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Spring 2012 Courses

Spring 2012 Courses

Learning how to read and write at the graduate level means learning how to identify, analyze, and participate in different disciplinary conversations.   The goal of this course is to introduce students to these conversations by studying the scholarship on the secretarial profession.   At the beginning of the twentieth century, becoming a secretary was the career of choice for ambitious women from rural and immigrant backgrounds. Becoming a secretary offered an opportunity to figure out how to become urban, professional, American, and middle-class woman.   We will explore the way scholars from different disciplines understand this transformation and, in the process, develop our own self-awareness as writers and intellectuals who have something to contribute.


MALS 70000 – Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies
GC:   T, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. 6494, 3 credits, Rachel Brownstein, [17825]  

This course will introduce students to critical thinking and techniques of academic research and writing, as well as to the languages and methods of a variety of disciplines and kinds of interdisciplinary study.  Guest lecturers and readings by, e.g., Alan Bennett, Sven Birkerts, Natalie Zemon Davis, Evelyn Fox-Keller, Carlo Ginzburg, Michel Foucault, Virginia Woolf, and John Ruskin will introduce students to a spectrum of arguments, approaches, and prose styles. We will consider ways of reading and writing and arguments about books, the disciplines, and education. Students will become familiar with the library and data bases and genres of academic writing, such as the short summary, the more extended analysis, the conference paper, the annotated bibliography, the prospectus, and the thesis.


MALS 70100 – Narratives of New York:
Ancient Forms in New Worlds: The History and Archaeology of the Classical World in New York City
GC:   R, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. 7395, 3 credits, Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis, [17831] Cross listed with CLAS 74300 

This course introduces students to the critical issues and debates in the study of classical architecture and its reception through the lens of classically-inspired architecture of New York City. Specifically, this course considers major Greco-Roman building types and considers how and why American patrons, architects, and city planners re-interpreted, modified and deployed Greco-Roman forms in the construction of major buildings and monuments in New York City. The course also serves as an introduction to reception studies, its theories and methodologies. In this course, we will attempt to understand why Grand Central Station, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library, Grant’s Tomb, and other structures, drew upon Classical Architecture. This course uses New York City as a classroom to explore and understand Classical Architecture and the important role that Classical civilization has played in shaping New York’s architectural history. Comparative examples from other American and European cities will also be included in the discussions when appropriate.

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 in order to learn how to study and look at buildings.


MALS 70400 – Cultural Studies and the Law:
Nonviolence and Social Movements in 20th-Century America: A Conversation
GC:   R, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Robert Wechsler/Chris Caruso/ William Kelly [17844] Cross listed with ASCP 81500

The subject of the course is the centrality of nonviolence to the success of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the American South.   The course will focus on the Civil Rights Movement–how nonviolence, sometimes as a core philosophical tenet and sometimes with pragmatic appreciation of what would work, was employed to resist and eventually break the Jim Crow conditions of the South. The course will include primary and secondary literature on topics including the Long Civil Rights Movement, nonviolence theory, and biographies of some of the movement’s leaders; it will also include original interviews with people who were there before Montgomery and beyond, including Staughton Lynd, James Lawson, Bob Moses and many of the volunteers who went South from 1960  through 1965. The course will also consider the relevance of nonviolence as a tool for solving today’s problems and look at 21st century cases.


MALS 70600 – Enlightenment and Critique
GC:   W, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. 7395, 3 credits, Sandi Cooper, [17827] 

Is the western world fated for decline? From Oswald Spengler in the 1920′s to the provocative Niall Ferguson, 2011, predictions of collapse of western civilization periodically grab headlines.

Is the western world the inimical enemy of Islam and do we live in a permanent battle ground of a “clash of cultures”? (Samuel Huntington)

Such assertions suggest that an exploration of what the concept of “western” means, how it evolved to assume its modern guise is in order.

This class will begin with readings describing the scientific revolution and the revolution in thinking in the 17-18th century, juxtaposed with the reality of popular culture and folk superstitions. It will move on to an exploration of the legacies that shaped “modernism” – for instance, the French Revolution legacy of liberty vs. equality; the application of the ideal of equality into socialism, especially the Marxian analysis; the demand to stretch freedom and equality to include women; the struggle to abolish warfare as a relic of an unenlightened past. Readings will come from primary documents and secondary analyses.


MALS 70800 – Transformations of Modernity:
Faking It: American Women Writers and the Masks of Modernism
GC:   W, 11:45 a.m.-1:45 p.m., Rm. 8203, 3 credits, Hildegard Hoeller, [17834] Cross listed with ENGL 88000, ASCP 81500 & WSCP 81000

Why did Nella Larsen–if she did–”plagiarize” a story by Sheila Kaye-Smith, and why did she also write under a pseudonym? Why did Zora Neale Hurston “plagiarize”–if she did–an article about Cudjoe Lewis from Southern writer Emma Langdon Roche and then expand the piece after? And what masks did she wear in her letters and autobiography? And why was Roche interested in representing Cudjoe’s story, the story of the last surving African slave, which Hurston and Roche has also wanted to represent? Why did, as Michael North notes in The Dialect of Modernism, editors check whether the writer of “Melanctha” was indeed Getrude Stein, a white woman, before they considered it a valuable piece of modernist writing in “black” voice? And why did now forgotten Pulitzer Prize winning author Julia Peterkin– a white Southern plantation owner who had also chased after Cudjoe’s story–write in “black” voice? Why did Edith Wharton in one of her late fictions reimagine her roots as potentially less white than always imagined? And how “real” is the immigrant voice of Anzia Yezierska’s immigrant narrative Breadwinners? In this seminar we will explore these questions in the works–essays, fiction, letters, autobiographies–of early 20th century women writers (such as Stein, Larsen, Hurston, Wharton, Faucet, Hurst, Yezierska, Peterkin, Roche), and we will pay attention to their manipulations of their texts and the reader/writer contract within the rich critical context of modernism’s use of modes and strategies such as collage, textual borrowing, translation, ethnography, folklore, masking, and primitivism.


MALS 71000 – Forms of Life Writing
GC:   M, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Rm. 5382, 3 credits, Ruth O’Brien, [17828] Cross listed with P SC 71903

This seminar explores different manifestations of storytelling as political performance, especially narrative, law, and contemporary political theory, with a particular eye to what is happening in the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) now.  Life writing is often done in “real” time, such as during this type of protest movement.
The main form of life writing that this seminar considers is storytelling, which uses fiction to reveal how laws and the public policies behind them — such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act (CRA) of 1964 — have been interpreted by the judiciary, and how its interpretation of these laws affects people’s daily lives.
Reading about someone’s experience in narrative form gives us a different vantage point than what a social-science monograph or data and statistics can provide. It underscores not only the magnitude and significance of topics studied by feminists (like patriarchy or sex discrimination) on an individual scale, but also the context and subtleties associated with these issues on a societal scale. It’s local, regional, and global all at once.
Narrative methodology does not make claims about universal truths or assert that there is only one way of “knowing about the world.” It accepts the subjectivity of the writer and the reader.  Narratives fulfill what feminist legal scholar Kathryn Abrams calls an “experiential epistemology.”
This seminar studies the different genres of storytelling and also acts as a workshop for each student’s artistic and activist expression (political performance), in terms of commentary (law), narrative, or both.  It focuses on life writing of populations that are vulnerable because of class, gender, sexuality, disability, or ethnic identities.


MALS 71500 – Critical Issues in International Studies:
African-American Writers Confront Africa and the Diaspora
GC:   W, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. 3209, 3 credits, Jerry Watts, [17830]

The course offers an in-depth overview of the ways in which twentieth-century Black American writers attempted to morally and politically engage the peoples and plight of the African Diaspora.  Some black writers confronted the African Diaspora in their roles as Christian missionaries.  Such figures included Alexander Crummell, a guiding influence on the young W.E. B. DuBois.  Crummell believed that black Americans could best help black Africa by elevating them culturally, i.e.: converting them to Christianity.  Despite his fondness for Crummell, W.E.B. DuBois believed that the drive to convert Africans to Christianity was but a handmaiden of European colonial domination.  As a consequence, DuBois became a major organizer in the struggle against European colonialization via his participation in various Pan-Africanist organizations.   Other black writers who supported an end to European colonial domination of Africa joined forces with the Garvey movement of the 1920s.  It was during the Harlem Renaissance that Countee Cullen penned his famous poem, “What is Africa to Me.”  Still others attached their names and creative products to radical anti-European colonial efforts coming out of England.  Figures such as Claude McKay, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston allowed their work to appear in Nancy Cunard’s famous anthology, Negro.  Hurston is unique in many ways for her outreach to the African Diaspora was premised on cultural exploration and exchange not advocacy of freedom from European colonial domination.  In Tell My Horse, Hurston offers a sympathetic if not reactionary and patronizing depiction of black life in Haiti and Jamaica.  Conversely, novelist Richard Wright was a staunch supporter of third world anti-colonialism.  In Black Power and The Color Curtain, Wright presented an anti-colonial thesis but one that did not validate traditional African cultures.  After all, Wright was a Marxist and though Marxists viewed capitalism as the primary “enemy”, they also believed that industrialization was the only road to progress.  We will study these writers and others in hopes of accessing the major ways in which black American writers confronted their ties to the African continent.    


MALS 72300 - Introduction to Gender and Sexuality Studies:  
GC:   W, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Rm. 8202, 3 credits, Robert Reid-Pharr, [17835]  

In this seminar we will continue the work of those scholars intent upon placing the many aesthetic/intellectual structures grouped under the label, “Modernism,” into their social and historical contexts.  Most specifically, we will examine the ways that Modernism in the United States has been both produced—and productive of—long established, if continually changing, discourses of race, class, gender, and nationality.  With particular emphasis on the writing of African American male modernists: Chester Himes, Claude McKay, and Wallace Thurman we will examine the many ways that questions surrounding masculinity and travel (particularly migration) are shot through the “Modernist project.”  Finally we will address the ways that the black female novelist, Nella Larsen, responded to and resisted the masculinist modes she encountered.  Students will be required to write three short (ten page) essays addressing three of the four authors whom we will examine.

Week I: Introduction

Week II: Mark Morrisson, “Nationalism and the Modern American Canon, “in Walter Kalaidjian, ed. The Cambridge Companion to American Modernism, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 12 – 35; Mark A. Sanders, “American Modernism and the New Negro Renaissance,” in Walter Kalaidjian, ed. The Cambridge Companion to American Modernism, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 129 – 156; Jed Rasula, “Jazz and American Modernism,” in Walter Kalaidjian, ed. The Cambridge Companion to American Modernism, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 157 – 176; Janet Lyon, “Gender and Sexuality,” in Walter Kalaidjian, ed. The Cambridge Companion to American Modernism, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 221 – 241.

Week III:  James Smethurst, The African American Roots of Modernism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

 Chester Himes

Week IV: Chester Himes, The Quality of Hurt: The Autobiography of Chester Himes, the Early Years (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1971).

Week V: Chester Himes, My Life of Absurdity: The Autobiography of Chester Himes, the Later Years (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1976).

Claude McKay

Week VI: Claude McKay, Home to Harlem (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1987).

Week VII: Claude McKay, Banjo (New York: Mariner Books, 1970).

Week VIII: Claude McKay,  A Long Way from Home (New York: Mariner Books, 1970).

 Wallace Thurman

 Week IX: Wallace Thurman, The Blacker the Berry, (New York: Dover, 2008).

Week: X: Wallace Thurman, Infants of the Spring (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1992).

Nella Larsen

Week XI: Thadious Davis, Nella Larsen, Novelist of the Harlem Renaissance: A Woman’s Life Unveiled (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994).

Week XII: Nella Larsen, Passing in The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen, Passing, Quicksand and the Stories (New York: Anchor, 2001).

Week XIII: Nella Larsen, Quicksand in The Complete Fiction of Nella Larsen, Passing, Quicksand, and the Stories.  (New York: Anchor, 2001).




MALS 73100- American Culture and Values:
Introduction to American Studies: Histories and Methods
GC:  W, 2:00-4:00 p.m., Rm. 4422, 3 credits, Kandice Chuh, [17255] Cross listed with ASCP 81000

This course is designed to provide entry to American studies, understood as an interdisciplinary academic field with attendant histories and methods. By collectively articulating its genealogies, students will work toward locating their individual critical interests and investments in relation to American studies.

What are the questions and issues animating American studies discourses? In what new directions should the field move? In what ways is interdisciplinarity central to both its major questions and its methods of pursuit? What does interdisciplinarity come to mean in and for American studies?

Anchoring texts for the course include Margo Canaday’s The Straight State; Alicia Camacho’s Migrant Imaginaries; Bethany Moreton’s To Serve God and Walmart; Ussama Makdisi’s Artillery of Heaven; Monique Truong’s Book of Salt; and Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler’s edited Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Other readings for the course will be made available on blackboard.

Students will be expected to write about 25-30 pages in total, distributed across two shorter and one longer assignment.


MALS 73200 – American Social Institutions
GC:   T, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Rm. 3306, 3 credits, Martin Burke, [17833]

The purposes of this interdisciplinary course are three. First, it will examine a wide range of original source materials which have featured prominently in classic and contemporary analyses of American society and culture. Second, it will introduce class members to recent scholarship on selected topics in American history and related social sciences (anthropology, political science, sociology) from the late eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries. Finally, it will encourage class members to become familiar with emerging online and interactive new media resources for doing advanced research in American cultural studies. Among the authors to be read are Thomas Jefferson, Alexis de Tocqueville, Edward Bellamy, W. E. B. DuBois, Jane Addams, Helen Lynd, C. Wright Mills, Michael Harrington, and Betty Friedan.


MALS 74300 – Bioethics: Policies and Cases
Autonomy and Liberty in Medicine
Sinai: T, 5:15-7:15 p.m., January 31 – May 22, 2011
3 credits, Rosamond Rhodes and Ian Holzman, [17843]  
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
1176 Fifth Avenue, 3rd Floor, Newborn Medicine Conference Room

The concepts of “autonomy” and “liberty” have a significant place in medical and research ethics.  In the clinical realm, autonomy is the central concept in our appreciation of informed consent for treatment and in the assessment of decisional capacity.  In the context of research, many people see informed consent as the central factor in determining the ethical acceptability or unacceptability of research.  In public policy, liberty is at issue in legislation requiring vaccination, quarantine, or reporting of infectious disease.  Infringements on liberty are also involved in legislation that imposes limitations on abortion and reproductive choices, in our regulation of therapeutic and recreational drugs, and in the prohibition of physician-assisted suicide.  

This course will begin with discussion of the recent Abigail Alliance cases that argued in terms of liberty and autonomy for the release of Phase I trial drugs for use by people with terminal illnesses.  We will then examine how the issues of liberty and autonomy arise in the context of contemporary bioethics debates over:  personal responsibility for health, public health efforts to promote good health, public health surveillance, assessment of decisional capacity in adults and children, justified paternalism, forced treatment and forced confinement, abortion, embryo selection, life extension, physician-assisted suicide, selling transplant organs, vaccination and infectious disease containment, newborn screening, and genetic testing of children for adult onset diseases. With an appreciation of these controversies, we will go on to explore the philosophic concepts of autonomy and liberty themselves.  We shall read and discuss the work of classic (e.g., Aristotle, Kant) and contemporary authors in order to develop a clear understanding of how the terms are used and a platform for critiquing various positions.

Principle Texts:

Paul EF, Miller, FD, & Paul J, editors, Autonomy, Cambridge UP, 2003.

Christman J and Anderson J, editors, Autonomy and the Challenges to Liberalism: New Essays, Cambridge UP, 2005.

Rhodes R, Francis LP, and Silvers A, editors, The Blackwell Guide to Medical Ethics, Blackwell Publishing, 2007.



MALS 74300 – Bioethics: Policies and Cases
Medical Ethics
Sinai: M, 5:45-7:45 p.m., Rm. TBA, 3 credits, Stefan Baumrin, [17842] Course meets at Mt. Sinai Hospital.  Cross listed with PHIL 77900


MALS 77100 – Aesthetics of Film
GC:   M, 4:15-8:15 p.m., Rm. C-419, 3 credits, Edward Miller, [17837] Cross listed with ART 79400, THEA 71400 & FSCP 81000

Ever since the Lumiere Brother’s train arrived at the station, film has been concerned with its own mechanics and meanings and the ways in which film not only captures the moment but transforms it, creating an impact upon its audience with distinct aesthetics.

This course highlights the self-referentiality of film and argues that a central aspect of the cinematic enterprise is the depiction of the filmmaking environment itself through the “meta-film.” Using this emphasis as an entry into aesthetics, the course involves students in graduate-level film discourse by providing them with a thorough understanding of the concepts that are needed to perform a detailed formal analysis.

The course’s main text is the ninth edition of Bordwell and Thompson’s Film Art (2009) and the book is used to examine such key topics as narrative and nonnarrative forms, mise-en-scene, composition, cinematography, camera movement, set design/location, color, duration, editing, sound/music, and genre.

In addition, we read key sections of Robert Stam’s Reflexivity in Film and Literature: From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard (1992), Christopher Ames’ Movies about Movies: Hollywood Revisited (1997), Noth & Bishara’s Self-Reference in the Media (2007), John Thornton Caldwell’s Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film & Television (2008), and Lisa Konrath’s Metafilms: Forms and Functions of Self-Reflexivity in Postmodern Film (2010) in order to strengthen our understanding of the connections between aesthetics and reflexivity.

As part of the course we construct a taxonomy of films that focus on the landscape of the filmmaking terrain itself. As such, we watch Thanhouser and Marston’s Evidence of the Film (1913), Charlie Chaplin’s The Masquerader (1914), Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (1929), Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950), Donen and Kelly’s Singing in the Rain (1952), Jean Rouch’s Chronicle of a Summer (1960), Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), Federico Fellini’s (1963), Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963), Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night (1973), Robert Altman’s The Player (1991), Tom DeCillo’s Living in Oblivion (1995), P.T. Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1998), David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001), Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind (2008), and Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York (2008).

Students are expected to write a short weekly response to the reading and screening. The 12-15 page final paper is a formal analysis of a film that foregrounds cinematic production.


MALS 77200 – History of Cinema I
GC:   T, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Rm. C-419, 3 credits, Alison Griffiths, [17838] Cross listed with ART 79500, THEA 71500 & FSCP 81000

Course Description: Film History I provides students with an overview of precinema, early cinema and silent film, considering both American filmmaking and European national cinemas.

Beginning with an examination of nineteenth century philosophical toys and the serial photography of Edweard Muybridge and Etienne Jules-Marey, the course traces the development of film from 1894 through to the advent of sound in 1927.

Following an analysis of early film (pre-1907), including the work of Edison, Porter, the Lumiere Bros., Melies, Pathe, and members of the Brighton School in the UK, the course takes up the major figures of Griffith, Micheaux, Flaherty, Eisenstein, Stroheim, and Dreyer who were critical in exploring the creative (and discursive) possibilities of film form in the silent era.

Topics covered during the course include: American “race” cinema of the 1920s, early documentary film, Soviet filmmaking, Weimar cinema, and Hollywood silent comedy. The course is structured as an advanced seminar with 100% attendance expected, active and frequent student participation, and critical engagement with the readings since lecturing will be kept to a minimum.

Course Requirements: Three reading response papers (2-3pp) [15%]. Reading discussant (leading discussion of readings from a week you sign up for [10%]. Research paper (18-20pp): original research on a topic approved by me and submit an 18-20pp final paper [65%]. Oral presentation of the final research paper [10%]

Course Readings and Screenings: Required Texts: Lee Grieveson and Peter Kramer, eds., The Silent Cinema Reader (London: Routledge, 2003). [hereafter SCR]

Other required readings available on E-reserve at Mina Rees Graduate Center Library. Recommended readings are not on E-reserve unless indicated. Course code for accessing books is: Books and films owned by the Graduate Center will be placed on reserve for the duration of the course.

Film Screenings: Given the length of certain films, it is impossible to screen them in their entirely during the class meeting. I therefore recommend you try and view titles prior to the class meeting. Most of the film shown in class are either owned by the Graduate Center (where they are on reserve) or can be rented from Netflix, Kim’s Video, or even Blockbusters. You will find the excerpts from films shown in class infinitely more satisfying (and meaningful) if you are familiar with the larger work they are drawn from.


MALS 78100 – The Digital Humanities in Research and Teaching
GC:   W, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. 7395, 3 credits, Stephen Brier/Matthew K. Gold, [17829]

The dramatic growth of the Digital Humanities (DH) over the past half dozen years has helped scholars re-imagine the very nature and forms of academic research and teaching across a range of scholarly disciplines, encompassing the arts, the interpretive social sciences, and traditional humanities subject areas. This course will explore the history of the digital humanities, focusing especially on the diverse pioneering projects and core texts that ground this innovative methodological and conceptual approach to scholarly inquiry and teaching.  It will also emphasize ongoing debates in the digital humanities, such as the problem of defining the digital humanities, the question of whether DH has (or needs) theoretical grounding, controversies over new models of peer review for digital scholarship, issues related to collaborative labor on digital projects, and the problematic questions surrounding research involving “big data.” The course will also emphasize the ways in which DH has helped transform the nature of academic teaching and pedagogy in the contemporary university with its emphasis on collaborative, student-centered and digital learning environments and approaches. Along the way, we will discuss broad social, legal and ethical questions and concerns surrounding digital media and contemporary culture, including privacy, intellectual property, and open/public access to knowledge and scholarship. Students will be expected to participate actively in class discussions and online postings (including on blogs and wikis) and to research and write a final multimedia presentation on a key topic in the digital humanities. Students completing the course will gain broad knowledge about and understanding of the emerging role of the digital humanities across several academic disciplines and will begin to learn some of the fundamental skills used often in digital humanities projects.


MALS 78200 – The Politics of Contemporary Urban Education
GC:   T, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. 3306, 3 credits, Judith Kafka, [17836]

This class investigates the social, economic and political forces that shape contemporary urban education, focusing on school reform as a political, rather than technical, construct.  We will consider historical and contemporary efforts to reform urban public schooling, locating those efforts within a wider political arena.  The class will examine how both local and national political dynamics have helped shape and drive varying school reform strategies, including market-based choice models, state and federal accountability programs, changes to school funding mechanisms, and mayoral control.  Particular attention will be paid to issues of race and class as frames for understanding the politics of urban education.


MALS 79600 – Thesis Workshop
GC:   T, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. 6300, 1 credit, Shifra Sharlin, [16834]

The goal of this workshop is to help students at any point in the thesis-writing process by reading each others’ work and reflecting on the writing and research process.