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Spring 2011 Courses

Spring 2011 Courses

MALS. 70100 – Narratives of New York: Literature and the Visual Arts
GC: M, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Singer, [14280]

Stephen Crane, Edith Wharton, Weegee, Diane Arbus, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, and Tony Kushner … this course will explore the work of these artists, among others, as each envisions critically significant representations of New York City–its people, places, and history–in various narrative forms. Particular attention will be given to evaluating the manner in which literature interrelates with film and other visual media and how each venue reflects cultural and historical ideologies. For example, what makes a text a “New York” narrative? Do literary and visual narratives mirror the city’s psyche, or serve to analyze it in penetrating ways?

This course is designed to provide students with an introduction to reading texts and works of art critically, from a variety of perspectives, as well as to relevant theoretical discourses.

MALS. 70500 – Early Modern/Renaissance English Lyric Poetry
GC: T, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Majeske, [14281] Cross listed with ENGL 71100 & WSCP 81000

After a period of neglect, scholars are once again focusing upon early modern/Renaissance lyric poetry. A wide array of theoretical issues accompanies this resurgence, including, of course, whether a rigorous theoretical approach to these texts is even appropriate in light of the announcement of the “death of theory” (surely premature) and the markedly intentionalistic poetics that characterize the early modern/Renaissance English lyric. We will consider, among other things, how the lyric reacts to the movement away from a humanistic understanding of the self/world to a more Protestant one (a la Luther’s aphorism “Reason is the devil’s whore”), and how this movement is captured and advanced especially in texts such as Sidney’s “Defense of Poetry”. We will also explore how many modern interpretations have tended to read/interpret the era’s poetry in the context of the religious and political conflicts ahead of the Civil War. We will also touch upon the subtle but complex issues of gender and sexuality that arise in the sonnet sequences and elsewhere, issues which have been illuminated especially in the “feminist” re-readings of this overwhelmingly male literary canon.

MALS. 70800 – Transformations of Modernity, 1914-Present
GC: W, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Kaye, [14282]

This course explores the intellectual and cultural phenomenon of modernism and postmodernism as it considers the relation between both in Europe and America. We will begin with the brilliant outpouring of modernist work in the literary achievement of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Rainer Maria Rilke, Joseph Conrad, and James Joyce, the visual innovations of Picasso and Matisse, the discordant music of Igor Stravinsky and Richard Strauss, the philosophical writings of Henri Bergson, and the psychological breakthroughs of Sigmund Freud. Suddenly “difficulty,” fragmentation, and a heightened anti-realist subjectivity are given a high premium in all of the arts. We will consider, too, the impact of the First World War not only in generating new modes of thought and expression, but in reviving older traditions, beliefs, and models (in the return to classicism in the arts, for example, and the popularity of spiritualism as a way of communicating with the dead). We will trace the avant-garde’s shift from Paris and London to New York, in the aftermath of World War II, as Abstract Expressionism becomes dominant. With a reading of Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” we will examine how moral and political certainties have been upturned by totalitarianism, as the “banality” of bureaucrats supplants an earlier epoch’s “radical evil.” As the class turns to the anti-humanist challenge of postmodernism to modernism’s claims of universality and radical breakthrough, we will investigate the writings of such diverse thinkers as Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, and Rosalind Krauss. Finally, we will consider the recent fiction of novelists such as Don DeLillo, Alan Hollinghurst, and Susan Daitch for questioning the conventions of narrative. We will consider two films—Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt,” which contrasts contemporary despair, mass culture, and personal betrayal with an exalted epic Homeric past, and Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Conformist,” which offers a psychological rationale for fascism. Among the works we will read: Eliot, “The Waste Land,” Conrad, “Heart of Darkness,” Woolf, “Jacob’s Room,” Joyce, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Meyer Schapiro, “Modern Art,” Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters,” Sontag, “On Photography,” Krauss, “The Myth of the Avant-Garde,” Robert Venturi, “Learning from Los Vegas,” DeLillo, “White Noise.”

MALS. 71000 – Forms of Life Writing
GC: W, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Levin, [14283]

This course focuses on life writing in three major genres–memoir, autobiography, and biography–concentrating on work produced since the beginning of the twentieth century. We will look more closely at form and technique than content, although we will examine at how the content is related to form. How, for example, is it possible to portray the interaction of events in the life of a creative individual (e.g. painter, photographer, film director, actor, composer, poet, novelist) and the resulting production of that person? We will study each author’s method, asking what makes a work succeed and become a classic. We will also consider how biography functions in film, both documentaries and Hollywood features. Occasional visits by guest authors will contribute to the class. Students will write brief weekly response papers for most of the semester and submit a longer paper before the final class.

MALS. 71500 – Critical Issues in International Studies
GC: T, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Torpey [14674] Cross listed with SOC 81004 – Comparative Historical Sociology [14984]

This course introduces students to developments in the field of comparative historical sociology. We will focus on approaches to making sense of major social change in the areas of religion, state formation, the uses of physical violence, revolution, and economic change. Readings will be substantial and will range widely across time and place, as befits a course with these aims. We will emphasize especially major turning points and transformations in human history.

MALS. 72200 – Studies in Gender and Sexuality
GC: R, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Brim, [14285]

This is a course about theories of gender and sexuality. It will analyze what it means to be a woman, a man, or some other kind of gender in the United States and elsewhere, as well as what it means to be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer. The class will investigate how the distinct but often problematically related categories of gender and sexuality came to be and how they have changed over time to include or exclude people on the basis of race, class, age, and ability. The course will look at women, men, and transgendered individuals in a number of contexts, paying special attention to issues of embodiment and desire, as well as to political activism and theoretical futures.

MALS. 73200 – American Social Institutions
GC: W, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Burke, [14286]

The purposes of this interdisciplinary course are three. First, it will examine a wide range of original source materials, from the late eighteenth through the late twentieth centuries, which have featured prominently in classic and contemporary analyses of American society and culture. Second, it will introduce class members to emerging online and interactive new media resources in American Studies. Finally, it will encourage students to develop and enhance their skills in doing cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research.

MALS. 74300 – Medical Ethics
Sinai: M, 5:45-7:45p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Baumrin, [14287] Cross listed with PHIL 77900.

MALS. 77300 – History of the Cinema II
GC: T, 11:45 a.m.-3:45 p.m., Rm. C419, 3 credits, Prof. Gerstner, [14288] Cross listed with ART 79500, THEA 71600 & FSCP 81000.

The film industry finds its beginnings through the development of late nineteenth-century technologies. As the twentieth-century industrial art, the cinema’s unique quality to record a moving image forever changed the way we perceive the world.

At the same time, the cinema—as a technological wonder—maintained close ties to the traditional arts (painting, theater, literature). While first thought of as a scientific tool, the cinema soon became popularly recognized as one of “the seven lively arts.”

We will trace these historical relationships between creativity and technology by not only exploring the “canon” of film history but also investigating the social, creative, and ideological (gender, class, race, nation) arenas in which film is/was produced.

In this course, then, we explore the creative and economic practices of world film industries from 1927-1960. We consider the structure of the dominant mode of film production (i.e. Hollywood) in relationship to other world cinemas, and the empirical “facts” that put in motion the film industry.

More importantly, you will complete your own research using archives around the city to write new histories. Used copies of the course textbook, Robert Allen and Douglas Gomery’s Film History: Theory and Practice, are available at The course reader will be available for purchase online from