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Western Intellectual Traditions

The MALS concentration in Western Intellectual Traditions explores bedrock historical, cultural and literary expressions that contribute to shaping a mindset known as “western.” In a world increasingly interested in global ties and world histories, the concentration in classical through enlightenment contributions reinserts the western intellectual tradition, a tradition sometimes exalted, sometimes attacked, sometimes adapted to other societies.

Degree Requirements

MALS students take four classes within the program —Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies, two core courses in their chosen concentration, and the thesis/capstone project — and choose their remaining electives from among courses offered across the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and Humanities at The Graduate Center.

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

  • A required introductory course [MALS 70000: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies] (3 credits).
  • Two required core courses to introduce students to Western Intellectual Traditions [MALS 70500 and MALS 70600] (6 credits).
  • 18 credits from courses of the student's choice that are relevant to the student’s concentration or studies.
  • A master's thesis/capstone project [MALS 79000] (3 credits).

Core Courses

MALS 70500 Classical, Medieval, or Renaissance Culture is an intense survey of selected pieces of ancient literature and legend that have subsequently influenced Western civilization. The chosen literary works are analyzed from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining literature, history, archaeology, religion, culture, politics and philosophy. Certain universal issues are considered as they are conveyed through the literary genres. The class mainly concentrates 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 70600: Enlightenment and Critique offers an exploration of the transition to modern forms of critical analysis, features selected authors whose works critiqued the unexamined assumptions of their own periods, assesses the novelty of “the scientific revolution” both in itself and in its impact on socio-political and cultural norms and explores the way revolutionary movements and the ideologies of modern life (the “isms”) derived from these new modes of thinking as well as new modes of economic and social organization. Readings will vary each semester.

Elective Courses

Electives can be chosen among courses offered across most of the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and the Humanities at The Graduate Center.

For related coursework in American Studies, students may look to offerings in the certificate program in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and the doctoral programs in Art History, Comparative LiteratureHistory, and Philosophy


MALS faculty associated with this concentration:

Other GC faculty associated with this concentration:

Library Resources

Visit the GC Mina Rees Library's Liberal Studies Research Guide.
Students' contact for Western Intellectual Traditions research is reference librarian Stephen Klein.