prompted a revolution in the global imagination. The aim of this seminar is to assess the plausibility of that claim, by situating these images in their diverse historical contexts.

These contexts include the history of humankind's imaginative self-projection into the beyond from ancient times to our day; how the "whole earth" image has been mobilized by environmental campaigns, political movements, and commercial enterprises; how the view of Earth has figured in economics ("globalization theory"), aesthetics (earth art, mapping and visualization techniques), philosophy (especially in the phenomenological tradition), and the natural sciences (the Gaia hypothesis, the Biosphere projects, earth systems science); and how this pictorial imaginary has become integrated into the unthought ways we inhabit our natural and human-built worlds—what has happened once its ubiquity meant that we ceased, in a fashion, to see it. Arrangements will be made to enable students to explore new media and research tools for analysis and presentation, should they wish to do so.

0.5 units
Ben Lazier, Professor of History and Humanities
Tuesdays, 5:40–7:10 p.m.

Liberal Studies 544

The Law and its Uses in Europe and its Empires, c. 1300–c. 1750

"The social world is fundamentally a human construct, and law furnishes one of the most powerful technologies of construction," the legal historian Christopher L. Tomlins observed. From the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, men and women across Europe and its colonies flocked to courts of law as plaintiffs, defendants or witnesses. Why did people from even modest social backgrounds increasingly turn to legal tribunals and the law-centered justice they offered in lieu of other well-established methods of resolving disputes and sanctioning wrongdoing? How did the pluralistic nature of premodern law shape the ways rulers and ruled thought about, and used, law and justice? Was the "rule of law" imposed by social elites and political authorities, or did it emerge from the manifold uses of legal resources to manage credit, defend reputations, air marital grievances, remedy injuries, and generally maintain social and familial order? What do the "uses of the law," in other words, reveal about the contested and negotiated nature of social relations and political authority in medieval and early modern Europe and its empires?

0.5 units
Michael Breen, Professor of History and Humanities
Wednesdays, 7:30–9:00 p.m.

Spring 2025

Anthropology 548

Sport and Social Life

Sports are a central aspect of ritual form and everyday life in a large number of societies across the globe. The course approaches sports play as a fundamental practice of modern social formation and social reproduction. Through case studies of situated sports practices (notably football/soccer, cricket/baseball, basketball, bodybuilding, boxing, and skateboarding/parkour) in a variety of societies (US, Europe, Caribbean, South America, Africa, and South Asia), it examines key issues in the cultural study of modernity: gender/sexuality, race/ethnicity, class/stratification, violence, (post-)colonialism, nationalism, and globalization. The course introduces students to phenomenological approaches to social life, approaching culture as an embodied mode of practice rather than only or primarily a cognitive field of knowledge.

0.5 units
Paul Silverstein, Professor of Anthropology
Wednesdays, 7:30–9:00 p.m.

Liberal Studies 504

The Cultural Heritage of the Nuclear Age

This course explores responses to nuclear war and disaster in literature, film, and other forms of cultural expression. Our approach will be comparative and transnational, as we will consider works from a variety of contexts around the world: reflections on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japanese literature and French New Wave cinema; ideologies of nuclear proliferation in Hollywood productions such as Disney’s “Our Friend the Atom” and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer; and intersections of antinuclear writing and Indigenous activism in Soviet Central Asia, North America, and the Pacific Islands. We will also probe the boundaries of genre and narrative as we analyze survivors’ accounts from Chernobyl, Semipalatinsk, Los Alamos, the Marshall Islands, and other sites. Our methods will be interdisciplinary, informed by practices and theoretical frameworks from literary studies, film studies, philosophy, history of science, environmental studies, and critical Indigenous studies. Ultimately our goal is to better understand how the advent of nuclear technologies has shaped our world, as well as our depictions of it.

Naomi Caffee
Associate Professor of Russian
Tuesdays, 5:40–7:10 p.m.

Religion 510

Daoist Dao versus Buddhist Śūnyatā

The Daoist Dao is an argument about nondualism, about the ineffable blackness beyond our conventional A/not-A distinctions and definitions. Buddist Śūnyatā or "emptiness" is an argument about impermanence, about all things ultimately being empty of independence in space and constancy in time. Are the Dao and Śūnyatā two separate ideas or one? In Chinese history, these ideas definitely talked to one another, Buddhism upon its arrival first using Daoist understandings to express itself; in Chinese religion, Laozi and the Buddha were (and still are) literally worshipped side-by-side. Yet their first axioms about the nature of reality are differently nuanced. They're like two trees that have naturally grafted into one another in places ("inosculation"), becoming a single organism and yet maintaining separate roots at the same time. This course will examine the two ideas individually using their respective masterpieces in Chinese philosophy – the Dao via Laozi and Zhuangzi and Śūnyatā via The Platform and Vimalakīrti sutras – but our goal is to foster a dialogue between them, using each to crystallize the other.

0.5 units
Ken Brashier, Emeritus Professor of Religion
Wednesdays, 5:40–7:10 p.m.

Summer 2025*

Liberal Studies 5--

Islamic Art, Architecture, and Visual Culture

An exploration of art, architecture, and visual culture created within the context of Muslim-majority or Muslim-ruled societies within Western Asia, North Africa, and Europe from the 7th to the 21st centuries. Covers sacred and secular architecture and architectural decoration, sculpture, painting, manuscripts, textiles, and metalwork, including internationally renowned museum collections (considering the politics and acquisition processes of these collections). The course also considers theoretical framings of the field, such as what is "Islamic" about Islamic art. We consider the circulation of Islamic art globally and the emergence of modern Islamic art, as well as the visual cultures of protest in contemporary Muslim-majority countries. Readings will include primary sources, exhibition catalogs, and scholarly articles; visit to a museum is possible, as well as use of Reed College's Special Collection of Qur'anic manuscripts.

Candace Mixon
Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion
Time and date TBD

Literature 524

Red Sci Fi: Soviet and East European Science Fiction in Literature and Film

Though working behind the Cold War "iron curtain," post-World War II Soviet and East European writers and filmmakers were preoccupied with the same ideas and questions as their Western and American counterparts, often working in parallel genres. One such genre was science fiction which became enormously popular in the Soviet Union starting in the mid-1950s. Relying on the rich tradition of the 1920s, the postwar writers and filmmakers used science fiction to reflect on urgent societal and philosophical issues. In the presence of state censorship and official ideology, science fiction became the venue for veiled and subversive critique of the regime. In this course, through reading and watching major works of Soviet and East European sci fi fiction and cinema, we will explore how they imagined artificial intelligence and time travel; space exploration and alien species and transformations of gender and race; the quest for immortality; and the nuclear apocalypse. We will situate these works in their immediate artistic and cultural contexts and the wider, primarily American, comparative context of postwar science fiction.

Marat Grinberg
Professor of Russian and Humanities
Time and date TBD
*Registration for Summer 2025 courses opens on April 21, 2025.