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Approaches to Modernity


MALS students take four classes within the program—Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, two core courses in their chosen track, and the thesis—and choose their remaining electives from among courses offered across the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and the Humanities at the Graduate Center.


MALS Track in Approaches to/Transformations of Modernity


When was it that people first had the sense of living in new and different times— Modern Times? Charlie Chaplin’s famous 1936 film of that name suggests one answer, but scholars have different view of the beginning of modernity. Some recall the journalism and novels of the early eighteenth century, while others go back much further, and refer to what we used to call “the Renaissance” as the “Early Modern” period. Cultural historians invoke Wordsworth on the French Revolution: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive”; art historians date the dawn to Paris in the 1860s, when Manet and his followers took to painting modern life. Was it modernity or modernism that dramatically emerged at a certain moment on or about December 1910, when according to Virginia Woolf human nature changed? Or did the shift occur deliberately, when his fellow poets followed W.C. Wiliams’s injunction to “Make it new”? Students in the MALS Track in Modernity consider the differences and similarities between modernity and modernism–and post-modernism as well—as they pursue a rich variety of graduate courses in literature, history, art history, film studies, sociology and other disciplines.

Degree Requirements

This Master's degree program requires the following coursework for a total of 30 credits:

  • A required introductory course [MALS 70000: Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, 3 credits].
  • Two required core courses to introduce students to Africana Studies [MALS 70700 and MALS 70800, 3 credits each].
  • 18 credits from courses of the student's choice.
  • master's thesis [MALS 79000, 3 credits].

Core Courses

  • MALS 70700 The Shaping of Modernity, 1789-1914
  • MALS 70800 Transformations of Modernity, 1914-present

Elective Courses

Electives can be chosen among courses offered across most of the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and Humanities at the Graduate Center.
For related coursework in Africana Studies, students may look to offerings in the certificate programs in Africana Studies and Women's Studies and the doctoral programs in English, Comparative Literature, and History.


MALS faculty associated with this track:

Other GC faculty associated with this track:

Questions about the MALS track in Approaches to Modernity may be directed to