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

Description

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.

Goals

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.

Materials

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 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 207

Literary Journalism

Creative Writing
Instructor: Tom Zoellner

This course is aimed at those who want to develop their skills in the practice of writing longform stories for magazines or literary journals. Crafting these narratives for magazines involves elements of storytelling similar to that used by a novelist or cinematographer: characters, setting, plot development and mood. The writer continually asks tough questions and tests artistic approaches as she pursues a story to its end.

Classroom instruction will include the fundamentals of longform journalism, including the mechanics of pitching an idea and working with an editor. A third of the class time will be devoted to the examination of acclaimed published works. The balance 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 a substantial magazine piece of cover-story length demonstrating the basics of story-finding, reporting, interviewing, narrative architecture and revision. The finished project should be considered "ready for publication" by a quality outlet.

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

Screenwriting

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 229

Writing Formal Poems: Exploring Form and Function in Poetry

Creative Writing
Instructor: Rena J. Mosteirin

How do great poets utilize form to convey meaning in poetry? In this class we will learn the rudiments of popular poetic methods and forms, read formal poetry, and write our own formal poems. We will be looking at how the form a poem takes can heighten the effect of or lend strength to the function of the poem. This is not a workshop, nor is it an essay-writing class for poets. All of the assignments are poems that attempt to follow formal rules, exploring the ways in which form strengthens function.

Class time will be spent reading and analyzing poems written by poets who have demonstrated mastery in a form. All of the assignments will be creative writing projects in which students attempt to master the form we are working with in class that week. Student poems will be submitted each week and revised for the final portfolio, which will be turned in on the last day of class. We will discuss revision strategies as the class goes forward, working toward three successive revisions of each poem for the final portfolio. This portfolio of revised formal poems will be in place of a final paper or exam.

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 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 249

Race, Empire, Capital

Cultural Studies
Instructor: Nancy Fraser

Capitalism has always been entangled with imperialism and racism. Yet this entanglement has puzzled those who view it as an economic system whose single-minded focus on maximizing profit should blind it to “racial and national differences.” In this seminar, we assume an alternative view of capitalism as an institutionalized social order that is structurally primed to divide populations by nation and race. Surveying efforts to integrate Marxism, critical race theories, and theories of imperialism/colonialism/postcolonialism, we explore the hypothesis that the nexus of capitalism, race, and empire is not contingent, but structural. Reading of texts by, e.g., Marx, Lenin, Luxemburg, C.L.R. James, W.E.B. Du Bois, Eric Williams, Oliver Cromwell Cox, Albert Memmi, Frantz Fanon, Hannah Arendt, Amilcar Cabral, Samir Amin, Immanuel Wallerstein, Giovanni Arrighi, Stuart Hall, Walter Rodney, Angela Davis, Barbara Fields, Cedric Robinson, Cornel West, Gayatri Spivak, Anne McClintock, Ellen Meiksins Wood, David Harvey and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.

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 290

Borders & Boundaries: Race, Gender, and the Human

Cultural Studies or Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Regine Rosenthal

As a primary line of inquiry, this course will focus on the question of erecting, crossing and/or transcending borders and boundaries in relation to race, gender, and the human. To that purpose it will critically address and theorize the more recent tendency to cross borders in a way that runs counter to the constraints implied in traditional models of race and gender. More specifically, 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, boundaries, and contemporary social implications as well as the issues of exclusion and inclusion, the third space, post-colonialism and the ideology & policy of race/racism in texts by Frantz Fanon, minority literature, W.E. DuBois and gendered slave and lynching narratives. As a third aspect of questioning borders, it will explore the aspect of the human - both in and beyond its relation to race and gender, and the concurrent dehumanizing effect of racism - in texts by Hannah Arendt on human rights vs civil rights and crimes against humanity as well as Jacques Derrida and Giorgio Agamben on man vs. animal, sovereign power and bare life.

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 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 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.

SEMINAR REQUIREMENTS

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 366.02

Race and Power: Reading African American Literature through Relational Sociology

Cultural Studies, Single-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructor: Christa Buschendorf, Harris Professor

Why is it, we will ask with French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, “that the established order, with its relations of domination, its rights and prerogatives, privileges and injustices, ultimately perpetuates itself so easily”? This seminar will pose Bourdieu’s seminal question, which is at the core of his sociology of power, with regard to Black lives as represented in the fiction of two major Black writers of the twentieth century, Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison. Focusing on various Bourdieusian concepts (e.g. “habitus,” “field,” “capital,” “symbolic violence”) as well as on the Frankfurt School concept of “recognition,” we will discuss their potential to explain the longevity of racial suppression and discrimination. Exploring the theoretical validity of these concepts and testing their applicability to fiction, our major literary texts will be the classic novels Invisible Man (1952) and The Bluest Eye (1970).

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 369

Writing Nature: Stories and Reflection, Inside and Out

Creative Writing or Team-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructors: Barbara Kreiger and Anna Minardi

This course is aimed at those with a special interest in exploring their relationship with the natural world through short pieces or longer narratives. Why do we say we “go into” nature when we’re leaving our urban, suburban, or interior spaces? How far do we have to go before we’ve “arrived”? Can we stay where we are, gaze out the window, remember, imagine, wonder? What happens when we look down at stones or up at stars? What is the difference between grand vistas and commonplace ones? Or those that are new and those that are familiar? In other words, what does our relationship rely on, how does it shift, and what does it tell us. And because this is a creative writing course, the question of how we make our experience accessible to others is crucial, so we’ll address the story itself, style, voice, and the use of reflection as we consider what is probably an evolving or shifting relationship with previously unarticulated aspects of experience. The course is called “Writing Nature,” not “Nature Writing,” to remove the implicit hyphen that suggests a genre and emphasizes the inquiry that writing offers us. A broad selection of readings will include works of well known writers and others less well known but no less intuitively linked to the world we inhabit.

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.

MALS 371

Reading Ourselves, Reading Others: How Medical Humanities Prepares Clinicians (and the rest of us) to Co-create Better Health Care

Cultural Studies or Team-taught Interdisciplinary
Instructors: Ken Sharpe and Kathy Kirkland

At the heart of health care are relationships—between and among doctors, nurses, other team members, patients, their families, and community members.  Without effective relationships, scientific knowledge and medical skills alone are less likely to bring about better health. Some of the elements necessary to relationship-building include perceptiveness, imagination, reflectiveness, empathy, compassion, patience, resilience, and perhaps most fundamentally, good listening and good talking. 

This course uses the lens of “the humanities” to explore a range of critical themes and tensions in health care for those who will to enter health care as professional practitioners and those who will experience it as patients or as family caregivers.  We will develop and practice some of the skills and behaviors needed to engage effectively and compassionately with others. 

Texts used for these sessions will be drawn from literature, poetry, ethics, art, psychology, medical texts, medical records, and other sources.  Students will be encouraged to be curious about the perspectives of others, to tolerate ambiguity, to deepen their self-knowledge, to reflect and deliberate well about complex situations.  Throughout the course, narrative exercises during each session will offer students the opportunity to develop and practice skills in close reading and reflective writing, and in how to notice what is important in the stories we are constantly told and tell.  

The course is co-designed and co-taught by a palliative care physician with experience in narrative medicine and a philosopher with experience in receiving health care and examining it through the lens of the humanities.