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Course Schedule

SPRING 2017 COURSE DESCRIPTIONS 
 
MALS 70000 - Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, CRN # 35161
"Waste Matters: Economy, Ecology, and the Cultures of Trash​"
M, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Christopher C. Schmidt 

In his book Garbage, the poet A.R. Ammons writes, “Garbage has to be the poem of our time because / garbage is spiritual, believable enough / to get our attention.” It’s true that garbage, trash, waste and pollution are increasingly prevalent concerns in a culture riveted by ecological and economic damage. But before we demonize waste outright, let’s pause and consider what it means to assign the negative value of “waste” to an object or even a class of persons. By looking at the symbolic and real uses of waste, this class will make a survey of the burgeoning field of “dirt studies” as a way of exploring different disciplinary frameworks within Liberal Studies, including art history, economics, anthropology, ecocriticism, and literary studies. We'll read Mary Douglas, Julia Kristeva, Vinay Gidwani, Timothy Morton, Jane Bennett, Eve Sedgwick, Italo Calvino, Hilda Hilst, Samuel Delany, and other critics, poets, and artists. Students will present on a text in class and compose a final essay or digital project.


MALS 70000 - Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, CRN # 35162
“Finding Our Own Subjects: An Institutional Field Guide”
W, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. David T. Humphries

What should form the topic of an introductory graduate course?  Investigating that question together and reflecting on our own goals will form the initial groundwork for our course. Our responses will be informed, in part, by a comment that Leonard Cassuto includes near the end of his recent book on graduate school, when it is suggested that “the subject of the graduate core should be the history of higher education.” In order to get some insights into that history, we will examine a few foundational texts and figures, including The Emergence of the American University and the peculiar career of its author Laurence R. Veysey.  Once we establish some historical and institutional context for the course, we will move thorough clusters of readings that introduce foundational critical texts and methodologies largely drawn from recent debates in American Studies, allowing for a number of disciplinary perspectives.  For example, we will have a unit on technology and community which will include Walter Benjamin’s “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, and Tim Wu’s The Master Switch:  The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.  Other units will focus on questions of periodization and spatial imagination and are likely to include a consideration of Willa Cather’s novel A Lost Lady in terms of the way that it performs history and gender and a consideration of Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic and Lisa Lowe’s The Intimacies of Four Continents as entry points into questions of national and transnational identities and representations.  There will space for students to propose their own readings, and there will be regular short writing pieces throughout the term, covering a number of academic genres and involving some shared workshopping.

MALS 70100 - Narratives of New York: Antiquity in Gotham, CRN # 35163
R, 4:15 - 6:15 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Elizabeth Macaulay Lewis [Crosslisted with ASCP 82000)

As the quintessentially modern metropolis, New York City is often defined by the skyscrapers that dominate its skyline. Towering office buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens–offer an easy metaphor for the city’s self-conscious striving, technological progress, and financial power. Yet underneath and, in a sense, undergirding the imposing high-rises are many older, usually squatter, more classically inspired buildings and public monuments. This interdisciplinary course explores how antiquity—primarily the art, archaeology, and architecture of Classical Antiquity, Ancient Egypt, and the Ancient Near East—influenced the architecture of New York City, from the city’s inception to the present day. Specifically, this course considers why American patrons, architects, and city planners re-interpreted, modified, and deployed ancient forms in the construction of major buildings and monuments in New York City by examining the built environment, as well as architectural texts, literature, and art.  The course introduces students to reception studies, its theoretical framework and methodologies. This course uses New York City as a classroom to explore and understand the influence that ancient civilizations exerted on New York’s architecture and which resulted in the creation of many of New York City’s iconic buildings, such as Grand Central Terminal and the New York Stock Exchange, to the forgotten masterpieces, such as the Gould Library. The course is composed of a series of seminars that will meet at the Graduate Center and walking seminars where the class will visit specific monuments and buildings.

MALS 70500 - Classical Culture, CRN # 35164
R, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Marie C. Marianetti

The course will be a survey of selected pieces of ancient literature and legend  that have subsequently influenced Western civilization.  The chosen literary works will be analyzed from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining literature, history, archaeology, religion, culture, politics and philosophy. Certain  universal issues will be considered as they are conveyed through the literary genres. The class will concentrate upon a thorough examination and discussion of the following primary sources: The Epic of Gilgamesh, Hesiod's Theogony, Homer's Odyssey, Aeschylus' Oresteia, Sophocles' Oedipus Cycle (the Theban plays), Euripides'  Iphigeneia in Aulis,  Aristophanes' The Clouds, Plato's Apology and Symposium and Virgil's Aeneid.

MALS 70900 - Approaches to Life Writing, CRN # 35276
W, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Annalyn Swan

Ever since Plutarch brought Alexander the Great blazingly to life in his seminal Lives (2nd century CE), people have loved to read—and write—biographies. Approaches to Life Writing will be an exploration of the art and craft of the genre. What do great biographies and autobiographies have in common—and how do they differ? How are scenes set, facts organized, context provided? How novelistic can a biography be? And is there, finally, such a thing as “truth” in biography or autobiography, or a “definitive” account?  From biography as gossipy inside edition (Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson), to biography as irreverent debunking (Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians), to biography as detective story (A.J.A. Symons’ Quest for Corvo), to life-writing at its most personal and poetic (Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood), we will explore the many ways a writer can tease out the “figure in the carpet,” as Leon Edel, the great biographer of Henry James, put it. But this is also a course about practicing the art ourselves. For the final paper, everyone will have the opportunity either to write an autobiographical chapter, or else research and write a chapter of a biography.  
 
MALS 71500 - Critical Issues in International Studies, CRN # 35172
T, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Cyril Obi

MALS 72200 - Contemporary Feminist Theories, CRN # 35165
R, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Jean Halley

This course explores Contemporary Feminist Theories through feminist work regarding “bodies with gender.”  We investigate what it means to “have gender,” and to for example “be female,” with a focus on the United States.  We consider central contemporary feminist theories on differences and similarities in the experiences of women and other gendered bodies across lines of race, class, sexuality and ability.  We examine how gender defines human experiences and how feminists resist these definitions.  Our focus emulates what Sigmund Freud once called the central arenas of human life, love and work.  We explore contemporary feminist theories on what it means to be a gendered body at work, and to have gender in love, as well as violence in the lives of gendered bodies, particularly queer bodies and those gendered female.  We also investigate the representation of women and gender in the larger culture.  In Contemporary Feminist Theories, we make use of a variety of texts in exploring seminal feminist thinking on: the “nature” of gender, race, class, sexuality and ability; love, sexuality and violence; so-called women’s work; the expectations “experts” have of diversely gendered bodies; and the representation of gender in the mass media.

MALS 72500 - Narratives of Science and Technology: Literature and The Visual Arts, CRN # 35277
M, 4:15 - 6:15 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Robert Singer

From Dr. Jekyll’s hidden laboratory, to Dr. Strangelove’s doomsday scenario, images of the scientist, science, and technology, as they are represented in film and literature, argue as signifying spectacles. This three credit interdisciplinary course will examine representations of science and technology in multiple film and literary narratives. Students will evaluate how these narratives reinforce or question modern and contemporary paradigms of science and technology, as each strategizes the concept of progress. The films and literature studied in this course are drawn from various genre, and not just science fiction. Students will be introduced to critical film and literary theory and related criticism, as well as engage in close study of primary, interdisciplinary texts. In particular, the course will discuss the role of the scientific and technological as spectacle, and the way in which notions of progress are both “real” and “reel” spaces of twentieth and twenty first century life. Reading assignments are given for every class, and students may present an in-class report for credit. There is a final research paper (approximately 15--18 pages) due at the end of the semester.

MALS 72800  Ecological and Social Theories of Human Behavior, CRN # 35753
T, 2:00 - 4:00 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Susan Saegert [Crosslisted with PSYC 79102]

The overall objective of the course is for each student to develop a reasoned and reasonably satisfying answer to the following question: How is the psychologically experienced self related to the social and physical context?
 
Achieving this objective requires answering another question: What is the unit of analysis of psychology? Some of the positions prominent in psychology assume the answer would be either particular psychological processes or the biological substrate/determinants of experience and behavior.  This course introduces an alternative approach in which we see selves as socially and materially contingent and knowledge of selves as contingent.  In the latter approach a student must develop an answer to the question “Contingent in what way?”
 
The second learning objective is to come to an understanding for yourself of the goals of psychological knowledge.   There are many contenders for this crown in psychology including: prediction and control, valid description, consciousness raising, mental and physical health improvement, resolution of social problems, and social justice to name a few.  This course explores the contingency of goals of psychology as well as of psychological processes.
 
A third learning objective is for you to build on the knowledge you are developing in your methods and ethics course to understand how these goals are best achieved.
 
A final learning objective is to help you develop your scholarly craft.  The steps in this involve learning the following:
  1. How to read theoretical material (somewhat quickly)
  2. How to paraphrase an argument in a non-distorting way
  3. How to critique an argument
  4. How to make an argument
  5. How to improve your writing

MALS 73200 - American Social Institutions, CRN # 35166
"The Rise and Fall of Prison in the United States"
R, 4:15 - 6:15 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Lucia Trimbur [Crosslisted with ASCP 81000]

Today in the United States, seven million adults are under custodial supervision–in prisons and jails or on probation and parole. More African American adults are under this system of control than were enslaved in 1850. In some postindustrial cities, young black men are more likely to be in prison than are able to access wage labor or enroll in high school and higher education. And the US currently incarcerates more people than any country in the world. Though many argue that crime, or what Nils Christie called, “unwanted social acts,” is responsible for this expansion of imprisonment, crime rates fell as incarceration rose. How do we explain this dramatic shift?
The expansion of prisoners is often referred to as the “prison industrial complex,” and increasingly scholars locate its roots in the long-standing anti-black racism of slavery that continued through Jim Crow and urban segregation. This course examines the prison industrial complex from its beginnings in slavery through to our contemporary moment of mass incarceration. We will consider the relationship of the prison industrial complex to other US institutions as well as whether or not our current patterns of imprisonment and punishment are a new expression of older systems of racial capitalism or something different. We start by examining the role of punishment during plantation slavery and move to other serious penalties, such as convict leasing and the penitentiary. Then we move to the rise of the carceral state in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, paying special attention to the role of political change and economic transformation in driving prison expansion. We conclude by alternatives to the prison.

MALS 73500 - African Diaspora, CRN # 35275
W, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Rm. TBA,  Prof. Herman L. Bennett [Crosslisted with HIST 76000 and AFCP 73100]

By employing the heuristic concept of diaspora—and specifically the African diaspora—this course focuses on the analytical work generated by studying cultures of movement.  As scholars, we might begin by asking whether diaspora complicates our understanding of disciplinary formations—including the normative assumptions that inform the study of society and culture.  How does diaspora, for instance, enhance our perspectives on imperial, colonial, national and post-colonial formations and the ways in which they have been historically represented?  In utilizing the prism of diaspora, we confront the politics of representation through which scholars render meaning out of the past and present.  For this reason, diaspora like other categories of analysis engages the vexed terrain of representation whereby scholars frame the subject of their inquiries.
Diaspora brings into relief many of the principle categories and themes informing the social and human sciences.  It de-naturalizes many of the foundational assumptions on which contemporary social theory rests.  For this reason, we will route our conversations and readings through some of the central concepts defining social theory (state, nation, society, sovereignty, difference, stratification, race, ethnicity, religion, and culture) so as to discern how diaspora might trouble existing forms of knowledge bequeathed to us by the Renaissance, Enlightenment and Liberalism.
On a practical professional level, the course serves as a graduate-level introduction to diasporas in general but the African diaspora in particular.  Scholarship on this subject along with its development over time and in distinct settings (the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, England and Continental Europe) introduces us to the historical profession and professionalism.  For this reason, we will devote significant time focusing and discussing how various scholars have framed and approached their scholarly projects.  Since the African diaspora as a field of study constitutes a relatively novel endeavor, most of the readings draw on works from the last few years.  While this conveys a sense of where the field is presently at it also serves to delineate how the African diaspora draws and builds on early forms of inquiry (the history of colonial expansion, the history of slavery and freedom, the history of racial formation, etc.)  Over the semester we will constantly need to ask what defines an inquiry, an approach or a perspective as diasporic in scope.  In doing so, we will necessarily focus on an earlier body of scholarship that was associated with different fields of inquiry (slavery, race relations, African Studies, Brazilian history, the study of religion, English Cultural Studies).

MALS 74400 - From Alexander to Mohammed: Introduction to the Culture of the Ancient Mediterranean, CRN # 35167
T, 4:15 - 6:15 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Anna A. Akasoy [Crosslisted with MES 73900]


Classical Greek culture is often seen as an exclusively Western European heritage. This course, taught in English translation, offers an introduction to the profound impact of Greek civilization in the Middle East and Asia and the cultural, political and economic dynamics behind this development, focusing on Alexander the Great as a historical figure and as a legend. We will begin with the conquests of Alexander the Great and his successor states and the Graeco-Buddhist art of Gandhara as an early example. We will then focus on examples from the medieval Middle East such as Greek art in the Umayyad desert castles, the translation of Greek philosophy and science into Arabic and subsequent developments in both areas, the Alexander legend in the Qur’an and in Arabic and Persian biographies.
 

MALS 75500 - Digital Humanities: Methods and Practices, CRN # 35168
W, 4:15 - 6:15 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Lisa Rhody

MALS 77500 - Global Cities, CRN # 35170
M, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. David Halle

Global Cities seeks to understand the politics, economics, social, and cultural  life of  today’s urban-mega centers.  We will study innovation and job creation, neighborhood life including integration and segregation, housing including the “affordable housing” and “homeless” crises; the rise and decline of  urban “ghettos”,  the waxing and waning of the suburbs, education, political incorporation, crime and police-community relations, architecture and “starchitects”, ethnic and racial relations, immigration including Europe’s current refugee crisis, religious diversity, inequality, finance and banking, cultural institutions such as museums and art galleries, environmental issues including threats such as global warming and flooding as well as opportunities to make cities “greener”, urban riots, and terrorism.  We will focus especially on New York, Los Angeles, and London, but draw examples from many other global cities. The course complements International Migration (MALS 77400) by seeking to understand the global urban context to which so many international migrants are drawn.

MALS 78500 - Latin American Studies, CRN # 35169
R, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Patricia Tovar

This seminar surveys five centuries of Latin American history, culture and politics from an interdisciplinary perspective, and introduces students to some of the most important issues, problems and debates in the region at large and the sub-regions within it. The course explores the rich diversity of peoples, geographies and histories that distinguish the region, and the experiences that have shaped it. By looking at the symbolic and political configurations of the region through a wide spectrum of materials (film, music, art, fiction, essays, and photography), students will think critically about major landmarks in the field of Latin American studies including the legacy of European colonialism, national fictions, modernity, social movements, conflict, memory, gender politics, religious beliefs, and the ways race, class, and gender intersect.

At the same time, students will examine various theoretical frameworks to approach the study of Latin America, including literary studies, linguistics, history, political science, sociology and anthropology. A chronological and thematic approach will give attention to the enduring legacies and challenges from the pre-Columbian era, the Spanish colonies, the nineteenth-century processes of independence, the emergence of the new nation-states, and the overall development of modern Latin American societies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

MALS 78900 - Childhood and Youth Studies: Approaches and Methods, CRN # 35171
R, 4:15 - 6:15 PM, Rm. TBA, Prof. Colette Daiute [Crosslisted with PSYC 80103]

This course in Childhood and Youth Studies allows for an in-depth focus on the interaction of problem, theory and method, with sustained attention to the ways in which researchers in the field frame research investigations, develop research questions, design, implement, and report their studies. Students engage with the history and contemporary study of children, childhood and adolescence as defined and supported in organizations and collectives of human development (education, family, social welfare, community organizations, children’s rights), public media (children’s literature, broadcast, digital media), and research settings.  The course encompasses sociocultural approaches to childhood/youth, field-based studies with young people encountering various kinds of challenges, opportunities, interventions (educational, community, civic, etc.), and policies. Methods and measures addressed include ethnography/participant observation, narrative, interactive digital storytelling, conversations with and among children, participatory-action research, play- and arts-based approaches, and archival research across a variety of global settings.  Course activities involve reading research articles, discussing the articles with a focus on method, and applying practices and insights to students’ research projects and interests. Each week, the readings introduce a challenge to childhood/youth development, opportunity, intervention approach, research model, and methods for consideration. Weekly guiding questions integrate the readings toward scholarly and activist research. Several guest speakers who are experts in specific areas of child/youth research will present their work and join us to discuss readings, ideas, and issues.