Course Descriptions

All courses that are team-taught meet the interdisciplinary core requirement.

MALS 120

Summer Symposium

Credit/No Credit Degree Requirement for all Concentrations
Moderator: Don Pease

MALS 130

Cultural Studies Research Methods

Research Methods
Instructor: Klaus Milich, MALS

Writing a research paper requires the knowledge of the scope, the genesis, and the methods of the discipline one is engaged in. The goal of this workshop is to make students aware of their own approaches to help them develop their own research projects. It will cover methods of practical implementation, skills and strategies to obtain better results in research and class performance. Apart from learning how to apply and integrate different genre such as excerpts, protocols, reports, summaries, or charts that help preparing a presentation, writing a paper, or finishing a thesis, discussions will address the following questions:

  • What distinguishes scholarship from other forms of knowledge production (media, encyclopedias)
  • What research means in the sciences and in the humanities, and how individual disciplines produce knowledge
  • What it means to read and write "critically"
  • How to distinguish "scientific facts" from "producing meaning"
  • How to turn individual observations and experiences into viable scholarly projects and why framing the right question might be more important than the answer
  • How research strategies and different forms of systematic thinking might be helpful at working places outside the university and beyond scholarly projects

In order to practice how to plan or carry out research and how to build an argument, students will be asked to bring in their own work in progress, be it an initial idea for a final paper, a proposal for an independent study, or a chapter of their thesis.

MALS 131

Social Science Research Methods

Research Methods
Instructor: Kerry Landers, Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies


Qualitative and quantitative data provide different kinds of information to the researcher. Quantitative research measures the reactions of large numbers of people and provides generalizable data. Qualitative research produces detailed data on a small number of cases for an increased depth of understanding. Conducting research in the social sciences requires knowledge of both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Numerous qualitative methods exist with a great diversity of theoretical models. This workshop will focus on ethnographic research, often used by sociologists, anthropologists, and educators to look at the culture of groups and settings. The primary focus of this workshop will be on qualitative methods with discussion on survey methods.

Students will design their own research projects based on their scholarly interests (generated by previous classes) that they would like to further pursue for the basis of their thesis research.


Students will investigate a social phenomenon that interests them. They will create their own projects and actively engage in the necessary components of conducting research in the social sciences. This requires students to develop fieldwork plans, identify interviewees, write interview questions, conduct 3-5 interviews, take observation notes, and learn survey skills.


Students will need to purchase a tape recorder for interviews or plan on borrowing one from the Jones Media Library. In addition, students should come to class with a three ring binder with page dividers.

MALS 132

Writing Methodologies: Strategies for Creative Writers

Research Methods
Instructor: Anna Minardi, MALS

This is a discussion based course focused on the preparation and discipline writers need to develop as they progress in their chosen genres. The text selected as the basis for class conversations offers a discussion of various writing concerns that all writers face as they consider such questions as audience, goal, use of language, placement of oneself. The text will be supplemented by short student pieces that may reflect the issues raised by Todd and Kidder in the book.

The course goal is create a sense of familiarity with the writing process for students who are starting to write. For students with more experience, the goal is to articulate the questions related to the areas they want to develop. The exchange between beginning and more advanced writers will be valuable in creating an awareness of the questions that propel writers at all levels and in all genres.

The class will be enhanced by visits from MALS writing professors and creative writing thesis students.


MALS 140

Writing Workshop: Fiction

Creative Writing
Instructor: Saul Lelchuk

This writing course uses a discussion-based, workshop-centered approach to allow both novice and experienced writers to develop their abilities in fiction and particularly the form of the short story. Weekly reading assignments will draw from both past and contemporary writers across numerous genres, with an effort being made to expose students to a wide variety of voices and styles. We will approach these stories with an eye towards not only their literary weight but also will examine the internal elements that make them succeed. Students are expected to both read and actively critique peer work that will be selected in advance of each class by the instructor. Weekly writing assignments will involve both new work and revision of this work, and students will complete several stories of varying length throughout the term. The course’s reading will include authors such as: Borges, Carver, Egan, Gogol, Greene, Hammett, Kundera, Lardner, Le Guin, Maupassant, O’Connor, Oates, Salter.     

A formal background in writing is not required but students should have a strong interest in creative writing and a willingness to share, and accept critique on, their work.    

MALS 191

Preserving the Past: Oral History in Theory and Practice

Creative Writing or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Harvey Frommer

“Preserving the Past” will explore the theoretical implications, practical applications, and literary dimensions of oral history.  Through reading and discussion, students will be exposed to a variety of oral histories and evaluate the uses of individual and/or collective memory as a means of documenting, understanding, and appreciating the past. Oral history will be examined as a literary genre with consideration of how the oral historian becomes a creative writer whose work relies almost wholly on the voices of those interviewed. The special demands of oral biography will be considered as well.

Issues to be addressed include: the place of oral history—by nature personal and subjective—in the larger historical framework; changes demanded by a shift in medium as the oral historian transfers taped commentary to print; the role of the oral historian/oral biographer as re-caster and re-arranger of memory; evolving recording technologies and the impact of the medium on oral history’s “message” and “massage.”

Selected oral histories (see Required Reading) will be contrasted with and compared to traditional historical accounts of similar events, as well as to one another as regards purpose, methodology, style, and literary effectiveness. Additionally students can consult historical works (see Recommended Reading) for insights into the ways in which oral history has been included. The roles and responsibilities of the practitioner as interviewer, archivist, historian, biographer, and artist will be examined and critiqued.        

The Course  agenda will hone students skills in interviewing, listening, transcribing, editing and organizing – moving from the spoken word to a final polished oral history work.    

Each student will produce an oral history project comprised of 6-12 voices on a cultural, institutional, local, familial, personal, or event-based topic. Ongoing guidance will be available through one-on-one meetings  as the student goes through the process of selecting a theme and individuals to interview, preparing for and conducting interviews, transcribing and editing tapes, and fashioning from them the final work. Through discussing their projects in the Workshop component of the course, students will have the opportunity to network and benefit from feedback.


·        Timely and thorough readings of assigned works to be reflected in informed participation in class discussions. (Books must be on hand for the sessions they are to be discussed.)

·        Participation in a Collateral Readers’ Panel based on in-depth reading/viewing of a portion of a traditional historical work/documentary that deals with one or more of the subjects treated in an assigned oral history. Submission of a satisfactory Oral History Project.

Grades will be based on the quality of work in all of the above. Attendance at all class sessions is mandatory.


Students must meet with either professor a minimum of four times during scheduled Friday hours for one-on-one consultations.

MALS 202

Reading & Viewing the Holocaust

Cultural Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Alan Lelchuk

How has the Holocaust been seen and viewed in literary works and in films? How well can works of art represent the nightmare of 20th century history? Can books and films, the world of the aesthetic, dramatize the history of the Holocaust, and sustain the memory adequately?

This course will  consider those questions, by means of analyzing some of the major writings and movies trying to come to terms with the unimaginable history.

In literature, we will read the fiction  of Ida Fink,  Teodor Borowski, Ilona Karmel, Elie Wiesel, Aharon Appelfeld, among others. In cinema, we will look at films such as Orson Welles (“The Stranger”), Sidney Lumet (“The Pawnbroker”), Vittoria  de Sica (“The Garden of the Finzi-Continis”), Marcel Ophuls (“The Sorrow and the Pity”),  Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”).

MALS 205

Narrative Non-Fiction

Creative Writing
Instructor: Barbara Kreiger

This course is aimed at those with a special interest in non-fiction creative writing. We'll address aspects of the narrative including the story itself, style, voice, and the use of reflection as we consider the ambiguous nature of experience. 

Writing background is preferred but is not a prerequisite.  What is required is a commitment to the imaginative exploration of experience and a serious desire to devote oneself to the writing process.

MALS 206

The Changing Craft and Culture of Journalism

Creative Writing or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Christopher Wren

The logic and fundamentals of news gathering as reinvented for the 21st century. What constitutes news today and why it matters.  How to make the significant more interesting.

Distinguishing between journalism and the media. Issues and opportunities in the changing economics of journalism, the collapse of traditional print outlets and the demise of the twenty-four-hour news cycle

The conflation of reporting, analysis and opinion in the digital transformation of multi-platform news. The rise of social media like Facebook and YouTube as disseminators of breaking news and information. Wikileaks and other ethical dilemmas for journalists.

Students should expect to write weekly, experimenting with an expanding variety of media outlets, from legacy newspapers and magazines to digital websites and citizen blogs, and mining numbers, polls and statistics to extract the essentials worth covering.

Exploring the injunction of the veteran journalist Gay Talese that the best journalism should be as well-written and compelling as fiction, students will hone skills applicable to drama and arts criticism and narrative non-fiction and fiction. This writing course, taught by a former New York Times foreign correspondent, reporter, editor and author, will also track political, economic and conflict developments in real time via the Internet.

MALS 213

Fiction - Short Story

Creative Writing
Instructor: Alan Lelchuk

This course is aimed at those with a special interest in creative writing.  Writing experience is preferred, but is not a prerequisite, nor is it necessarily essential that the student know exactly what he or she wishes to focus on.  What is required is a commitment to the imaginative exploration of experience and a serious desire to devote oneself to the writing process.

Emphasis will be placed on student work, but a large number of published stories and essays will be analyzed as well.  Classes will be mostly discussions, with periodic lectures.  The aim of the course is two-fold:  to help the student understand literary writing from the writer's point of view, and to raise student prose to publishable level or nearly so.

MALS 226


Creative Writing
Instructor: Bill Phillips

One should emerge from this course with:

  1. the first draft of a professional-quality feature length screenplay and
  2. the knowledge of how to do subsequent revisions.

No previous creative writing experience is necessary. 

Whether your idea is “commercial,” “artistic,” or “personal” will not matter in terms of the focus of this course, but we will be concerned with your producing something that will hold up to professional scrutiny. We will emphasize the following:

  1. a comprehensible story with a beginning, middle and end
  2. a sympathetic protagonist
  3. a worthy antagonist
  4. an appropriate “love-interest” (if any),
  5. how to keep your story a “page turner,” so the reader will want to keep going;
  6. proper format and length (100-120 pages) and absence of typos, and
  7. originality of premise and dialogue.

Since you will be expected to write an entire first draft of a feature script within this course, it behooves you to be somewhat prepared. It would help if you have a story in mind, a protagonist, a worthy antagonist, a love-interest (if appropriate), and at least an idea of your beginning, middle and end.  It also really helps to have at least 30-40 situations (scenes) to string together to support a feature-length film. We will go over all of this in class, but if you get a head start on your thinking, it will be a tremendous help to you. I can also make available some handouts ahead of time that might assist you in this work.

MALS 236

Playwriting Workshop

Creative Writing
Instructor: Eugenie Carabatsos

This workshop course introduces students to the art and craft of playwriting. Throughout the course, each student will workshop and develop two plays—a ten minute and a one act—as well as read and analyze contemporary and classic plays.

MALS 239

Poetry Workshop

Creative Writing
Instructor: Gary Lenhart, English

This course will follow workshop format, with students submitting substantial weekly assignments that will be distributed to and considered by participants before class hours. There are no length expectations for each submission, as some are prolific, others deliberate.

A guiding aim will be to school workshop members with self-critical tools to apply toward future efforts in the art of poetry. To refine these tools and to inspire our own compositions, we will also read and discuss other poems selected and introduced by the instructor and participants. There will be no text for the course, though a list of recommended critical texts and anthologies will be distributed. All approaches and aesthetics are welcome.

MALS 240

Globalization and Its Discontents

Globalization Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary

Instructor: Ronald Edsforth, MALS

The subject of this seminar is the widespread and contentious belief that humanity has recently entered a new stage of integration called “Globalization.”  The seminar explores the simultaneous lauding of globalization and resistance to globalization in the politics and cultures of rich and poor regions of the world.

Our discussions focus on readings and films that present many different views of globalization ranging from celebration to skepticism to outright hostility. Taking care to avoid both teleological presumptions and technological fetishism, we begin with a historical review of the economic processes most often identified as “globalization,” and ponder the implications of research that shows globalization has a long history and that it has been reversible. Then we spend the rest of the term critically examining the relationships between global economic integration and changes in international politics and law, as well as the emergence of diverse transnational, national, and sub-national movements opposed to the dominant ideas and practices of economic and political globalization. These critics include human rights and environmental activists, indigenous peoples, socialists, nationalists, and fundamentalists of many different faiths.

MALS 244

World Wars and Global Peace Culture

Globalization Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Ronald Edsforth

This seminar offers you the opportunity to read, think, talk, and write about two of the most important subjects in globalization studies: war and peace.  The seminar is organized as an investigation of the fact that, despite the prominence of warfare in daily news media and American popular culture, the last few decades have probably been the most peaceful period in human history.  We will focus our investigation first on the long history of ideas about war and peace, then on a global history of warfare, and finally on the recent history of positive efforts to make a more peaceful world.  We begin the term examining the long history of important ideas about war and peace.  Then, emphasizing developments since 1900, we study empires and international relations, and interstate and intrastate warfare.  Finally we examine history of peace especially liberal internationalism (rule of law, human rights, international organizations); the significance of nonviolent civil resistance since 1945; and third party interventions designed to end long bloody conflicts and build lasting peace.

MALS 245

Non-Fiction - Personal Essay

Creative Writing
Instructor: Barbara Kreiger, MALS

This course on the personal essay concentrates, not surprisingly, on a highly individual point of view. The essay may include both narration and reflection, but it is generally limited in scope and focuses on a single impression or idea. Attention will be devoted to the complex, often ambiguous, nature of experience, and the use of reflection in making even the smallest observations memorable.

We will emphasize the short form, though length is not built into the definition, and those who want to explore the longer essay will have an opportunity to do so.

Class time will be devoted to both student and published work, the latter intended to offer a variety of approaches and goals.

MALS 246

Fiction Writing - Novella

Creative Writing
Instructor: Alan Lelchuk

This writing workshop focuses primarily on the longer fictional forms (the novella and the long story). Writing experience is preferred, but is not a prerequisite. Emphasis is placed on student work, but a good number of published stories and novellas are looked at as well. Classes consist of discussions, analyses, and readings. The aims of the course are to help the young writer understand and practice the longer forms of fiction, to read those forms more jurisdiciously and from a writer's point of view, and to raise his or her own levels of prose to a high literary standard.

MALS 247

Structure & Purpose: Writing in the Digital Age (Non-fiction)

Creative Writing
Instructor: Larry Olmsted

Traditionally there have been just a few paths for publishing non-fiction work: short form magazine and newspaper articles, long form magazine articles (New Yorker, Vanity Fair, etc.) and book length work. In the digital age, these all still exist, but they have been joined by numerous non-print alternatives including web versions of print magazines and newspapers publishing online-only content; purely web-based platforms (Slate, Huffington Post, etc.); blogging platforms (Medium, Tumblr, Blogger, etc.) and self-published blogs.

In this course we will examine the demands, audiences, differences and pros and cons of each form of print or digital publication, with particular attention to the use of structure in all cases.

There are two main parts to writing any non-fiction narrative: assembling information and choosing how to deploy it. But the second part of this equation depends upon the format of publication and audience for which the work is intended. Each requires its own approach to structure and storytelling.

Whether it’s memoir, biography, history, science or researched journalism, all non-fiction tells a story, and stories are most effective when readers find them compelling. But where does a story begin? How does it unfold? These are very important factors in building an enthralling narrative. Some successful non-fiction writers tell stories in a purely linear, chronological fashion, while start at the end or the middle or a seminal moment in between. Where to start is just the beginning - the chosen structure for telling the story runs through the entire work, which might interweave multiple topics, told from different perspectives, unfolding in different order.

These choices also depend upon the platform for publication. Traditional newspaper journalism relies heavily upon a Who/Where/What/When/Why format of immediately laying out the primary information for readers and then delving deeper into details. This comes from the basic assumption that readers have already made the choice to look for information in the particular publication. But new media is more focused on competing for the reader’s attention, and each individual article or work stands alone to a greater degree from its underlying platform, demanding that the writer seek attention through headline, topic and structure. On the other hand, book length projects lend themselves to the largest variety of options and the most elaborate structures, and ultimately succeed or fail based on the way the information is presented as much as on the information itself.

The class will examine the different outlets for non-fiction publication, print media, online media and books, and the similarities and differences between them, with a focus on the use of structure in all cases. Writing experience is nice, but the only prerequisite is interest in writing. Class time will be devoted to both student and published work, mostly student. Reading will include two full-length books demonstrating different approaches to the use and importance of structure, as well as numerous short and long form printed and online periodical articles more akin in length to the work students will produce. Assigned writings will be a series of short (2-6 page) non-fiction pieces/essays/articles in styles varying weekly, spanning multiple topics and platforms, such as memoir, history, personality profile, and event/subject profile written for print and/or online. In each case the focus will be more on the decision of how to structure the narrative to most effectively tell the story for the chosen audience and platform than on the research and topic itself. All participants will be required to read each other’s work and discuss and critique the effectiveness of the chosen structures as well as the reading assignments weekly.

MALS 248

Finding the Story: Research, Facts, Narrative

Creative Writing

Instructor: Tom Zoellner

This course is aimed at those who want to develop their skills in the genre of literary journalism and creative nonfiction writing. The art of gathering facts is not a straightforward process; it involves research, interviews, and close observation. The writer continues to learn, ask questions, and refine the inquiry as he or she composes an engaging narrative.

Classroom instruction will include narrative uses of material including library work, original documents, on-scene impressions and person-to-person interviews. A third of the class time will be devoted to the examination of acclaimed published works. The majority of the time will be spent in an instructor-led workshop in which each student’s work is critiqued by the group in a constructive fashion, with the goal of rewriting and improvement.

Each student will write three pieces in the course of the term and submit them – along with one comprehensive rewrite -- as a final portfolio. The final paper must demonstrate a substantial amount of original reportage and document-based research.

MALS 273

Frankfurt School Cultural Theory

Cultural Studies, Globalization Studies, Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Michael McGillen

The course will explore the Frankfurt School’s reading of European modernity in conjunction with the central cultural and artistic movements of its time. We will read theoretical texts by Kracauer, Benjamin, Adorno, and Horkheimer alongside the modernist cultural products upon which they reflect, from literature to the visual arts, film, and photography. The course will seek to come to terms with the Frankfurt School’s understanding of mass culture in urban modernity; its insights into the nature of perception under the conditions of new media; its reflections on religion, art, and the politics of fascism; and its contributions to modernist cultural forms, from montage techniques to the thought-image. We will practice central methods of cultural studies and intellectual history by situating cultural material in its historical context, assessing and evaluating theoretical interventions, and analyzing the medial and generic qualities of aesthetic forms. Requirements: Active participation in seminar discussions; one oral presentation; and a 15–20 page seminar paper.       

MALS 277

Coloring Gender

Cultural Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Regine Rosenthal, MALS

Taking its point of departure from the different waves of the women’s movement, this course will explore multiple feminisms, contested binary notions of femininity and masculinity, and a wide range of gender issues. It will add “color” to gender by focusing on minority groups in the US, especially African American, Latina, and Native American women and their investment in feminism as well as the intersectionality of gender, race, ethnicity, class, and nation. Furthermore, the course will address, through feminist scholarship, women’s collaboration with racist and white supremacist discourse, both in the US and racist Nazi Germany. It will also examine a variety of trans/national contemporary debates within feminism, such as ecofeminism, postcolonialism, indigeneity, and religion (e.g. Islam).

MALS 281

The Art of Travel Writing

Creative Writing
Instructor: Barbara Kreiger, MALS

This course is aimed at those with a special interest in travel writing, a subgenre of literary nonfiction broadly described as narratives of encounters with unfamiliar places and peoples, with an emphasis on the highly subjective nature of the experience. The focus will be on the construction of a narrative, the role of the narrator, and the development of themes. We will consider narrative voice, the physical and cultural territory, and the meaning of the journey. To what extent is travel writing descriptive, and to what extent inventive? How do the author’s own needs and assumptions affect the record of his or her journey? What is the relationship between the viewer and the viewed? How is the narrative both a window and a mirror? Writing experience is preferred, but is not a prerequisite. Class time will be devoted to both student and published work. Authors to be read will include Freya Stark, Robert Byron, Edith Wharton, and D.H. Lawrence.


MALS 287

Religion and Politics in a Post-Secular World: Rethinking Secularization

Globalization Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Michael McGillen


Narratives about the emergence of European modernity often link the rise of the modern nation state and the triumph of Enlightenment rationality with the decline of religion in a process of secularization. With an increasing separation of religion and politics, the story goes, religion is relegated to the private sphere while a civic politics occupies the public sphere. A globalized world characterized by networks of communication and cultural exchange might appear, then, as the epitome of a cosmopolitan capitalism and its secular ethos.

In the last two decades, however, this narrative of secularization has been called into question in the midst of a “return of religion” in a “post-secular society.” Scholarship on political theology, meanwhile, has shown how modern politics and its concept of sovereign power adopt and appropriate religious forms of thought in their secular institutions. Instead of secularization as the decline of religion, critics are rethinking secularization in terms of a hidden afterlife of religion in a secular modernity that is unable to cast aside its theological roots.

The course will examine how the return of religion and political theology are transforming politics in a globalized and post-national European modernity. In what ways might religion undergird the call for a “radical Enlightenment” that exceeds national boundaries? How might a post-secular society entertain a dialogue of religion and the secular through mutual translation? How might religion provide a basis not only for the theory of sovereign power but for forms of resistance in which the public sphere is contested?

We will tackle these questions through readings of classical texts (Luther, Hobbes, Spinoza, Kant, Schmitt) alongside the work of twentieth-century and contemporary German, French, and Anglo-American critics (de Vries, Casanova, Hardt and Negri, Arendt, Lefort, Foucault, Said, Löwith, Blumenberg, Habermas, Taylor, Asad).

Course Requirements

Active participation in seminar discussions; one oral presentation; and a 15–20 page seminar paper.

MALS 289

Digital American Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: James Dobson, MALS/English

This graduate seminar provides an overview of the various theories and methods used by digital humanists to study American culture. The course takes up the question of “where is ’America’ in cultural studies” by examining the degree to which the nation still matters in the digital humanities. Recent approaches will be studied alongside traditional methods of humanistic inquiry. We will give particular attention to critical code studies, game studies, and machine learning approaches to distant reading. Two short essays will interrogate oppositional positions within the field of digital cultural studies. Final projects will approach an object of American culture through digital methods or produce a reading of a digital object. Course readings include (among others): Alan Liu, N. Katherine Hayles, Matthew L. Jockers, Lev Manovitch, and Lisa Gitelman

MALS 290

Borders & Boundaries: Race, Gender, and the Human

Cultural Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Regine Rosenthal

This course will focus on the question of erecting, crossing, and/or transcending borders and boundaries in relation to race, gender, and the human. Thus, it will critically address and theorize the more recent tendency to shift and cross normative borders in a way that runs counter to the constraints implied in traditional models of gender and race. In terms of gender, it will emphasize the contemporary fluidity of concepts of masculinity and femininity, deconstruction of hierarchical gender models, as well as the growing debate around transgender issues in texts, among others, by Judith Butler. In terms of race, it will address the paradigm’s contested definitions and boundaries, and the current debate on its social implications. It will discuss the issues of exclusion and inclusion, the third space, post-colonialism and the ideology and policy of race/racism by focusing, among others, on creative non/fictional narratives as well as theoretical texts by Frantz Fanon and W.E. DuBois. As a third angle on questioning borders, it will explore the aspect of the human - both in and beyond its relation to race, gender, and the concurrent effect of dehumanization - in texts by Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and Jacques Derrida on human and civil rights, crimes against humanity, sovereign power vs. bare life, and man in relation to animal.

MALS 291

Capitalism, Labor, and the Law in the Global United States

Globalization Studies
Instructor: Gabrielle Clark

Was the US born capitalist? If so when, how, and with what consequences in global political economy and the world? How have changes in production and labor processes across time relied upon and re-shaped US law and political struggles under it? Has there always been and will there always be an “inside” and an “outside” to economic gains and the American legal system? Where are we now and how are we related to past configurations of capitalism, labor, and the law? With attention to political economy and the law, this course takes a historical approach to development, state-formation, power, and labor and employment relations in the United States. In so doing, we trace the global origins and global present of American capitalism and follow the struggles waged by citizens, servants, slaves, unions, migrants, and workers laboring extra-territorially for US interests in American law. We will not only read secondary texts, but key legal decisions addressing the topics listed above.    

MALS 292

Critical Prison Studies

Cultural Studies or Single-Taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Heike Paul

The prison has become a central institution of American society; more than two million people are currently held in federal prisons, state prisons, juvenile correctional facilities, local jails, military prisons, and detention facilities at home and in US territories abroad. In fact, US incarceration rates are the highest worldwide. Whereas in the 19th century the American prison was often considered a ‘modern’ institution of reform (replacing corporal punishment) which was visited and inspected by European visitors such as Alexis de Tocqueville and Charles Dickens, it has become the object of grave humanitarian concerns in the 20th and 21st centuries. Terms such as “carceral state” and “prison industrial complex” (referring to profit-oriented multinational corporations in the prison sector) figure prominently in recent critical interventions. We will briefly review the history of the US prison system in the first part of the seminar.

For those on the outside, the prison population is often rendered invisible and voiceless. And yet, from its beginnings, American literary and cultural production abounds with experiences of captivity, bondage, and imprisonment. H. Bruce Franklin, for instance, has remarked on the African American literary tradition as being rooted in the experience of imprisonment and slavery, and obviously race and racialization continue to be crucial aspects in view of a prison population that is largely non-white. Of course, other markers of difference such as gender, class, religion, and sexual orientation also have to be taken into account. In response to the dramatic increase in imprisonment rates over the last decades, prison abolitionism has formed and become a major social and political movement to protest mass incarceration as the “New Jim Crow” (Michelle Alexander, Angela Davis). In the second part of this seminar we will focus on prison writing in various forms (including texts, films, and television series) and on the theoretical approaches that have emerged in the field of critical prison studies to adequately address the nexus of violence, (state) power, and punishment.

Required reading includes texts by Michel Foucault, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Leonard Peltier, Hisaye Yamamoto as well as Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003), Stewart O’Nan, The Good Wife (2005), and Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black (2015). The shorter texts will be made available on the canvas-platform.


MALS 293

Empire and Law

Globalization Studies
Instructor: Gabrielle Clark

In 2000, political philosophers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri published “Empire,” a work that argued that we have moved from imperialism to Empire, defined as a shift from sovereign to networked rule, from British to American world dominance. If imperialism was a juridical construction extending from the metropole to the colony; Empire, Hardt and Negri argued, is characterized by the boundary-less power of law.

This course on “Empire and Law” is about studying and assessing Hardt and Negri’s history and claims. In so doing, we examine what legal anthropologists have labeled the passage of law and colonialism to that of law and globalization, with a focus upon the British Empire and American power at the close of the twentieth-century. By concentrating upon law and colonialism and law and globalization as fields structuring the global economy since the 19th century, moreover, this course emphasizes and compares the manifold constitutive powers of law in economy and society as well as how scholars in both fields have approached its study. How did law shape colonial empire and what is the role of law under globalization? Did Hardt and Negri fully characterize or over-state the differences in legal rule across empires? Have events since 2000, such as 9/11, the Iraq War, and the election of Donald Trump re-configured Empire and its laws? 

MALS 294

Post-Cold War Globalization

Globalization Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Peter DeShazo

The course will provide students with the opportunity to think critically about the variables that propelled the United States to unipolar power status as a result of the Cold War, the nature of how U.S. foreign policy is formulated, and the challenges to the power status of the United States in an increasingly globalized world.  Students will examine in greater detail the history of the Cold War, the transformation of the global power dynamic following the collapse of the Soviet Union, growing expectations for the spread of capitalism and democracy in the post-Cold War, the key challenges to liberal democracy and security today, the rise of China, and prospects for the future global leadership of the United States.  The course will underscore the value of historical analysis to the interpretation of current events and demonstrate the confluence of forces that influence the making of foreign policy.   The course will also encourage students to think like policy-makers, in part by drafting a series of short “policy memos” on specific recommended policy decisions and to advocate for these decisions in oral presentations.

Following an introductory class discussing prospects for future U.S. global leadership, the course will examine the conduct of the Cold War, the transition from a bipolar power dynamic to a unipolar world led by the United States following the end of the Soviet Union, and then trace key themes and developments in U.S. foreign policy from the administrations of George H.W. Bush through Obama.  Subsequent classes will examine the spread of market-based capitalist development and liberal democracy in the post Cold War, the ideology and driving forces of these movements, and the reactions to them.    Global issues challenging both security and development, such as international terrorism and crime will be examined in detail.  One class will be specifically dedicated to China’s potential as a power rival to the United States.   The final two classes will look ahead to future prospects for democracy, capitalist-led growth and the growing transition away from uni-polarity to a new multi-polar global order. Readings for the course will cover a variety of currents and viewpoints, with special focus on materials prepared for the consideration of policy-makers rather than academicians.

MALS 295

Regionalism & Governance

Globalization Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Mark Aspinwall

This course examines the phenomenon of regionalism in the international system, taking two regions in particular – the EU and NAFTA – as points of comparison. The purpose is to look at why these organizations were created, and with what effect for the member states and the international system. Regions help to organize economic activity, but they also have a profound impact on the societies of the member states. They also impact international relations, both in an economic sense (redirecting trade and investment patterns for example) and in a political sense (providing alternative sites of authority in a post-Cold War, globalizing world).

Topics include:

  • Regionalization and regionalism: social, economic, and political responses to globalization
    • Trade, capital, investment, and human flows: how should states respond?
  • Context and purpose of their creation: why form regional organizations?
    • Europe: post-war reconciliation
    • North America: response to GATT failures, the EU, and the opening of Mexico
    • Possible comparison to ASEAN and/or MERCOSUR?
  • Institutions and policy attributes of the regional organizations
    • Supranationist – the EU
    • National sovereignty – NAFTA (and ASEAN)
  • Impact on member states – ideas, norms, diffusion, and economic interaction
    • What are the development aims and impacts of regions?
    • How has economic activity changed with regional integration?
    • How do regions affect governance and rule of law?
    • How do regions affect citizens, directly and indirectly?
  • Recent challenges
    • Populism and regionalism
    • Brexit and the renegotiation of NAFTA under the Trump administration
  • The future of regional integration

MALS 296

Women & Comedy in American Film

Cultural Studies, Globalization Studies, Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Joanna Rapf

This seminar focuses specifically on women in film comedy in the United States, from the early twentieth century to the present. Women have played a significant role both in front of and behind the camera since movies first emerged as a significant cultural form in the early 20th century. But their roles have not been acknowledged to the extent that their male counterparts have. This seminar will examine why. We will look at comic films from the  “silent era” up until the disruption of World War II, then at works produced during the post-war period, and during the so-called “new age of feminism” in the 1980s and 1990s, up to today. We will interrogate Hollywood's hegemony by calling attention to and studying the attitudes women endorse, the roles women play, and the stereotypes they reinforce or challenge in their comedy. And we will explore why comedy, until fairly recently, has been notably neglected from a feminist perspective, and what cultural factors have led some to argue that women aren’t funny. By focusing on women and comic film, this seminar encourages a reassessment of film history and new ways of thinking about the potential women have for influencing society through laughter. A society without laughter is not a free society.

Tragedy is traditionally more "respectable" than comedy, but essentially both the tragic and comic responses to life come from the same source: our consciousness of the gap between existence as it is and existence as it ought to be.  It has been argued that all genres can be conceived in terms of dialectic between cultural and counter-cultural drives where, in the end, the cultural drives, produced by a male dominated society, must triumph.  But between the inevitable "fade in" and "fade out," comedy is free to work its complex and often subversive purpose, revealing and commenting on the preoccupations, prejudices, and dreams of the society that produces it.

Readings: They will include essays in feminist film theory, comic theory, and film history. All will be posted on CANVAS.

Screenings: Students enrolled in this seminar must plan on viewing at least one film outside of class each week. Films will be on reserve at the Jones Media Library and can be streamed.

MALS 297

Autobiography & Selfie Culture

Cultural Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: James Dobson

Autobiography is commonly understood as the narrative of a person’s life written by him or herself. The forms and content of these narratives have been remarkably unstable since the inception of the confessional form. This course examines the history of autobiography from the genre’s founding moment in St. Augustine’s Confessions to manifestations of self-representation in contemporary forms including graphic memoirs and the “selfie” image. Throughout the term we will build a theoretical and historical understanding of autobiography by reading accounts of the work of self-representation alongside various versions of the subject of autobiography from critical approaches including deconstruction, psychoanalysis, feminism, evolutionary biology, and cognitive neuroscience. Primary texts may include St. Augustine, Confessions; Benvenuto Cellini, The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini; Samuel Pepys, The Diaries of Samuel Pepys; Jean Jacques Rousseau, Confessions; Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams; Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin; Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Critical and theoretical readings may include Philippe Lejeune, Roland Barthes, Charles Taylor, Roy Pascal, Michel Foucault, Nancy K. Miller, Paul John Eakin, Michael A. Chaney, Antonio Damasio, Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson.

MALS 303

Latin America and the Caribbean: Race, Discourse and the Origin of the Americas

Cultural Studies, Globalization Studies, Team-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Raul Bueno & Keith Walker

The Martinican writer Edouard Glissant asserts that the West is not in the west, rather the West is a project.  Starting with a consideration of Columbus's "Letter to Santangel" and the reporter Caminha's letter from the Brazilian coast to the Portuguese King Manuel, through the European Enlightenment, the concept of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine, one aim of this course is to delineate the vision, project and worldview at the origins of social, political and race discourse and tensions in the Americas today.

From Christopher Columbus' journey accounts to Aime Cesaire's "Discourse on Colonialism", from early indigenous accounts of the Conquest to 1994 Guatemalan Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu's testimony on modern colonization writings have justified or condemned the colonization of the Americas.  The course will focus on the Caribbean and Latin America and the challenges that beset attempts at definitions of these dynamic socio-politico economic cultural realities.  Our primary activity will be a close reading of representative letters, testimonies, novels, histories, poetry, films and essays from and about the Caribbean and Latin America.

MALS 318

Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies or Team-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructors: Don Pease and guest lecturers

Perhaps because of its capacity to cut across social and political interests and transgress disciplinary boundaries, Cultural Studies has provoked highly contradictory descriptions of its politics and academic location.  Cultural Studies has been described as the academic location where the politics of difference—racial, sexual, economic, transnational—can combine and be articulated in all of their theoretical complexity.  It has also been depicted as an academic containment strategy designed to tame cultural otherness through the universalization of the “idea” of culture and the resistance to theory.  In this course we shall analyze the work of scholars—bell hooks, Douglas Crimp, Janice Radway, Paul Gilroy, Stuart Hall, Homi Bhabha, Andrew Ross, Meaghan Morris, Elsbeth Probyn, Michael Warner, Rey Chow, Cornel west, Kobena Mercer, Judith Butler, among others—who explicitly reflect upon the importance of conceptualizing and defining this diverse and often contentious enterprise.  In addition to examining the social and institutional genealogy of the field, we shall deploy disparate methodological practices developed within the field of Cultural Studies to analyze a range of cultural artifices, including film noir, television soap operas, rap music, Hollywood blockbusters, borderlands discourse, whiteness studies and postcolonial theory.

MALS 337

The New Global Order: Development, Democracy, and Revolution

Globalization Studies or Team-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructors: Evelyn Lechner, MALS and Peter DeShazo, LALACS

Globalization and the pursuit of market-led development have become two crucial concepts that re-emerged full-blown in the wake of the Cold War, as the West triumphed over the Soviet Union and the Marxist model. With the United States as the sole remaining superpower, liberal democracy and market-led economies were widely considered by policy makers in the West to be the inevitable cornerstone of a new global order. Yet, the process of globalization since the early 1990s has produced unpredicted results. The end of the Cold War has not generated a prolonged "Pax Americana" marked by an end to intra-state warfare, insurgencies, or violence, nor has economic development resulted in the consolidation of democracy. The strongest economic performer in the post-Cold War period has been China, still an authoritarian Marxist regime, and the Russian Federation that emerged from the former USSR is evolving in a decidedly anti-democratic direction.

The end of the Cold War in the Americas appeared to usher in the potential for greater hemispheric unity, the strengthening or representative democracy and sustained economic growth. While economic development has been historically strong, it remains uneven and the fruits of economic success often distributed in a skewed pattern favoring elite groups. In several countries in the region, a strong reaction to liberal democracy and market-led economic growth gave rise to the consolidation of proto-authoritarian regimes such as that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela promoting a 21st century brand of revolution and a revival of anti-U.S. sentiment. Countries in the region still contend with problems such as insurgency, organized crime, and high levels of violence.

This course will examine the links between democracy, market-led development, and globalization in greater theoretical depth as well as in practice since the end of the Cold War. It will use Latin America as a particular point of focus in highlighting macro trends in politics and economic policy-making since the 1990s as well as case studies digging deeper into these variables.

The first part of the course focuses on globalization in general, its impact on the world economy and the economies of specific countries and on international business. The tension between globalization and moral questions will be elaborated on. Intellectual/ideological responses to globalization will also be discussed.

The second part of the course will trace trends in Latin America's links to the global economy and the relationship between paths of economic development and political structures. Specific attention will be paid to the transition from military dictatorships to civilian democracies, the challenge of illegally armed groups and criminal organizations to stability in the region, and the current bifurcated development path between countries pursuing market-oriented growth policies and those engaged in inward-led growth and resource nationalism.

MALS 346

Diasporas and Migrations

Cultural Studies or Team-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Klaus Milich, MALS and Regine Rosenthal, MALS

Over the past two decades, the term diaspora has gained wide currency and intense scrutiny in scholarly work. Originating in the Hebrew Bible as prophesy of the Jewish “dispersion in all kingdoms of the earth,” contemporary uses of the term have accrued meaning in a variety of contexts and disciplines to designate "the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland.” Considering mass-migration, exile, and expulsion in all sectors of the world, this seminar will focus on a variety of concepts and theories related to diaspora. Studying a range of ethnographic, historical, theoretical, and literary texts, we will compare Jewish, African, and Asian diasporas in the context of historical, cultural and territorial characteristics. We will also discuss questions such as “the power of diaspora” vs. homeland, the role of the nation state vs. transnational or post-national aspects of culture, cultural identity, and hybridity.

MALS 361

Global Media and Culture

Globalization Studies, Cultural Studies, Team-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructors: Ronald Edsforth and Joanne Devine, Skidmore College

This course provides students the opportunity to study, discuss, and write about global media and the transformation of cultures and relations between peoples since the 1980s. Although most historians argue that globalization is an old process that began with the establishment of inter-regional trade many centuries ago, they also agree with other social scientists who see this most recent phase of globalization as qualitatively different from earlier stages of the process.  Indeed it seems fair to say that what most people today mean when they use the word “globalization” would not exist without the new global media.  

Perhaps the most important features of recent globalization are the continuous development of new media (especially the internet and social media) and the rapid global diffusion of those media.   In this course students will study these subjects and how they are involved in ongoing changes in everyday life, social relations, high and popular cultures, and the practice of politics all around the world.  Seminar meetings for most of the term will consist primarily of discussion of readings, films, and videos assigned to all students, and at the end of the term discussion the particular research projects done by each student.


This is not a lecture course.  To be successful, all members of the seminar have to participate in discussions of course materials.  Students are required to finish assigned readings and videos as preparation for in-class discussions.  Readings include several required books, as well as articles that are available online. Videos include documentary and feature films on reserve at the Jones Media Center.  Participation in the seminar’s discussions will count for 25% of the final grade.

Students will be required to write a series of three related papers focused on global media in a particular country.  Students with good second language skills are encouraged to select a country in which English is not the native tongue.  Having each student focus the independent component of their work in the course on media developments and culture in a particular country will enable the whole seminar to construct a unique global understanding of our subject that is grounded in many details drawn from many parts of the world by the students.  Each student will report first on media development in the country they have chosen in a short factual report.  Their second paper will describe and discuss the ways media in their particular country have covered a global news story of importance (ie. the election of Donald Trump).  The student’s final paper on their particular country will present research on a narrowly defined media subject of special interest to them.


MALS 367

The Biology & Politics of Starvation

Globalization Studies or Team-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructors: John Butterly, Medicine and Jack Shepherd, Biological Sciences

In 1948, the UN drafted its Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In it, Article 25 states  that “Everyone has the right medical care.” But today almost 800 million people globally – one in about 8 human beings -- remain trapped in extreme hunger and poverty. Despite major strides during the past decade, hunger and poverty remain with us. This course will detail the plight of the so-called “bottom billion” people who are living on less than US$1.25 a day. But it will also examine a second billion, who face chronic hunger and disease in both developing and developed countries. In the United States, for example, some 45 million people – about one in 7 Americans – suffer “chronic food insecurity”. More than half of them are children; 8 percent are elderly.

Despite the good intentions of the Universal Declaration and the more recent Millennium Goals, we have failed to achieve “health and well-being . . . including food, clothing, housing and medical care . . . .” for the world’s people. The Declaration remains today a promise diluted, its basic premise and hope unfulfilled. As its core catalytic question, therefore, this course asks: Why?

The instructors and students will use didactic presentations, case study methodology, briefing papers and other analytical tools to interrogate two broad components:

• The first will define and analyze the hunger, health and poverty problems, and the efforts to resolve them. We will present, discuss and use the major documents (U.N., U.S. Census, etc) along with the theories of Thomas Malthus and Amartya Sen. The course will engage the training of its two instructors and juxtapose the social science of poverty and hunger with the biology of chronic undernutrition and the subsequent increased susceptibility to otherwise preventable or treatable infectious diseases responsible for most of the preventable health problems and deaths among the bottom two billion people.

• The course’s second component will focus on workable solutions. If poverty is the cause of chronic hunger and poor health, how might this be resolved? Were the Millennium Goals focused on the wrong solutions? What is working and what is not?

Dr.  Jim Yung Kim, until recently head of Dartmouth College and now the 12th president of the World Bank, has often said that the response to hunger, poverty and lack of health care will define “the moral standing” of his generation. This course will focus on the defining edge of that moral response, and participants will be expected to identify and address its details. 

MALS 368

Seeing and Feeling in Early Modern Europe

Cultural Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Kristin O'Rourke

Early modern philosophical regimes of knowledge in Europe tend to revolve around two major senses: that of sight, and that of touch. For seventeenth-century French philosopher, René Descartes, for example, perception relies on the ability of the human eye to serve as a direct link between the exterior world and the interior subject (the soul). The desire to understand the ways in which the body perceives the senses and translates them into a basis for memory and knowledge is evident in the art, philosophy, and literature of the day. In this course, we will analyze works of art, literature, and philosophy from the 16th-18th centuries in England, France, Italy, and Germany, asking how aesthetic and materialist theories that emerge and take hold in the early modern period still shape modern understandings of the human and its relation to the world.

Exploring aesthetic reactions and writings on art and literature, we will investigate the idea of sensibility, perception and the senses, visual knowledge, and modes of feeling and knowing through sight and touch. Readings include selections from Diderot, Rousseau, Burke, Hogarth, Alberti, Leonardo, Vasari, Lessing, Jane Austen, Baudelaire, among others.

MALS 370

Practical Wisdom: Learning the moral skills to make tough decisions in uncertain times

Cultural Studies
Instructor: Ken Sharpe

The subject of this course is practical wisdom, the capacity to make difficult ethical choices. Aristotle called this human capacity phronesis and saw it as essential for doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. Throughout the course, we will be investigating five questions:

  1. What is practical wisdom?
  2. When and why do we need it?
  3. How do we learn practical wisdom?
  4. What institutional forces threaten practical wisdom?
  5. How can institutions be designed to encourage and nurture practical wisdom?

We will investigate these questions in several important domains in life - friendship, education, work, medicine, and family. Because practical wisdom is learned by reflecting on our own practices and experiences, we will rely heavily on stories about your own experiences that you will write and present in light of the theory and cases we read. Improving our own skills in reflective practice will also be encouraged by the format of the class which will rely on well-informed and thoughtful discussion in a seminar format.

We will also investigate these questions more theoretically in an effort to develop a solid understanding of what makes wisdom or judgment a crucial component of our lives. Throughout the course, we will be contrasting decision-making that depends on practical wisdom with decision making that depends on following various kind of rules or responding to external rewards and punishments.

This will be an interdisciplinary course with readings drawn from philosophy, ethics, literature, psychology, education, and sociology. Prior knowledge of these fields is not a prerequisite. We will frequently be joined by guests from other departments and from the Medical School.