Reed College Catalog

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) is an interdisciplinary graduate program in the liberal arts and sciences. An alternative to the highly specialized course of study, the MALS degree does not provide a specific vocational or professional orientation. It is intended for those students who wish to pursue interdisciplinary graduate work in a flexible, individually designed program. The MALS program then attracts a diverse group of bright and intellectually curious students of varied interests, ages, and backgrounds who are motivated to learn and who wish to pursue learning with similarly motivated students and faculty members. In short, the program advocates has lifelong commitment to learning.


The MALS curriculum incorporates a broad spectrum of courses in liberal studies: humanities, history and the social sciences, the arts, mathematics, and the sciences. Graduate races are offered in the evenings and summers. These courses are often interdisciplinary in nature and are taught by faculty members from a variety of departments. There are three half-runs in each race, and one full-length race, along with an additional half-unit evening run, in the summer term. With the exception of the accelerated summer term, graduate races meet one and one-half hours a week for the duration of the semester. MALS students also select from 300- and 400-level undergraduate courses, with the instructor's consent, for their degree program,

An exceptional basis, a student may undertake an independent study class. The course must be approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies, which will take into consideration the individual student 's personal and educational circumstances. A proposal for the race, signed by the instructor, must be submitted to the committee no later than the last day of the classes.

MALS courses are conducted as a group of students and enrolled between 7 and 12 students, with a maximum enrollment of 15. At least one MALS course each term is termed as liberal studies core. These courses are explicitly interdisciplinary and written-intensive. We strongly encourage students to take part in the first year of the MALS program, preferably before they apply for formal candidacy (see "MALS Student Admission"). Liberal studies core courses scheduled for the 2011-12 academic year are "The American Civil War in History and Memory" in fall, "Literary and Visual Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain" in spring, and "Britain in the 1940s: Wartime, Literature , and Culture "in summer.

Race Load and Progression

The program does not specify a minimum number of courses required in a field of primary interest. The student's total program, however, should lead to a clearly defined objective and provide the theoretical basis for the final degree paper project. After completing two provisional Reed courses, all students must make application for formal candidacy to the program (see "Admission" below). A faculty adviser, a faculty adviser and a director of the MALS program.

Most MALS students are waiting for part-time; full-time status requires concurrent enrollment in both undergraduate courses and graduate courses. Full-time enrollment in a regular semester is three units; half-time enrollment is one and one-half units. In the accelerated summer term, one unit is considered half-time enrollment; one and one-half units is full-time. While most students take three to six years to graduate, it is possible to complete the program in two years. The yearly course load for graduate students. There is no specific minimum or maximum course load, however, and students are not required to be enrolled each consecutive term. Complementing this flexibility in progress, however, is the expectation that all MALS students meet the following completion time frames:

  1. If a student does not complete a course in the field of semesters, the student must submit a proposal to continue in the program to the Committee on Graduate Studies by the last day of the third of nonenrollment. The petition for continuation must include enrollment in one of the following two semesters, a statement of continued interest, and a proposed time frame for completing the program. A student who does not meet these criteria and who wishes to continue study at a later date must reapply for admission to the program.
  2. Students are expected to complete the MALS degree within six years of candidacy acceptance. The Committee on Graduate Studies.


Reed welcomes applications from individuals who wish to pursue interdisciplinary graduate work in a program that is both flexible and rigorous. These applicants are accepted who, in the view of the Committee on Graduate Studies, are most likely to become successful contributors to the MALS community. Admission decisions are based on many integrated factors. We recognize that qualities of character-in particular, motivation, intellectual curiosity, and openness to constructive criticism-are important considerations in the selection process, beyond a demonstrated commitment to academic excellence.

Students can apply to enter the fall, spring, or summer term. Initial, provisional admission to the MALS program: a completed application form, official transcripts from all undergraduate and postgraduate schools, bachelor's degree, two letters of recommendation, a $ 60 nonrefundable application fee, and an interview with the MALS director and a faculty member of the Committee on Graduate Studies. Applicants should submit the following deadlines: no later than July 1 for fall entrance; no later than December 1 for spring entrance; no later than April 1 for summer entrance. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis throughout the year, and are referred to in the admission decision.

Students accepted for admission to the application of the law, and they should be attached to the letter of the letter of intent, explaining their reasons for deferral. If they wish to enroll in courses elsewhere, they must notify the MALS office of their intention and submit an official reply to the MALS office for additional review.

All students are admitted to the program on a provisional basis. In order to be admitted as a candidate to the MALS program, the applicant must successfully complete two successive or competing Reed courses, at least one of which must be at the graduate level. If the student is accepted, credit for these races will be applied to the MALS degree. In this paper, the student must submit to the Committee on Graduate Studies a self-evaluation, an outline of course progression and completion, and a class paper. The program director will solicit comments from the student's instructors, including an assessment of the author's potential to write a final degree paper. Once accepted as a candidate,

Special Students

Those individuals with an undergraduate degree who wish to sample a race can only have a special student application to take one MALS race. Credit for the race can be applied to the MALS degree requirements of the student's degree in the course of the race.


Graduate courses are open only to those who have been admitted to the MALS program. They are not open to general auditors or to undergraduate Reed students. Students currently enrolled in the MALS program are eligible for audit undergraduate courses and should be included in the section on auditors in the admission section of this catalog (under "Special Admission Groups").

The Committee on Graduate Studies will consider applications from Reed MALS graduates who wish to audit a specific graduate course. Graduates must submit an audit application to the committee no later than 30 days before the start of the desired term. The committee will consider the auditor's statement of interest, instructor approval, and space availability in the admission to the race. MALS graduates can audit one more than one race per year.

Transfer Credit

A maximum of one of the nine units required for the degree can be satisfied by transfer credit. Transfer credit may not be used to meet the minimum requirement of the Reed courses at the graduate level. All work submitted for transfer by the registrar and by the Committee on Graduate Studies, preferably before enrollment in the transfer course. The coursework must be a regionally accredited college or university, may not be applied to another degree, and should represent B or better work. Courses taken as a postgraduate student should be comparable to upper-level undergraduate or graduate coursework offered at Reed. Normally, all courses approved for transfer must have been completed within the past five years.

Costs and Financial Assistance

Tuition is calculated on a per-unit basis at a rate reduced from that of the undergraduate program. For the 2011-12 academic year, the MALS tuition rates are as follows:

1/2 unit

$ 1,925

  2 units

$ 7,700

1 unit

$ 3,850

  2 1/2 units

$ 9.625

1 1/2 units

$ 5.775

  3 or more

$ 11,550

Students enrolled at least half time (1.5 units in the fall or spring terms; 1 unit in the summer term) are eligible to Participate in the Direct Loan program. Students Wishing to borrow under the Direct Loan program must Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition, For Each semester That a graduate student is interested in borrowing a federal loan, the student shoulds Provide the financial aid office with The Following information: a letter Stating the semester of attendance (fall, spring, or summer), the titles race and the number of units per course, and a loan request form. New borrowers at Reed must also be complete at loan entrance session.

The FAFSA is available online at The Reed College code for the FAFSA is 003217. The maximum subsidized Direct Loan available to a graduate student is $ 8,500 per academic year. The maximum unsubsidized Direct Loan is $ 12,000 per academic year. The exact amount of subsidized and unsubsidized loans is calculated on the basis of each of the following: Graduate students may, in some circumstances, borrow under the Graduate Eligibility for the Graduate PLUS program is based on FAFSA. Generally, a student may borrow sufficient amounts to cover the expenses under the Direct Loan program; therefore, It is unlikely that a student will qualify for additional funding through the Graduate PLUS loan. Loan terms for the Direct Loan are more favorable than for the Graduate PLUS loan, and students should always borrow the Loan before considering the Graduate PLUS loan.

For financial aid purposes, the academic year at Reed College begins in the summer, continuing through fall and spring.

A Reed College monthly payment option, administered by Tuition Management Systems, offers a flexible alternative to the payments to the college. Participants make 10 equal monthly payments, beginning July 15, for the academic year. (A five-month payment option is available for one-semester participation.) Please call TMS at 800 / 722-4867 or visit for information about this program. Families can also use a credit card (Visa not accepted). A 2.99% convenience fee is charged for using this option.

The MALS program also sponsors a small scholarship each year to help defray tuition costs for one or two MALS students. Recipients are chosen by the Committee on Graduate Studies based on an application process that takes into account primarily financial need (as calculated from the FAFSA form), but also academic and personal merit. Generally, the committee will call for scholarship applications in the spring and make a final decision on awards no later than fall of the new academic year.

Degree Requirements

The MALS degree requires the completion of nine units of coursework. Each student designs an individual program, incorporating the following degree requirements:

    1. Eight units of courses. 

        a. A minimum of four of the eight units must be in Reed courses at the graduate level (numbered 500 or higher).

        b. No more than four units from 300- and 400-level undergraduate courses may be applied to the eight required units.

    2. A one-unit degree paper.

    3. No more than five units (including the degree paper) in any one department or division, or in liberal studies core courses, may be applied to the total nine units required for graduation.

Exceptions to the above requirements must be approved in advance by the Committee on Graduate Studies. Petitions should be addressed to the committee no later than the first day of classes of the term before the degree paper.

Degree Paper

A required final project, the degree paper is a one-unit, one-semester study of a specific topic that should emerge out of the student’s courses and critical studies. The experience of writing the degree paper allows the student to investigate a particular topic in depth and to present a conclusion in the scholarly manner appropriate to the field. A description of the degree paper topic with an outline and a bibliography must be approved in advance by the Committee on Graduate Studies. Candidates should submit the degree paper proposal to the MALS office according to the following schedule: proposals for fall papers are due the last day of classes of the preceding spring term; proposals for spring papers are due the last day of class of the preceding fall term; proposals for summer papers are due the first Monday in April of the preceding spring term.

The committee is cautious about approving creative degree paper proposals and considers carefully the nature of the project, the educational benefit of the project for the student, and the availability of an appropriate adviser. It is imperative that the project arise out of prior coursework at Reed. Since creative projects also include a critical component, they generally require substantial work on the part of the student. In addition, on an exceptional basis students may petition to write a two-unit, two-term degree paper, leading to a 10-unit degree program. This opportunity is for the student who wishes to research and write a longer, more ambitious paper. The student must explain in the degree paper proposal the reasons for extending the project to two terms, and obtain explicit permission from the paper adviser.

The degree paper is due on the date specified in the academic calendar for senior thesis submission. The schedule and deadlines for summer degree papers are determined by the registrar and the MALS program director. The degree paper requirement is completed with a two-hour oral defense of the project. The committee of examiners typically includes the student’s paper adviser, one member of the Committee on Graduate Studies, and at least one but often two additional faculty members. The committee should represent at least two different academic divisions of the college. The Reed library houses copies of all degree papers and undergraduate senior theses, easily accessible for both reference and borrowing.

When necessary, MALS students may take a three-day extension for submitting the paper, provided a $50 late fee is paid and the bound copies are submitted to the library by the regular deadline.

If a student does not earn a passing grade in the degree paper, the student must submit a new proposal on a different topic to the committee, following the normal deadlines, and register again for the paper. A student who fails the degree paper a second time is ineligible for graduation.


MALS students are expected to perform at the graduate level and to earn grades of B– or better in all their courses. The grade of C is allowed for students who complete a course with credit, but whose work was unsatisfactory. The grade of F designates failure. Students are eligible for an incomplete grade with the same constraints applicable to undergraduate students, with the exception of the degree paper. For the degree paper, B– is the lowest passing grade.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Satisfactory academic progress refers to a minimum grade point average (GPA) expectation, the number of units completed during the academic year, and the time it normally would take to complete the MALS degree. For federal financial aid purposes, a student is expected to maintain at least a 2.0 GPA. Full-time status at Reed is 3 units in a regular semester (fall or spring) and 1.5 units in summer. Based on the degree requirement of 9 units, a student attending full time would take a year and a half to complete the program. Students are eligible for federal financial aid for up to 150 percent of the regular time frame to complete a degree; therefore, MALS students may be eligible for federal aid for up to two years of full-time study. A student who enrolls part-time during any semester may be eligible for additional semesters of federal aid.

Reed’s institutional definition of satisfactory academic progress for the number of completed units is the same as noted above in the federal definition. It differs, however, from the federal definition in minimum GPA and time frame. MALS students generally are expected to maintain a GPA of at least 3.0. They must apply for formal candidacy in the program after completing their first two courses, take at least one course every three semesters, and complete the degree within six years of acceptance as a degree candidate.

Dropping Courses, Refunds, and Withdrawal from the Program

MALS students who drop courses during a semester must complete an add/drop form, available from the registrar’s office. The signatures of the instructor, adviser, and student are required for acceptance of the form. Deadlines for registration changes are published in the academic calendar. The date that the completed form is submitted to the registrar’s office is the effective date for determining any refund.

The refund of tuition is based on the percentage of the payment period completed by the student. The effective drop date determines the period of completion. The method of determining the refund percentage pertains to nonfederal Title IV financial aid (e.g., alternative loans or the Menashe scholarship). The business office has detailed information on the refund policy.

No deviations from the refund schedule will be made except in cases of extreme hardship, of which the college shall be the sole judge. The Administration Committee may, with the recommendation of the MALS program director, approve petitions for such exceptions. Reed College’s refund policy is based in part on the fact that it is an institution with a semester-based program and instructors are not required to take attendance. The refund policy applies to all graduate students who drop or withdraw from courses during a semester, whether or not they have federal Title IV financial aid, except as noted in the section below.

Any student who wishes to withdraw formally from the MALS program must provide written notification to the MALS office. If the student is enrolled at the time of withdrawal, the student must complete the add/drop form.

Credit balances under $10 will not be refunded.

Tuition Refund for Federal Title IV Financial Aid Recipients

Federal Title IV financial aid includes the subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loan. For students who are recipients of federal Title IV financial aid, additional calculations must be made for tuition refunds.

First, the college calculates the amount of Title IV aid earned by the student for the percentage of payment period completed. If the percentage of payment period completed is greater than 60 percent, the student is considered to have earned 100 percent of his or her Title IV aid; otherwise, the student has earned the actual percentage calculated.

Second, the college compares the amount earned with the amount disbursed to determine the amount that must be returned to the Title IV programs. The amount disbursed is that aid awarded and disbursed to the student’s account, plus the Title IV aid awarded that could have been disbursed to the student’s account (such as memo balances).

Third, the college determines the amount of Title IV aid that must be returned to the Title IV programs by the college and by the student. Aid is returned to the Title IV programs in the program order listed above.

Health Insurance

All degree-seeking MALS students taking a half unit or more of Reed classes continuously each term, including summers, are eligible to enroll in the Reed College health plan. Students are allowed one term of nonenrollment in their progression to the MALS degree; a second term of nonenrollment would result in termination of coverage. A student who is unable to return to classes because of extenuating circumstances may qualify to purchase coverage for an additional period of time.

The rates for graduate students are somewhat higher than for undergraduates. However, MALS students may choose their own primary care providers off campus. In addition, MALS students who join the Reed health plan may seek medical attention from the Reed health center, preferably by appointment but also by dropping in. The health center requires students seeking their services to complete a confidential health history form. The plan offers access to the Aetna national network of preferred providers. Detailed information on the plan benefits and costs is available at or by calling Aetna Student Health at 866/574-8289.

Course Offerings - The following courses are scheduled for the 2011-12 academic year:

History 545 - The Vietnam War

One-half course for one semester. This course will examine different aspects of “America’s longest war”: its historical and diplomatic background; its connection to the Cold War and to indigenous political and social factors in southeast Asia; the development and dynamics of American policy making; the battlefield experience for Americans and Vietnamese; the traumatic reaction in American society and politics; and historians’ treatments of the war. Conference. Offered spring 2012.

History 553 - The French Revolution, 1770–1800

One-half course for one semester. This course will focus on the social and cultural history of the French Revolution. Particular attention will be given to the ideological origins of the revolution, the question of class, the popular movement, revolutionary culture, gender and citizenship, the role of terror, and the nature of counterrevolution. Also studied will be the historiography of the French Revolution. Works from both traditional historiography and contemporary revisionist historiography will be included on the syllabus. Conference. Offered fall 2011.

Liberal Studies 519 - Britain in the 1940s: Wartime, Literature, and Culture

Full course for one semester. The 1940s were one of the most transformative decades in British history, encompassing its devastation during the Blitz, its final triumph in the Second World War, its rebuilding of bombed cities afterward, its dismantling of its greatest imperial possessions in the Indian subcontinent, and its transformation to a welfare state. This decade also saw enormous social changes with its retrenchment of class lines and gender roles both during and after the war; finally, it was to prove the first true flowering of British cinema, and the end of the British literary modernist movement. This course will examine Britain’s epochal changes roughly from September 1939 through May 1951 (when the epochal Festival of Britain was celebrated to mark the end of postwar austerity and the nation’s cultural comeback after the war), primarily through its cultural expressions of literature, film and design. Conference. Offered summer 2012.

Liberal Studies 553 - Literary and Visual Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain

One-half course for one semester. An introduction to the literary and visual cultures of eighteenth-century Britain and their interconnections. The course will cover readings in contemporary prose, poetry, drama, and aesthetics, as well as the work of selected artists of the period and the role of patrons. We also will investigate some of the complex social and cultural networks in which these artists and writers worked. Throughout our readings and viewings we will consistently return to the following guiding questions: How are stories narrated, in images as well as in words? What are the major aesthetic categories of this period and how do they operate to construct aesthetic experience? Do these categories span literary and visual culture, or are they different in each form? What are their modern legacies? Conference. Offered spring 2012.

Liberal Studies 571 - The American Civil War in History and Memory

One-half course for one semester. This course will examine how collective memory and popular culture have shaped public representations of the American Civil War from the late nineteenth century to the present. We will not cover the history of the war itself but rather the cultural and social responses it inspired for subsequent generations. Students will read theoretical literature on history and memory and recent scholarship on commemorations and representations of the Civil War in art, literature, film, parades and other public rituals. The objectives of this course are to explore aspects of public history, a field that examines how popular audiences experience and engage with representations of the past. We will ask how these representations attempted to resolve the issues that provoked the Civil War: political standing of slaves and ex-slaves, conflict between regional interests, and the cultural and political construction of American national identities. We also will ask how the politics of memory enhance, obscure and complicate our understanding of the past. Conference. Offered fall 2011.

Literature 533 - Constructions of Jewishness in Cinema

One-half course for one semester. The aim of this course is to examine constructions of Jewishness—conceptual, polemical, visual, literary, historical, and mythological—in cinema. We will situate the films within a larger corpus of Jewish modernist and postmodernist creative endeavors. In drawing on rich critical traditions of delineating Jewish poetics and discourses, we shall ask whether one can speak of a special cinematic Jewish language and, if so, how one would arrive at defining it. We will investigate the films’ cultural, intellectual, and historical contexts, from the prewar New York Yiddish culture to the French New Wave to Soviet Jewish politics to the history of Hollywood to the tension between Zionism and traditional Judaism within the Israeli imagination. We shall watch and discuss films by Maurice Schwartz, Edgar Ulmer, Jean-Pierre Melville, Alexander Askoldov, Woody Allen, Amos Gitai, the Coen brothers, Paul Mazursky, and Sidney Lumet, among others. Conference. Offered fall 2011.

Psychology 522 - Stereotyping and Prejudice

One-half course for one semester. This course provides an analysis of theory and empirical research on stereotyping and prejudice. We will explore a number of themes: the development and causes of intergroup perceptions and antagonism; reasons for the persistence and prevalence of stereotypes and prejudice; ways in which feelings and beliefs about groups influence social perception and interaction; and possible ways to change group stereotypes or reduce prejudice. In examining these issues, we will consider both the ways that individuals perceive themselves as members of groups and the ways that they perceive other groups. The course aims to provide students not only with insights into basic scientific questions about how we categorize others and ourselves but also insights into questions with implications for their own perceptions, interactions, and relationships. Conference. Offered summer 2012.

Theatre 547 - New Directions in Twentieth-Century Theatre

One-half course for one semester. In the late nineteenth century a number of European playwrights sought to challenge the prevailing concept of theatre as a purveyor of public entertainment. These writers were determined to create a drama of both social and artistic relevance. This reformist movement was marked by the development of a new, psychologically oriented and pictorially realistic theatre. We will first examine theatrical realism through its incarnation with innovative dramatists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Subsequently we will consider revisionist alternatives to realism with the epic theatre and stylized realism of the mid-twentieth century, the absurdist theatre of the late 50s and beyond, and the postmodernist approaches of the past two decades. These later movements, in successfully challenging the realist paradigm, broadened the imaginative possibilities and social relevance of contemporary theatre. Emphasis initially will be placed on European drama, but the work of American playwrights will be given particular emphasis in the decades leading to the twenty-first century. Conference. Offered spring 2012.

MALS 670 - Degree Paper

Full course for one semester or one year.

Recent Courses - The following graduate courses have been offered in the past five years:

Anthropology 570 The Theory and Practice of Globalization
Art 541 Picasso’s Cubism
Biology 534 Fitness and Food
Biology 520 Pacific Northwest Forests
Creative Writing 545 Craft Studio: American Culture
Economics 567 Financial Crises, Market Crashes and Economic Depressions
English 521 The Art of the African American Short Story
English 538 Cinema and the Senses
History 508 The First World War
History 535 American Abolitionism
History 565 Animals: An Intellectual and Cultural History
History 570 The Incas
Liberal Studies 507 Jewish Atlantic World
Liberal Studies 512 The Black Radical Tradition
Liberal Studies 516 Layered Memories of Japanese Colonialism
Liberal Studies 518 Shakespeare and Film
Liberal Studies 522 Ancient Epics: The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid
Liberal Studies 547 Ancient and Modern Praise Poetry: Ted Hughes and Pindar
Liberal Studies 548 Sports and Social Life
Liberal Studies 553 Literary and Visual Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Liberal Studies 557 Literature at the Margins of the Roman Empire
Liberal Studies 559 Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology
Liberal Studies 561 The Soviet Experience
Liberal Studies 563 The Bloomsbury Group
Liberal Studies 582 Truth and Representation in Early Modern Europe
Liberal Studies 583 Engendering History
Liberal Studies 587 Plagues and Their Meanings: Epidemic Disease in Medieval and Renaissance Europe
Liberal Studies 591 Contemporary and Classical Literary Theory
Literature 523 Church and State in Early Modern Spanish Culture
Literature 532 Leo Tolstoy
Literature 535 The Metropolitan Experience
Mathematics 537 The Copernican Revolution
Philosophy 548 Existentialism
Philosophy 562 Religion and Modernity
Physics 579 Great Ideas in Twentieth-Century Physics
Psychology 522 Stereotyping and Prejudice
Psychology 531 Emotions
Psychology 550 Psychological Perspectives on Art
Religion 533 Hidden Divinity: In Search of Christian Mysticism
Religion 552 History of Islam in America
Religion 574 Religion and Media