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Science and Technology Studies

 

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 all courses offered across the doctoral and certificate programs at the Graduate Center.

 

MALS Track in Science and Technology Studies

This new track is conceived with the Graduate Center’s recent new initiative in mind to launch a Committee for Interdisciplinary Science Studies, which seeks to cultivate critical dialogue across conventional disciplinary divides. This track seeks to allow students to approach science and technology from a variety of perspectives through courses in diverse disciplines represented at the Graduate Center.

The two core courses proposed here will provide students with two different perspectives on science and technology studies. The first course, Narratives of Science and Technology: Literature and the Visual Arts, will emphasize how science and technology have been portrayed in literature, film, and the arts generally, and how each reflects the social understanding of the science and technology of the times in which the works to be studied were written, filmed, or created. The second course, Social Impacts of Science and Technology: Case Studies, will provide students with a necessary foundation in Science Studies generally, focusing on examples of science and technology in different contexts from semester to semester. The first such offering will provide a general overview of the history of science and technology from the Renaissance to the present, including a case study that emphasizes the development and impact of science and technology in China. It is hoped that this course will involve students from the Graduate Center, as well as students in the Institute for History of Science and Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, as a course team-taught by professors from both institutions.

Core Courses:

MALS 72500: Narratives of Science and Technology: Literature and the Visual Arts

Course Description:
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, photographic, 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 genres, and not just science fiction. Students will be introduced to critical film and literary theory and related criticism, as well as engaging 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 are requested to present an in-class report. There is a final research paper (approximately 15-20 pages) due at the end of the semester.

Rationale:
This first course in the Science and Technology Studies track will expose students to the ways in which science and technology have been treated in various media, but predominantly in literature and film. The approach will be rigorously interdisciplinary, encouraging students to approach their reading of literature and viewing of films concerned with science and technology from the diverse perspectives of the various disciplines represented in the various Ph.D. Programs at the Graduate Center. Some students may wish to pursue their studies form the perspectives of philosophy, sociology, history, ethnography, and a host of other possible ways to view, analyze, and understand the place of science and technology in human society and modern culture.

Learning Goals and Outcomes:
Upon successful completion of this course, students will demonstrate an understanding of how science and technology have served to shape the modern world. They will have a basic knowledge of the empirical methods, research skills, and theoretical approaches to studying science and technology from multiple perspectives.

MALS 72600: Social Impacts of Science and Technology: Case Studies

This course will study some of the great discoveries of science and inventions of technology that have changed the course of human history, with a view to assessing their origins, impact, and eventual consequences, both foreseen and unintended. Through individual case studies, from the invention of the wheel or the arch to atomic energy or space technology, through selected case studies across time and in particular parts of the world, or by the contributions of individuals like Pasteur or Edison, or by genres including film and fiction, this course will survey major scientific discoveries and technological inventions that have changed human history in significant ways. Reading assignments are given for every class, and students will make weekly seminar reports. There will be either a series of short essays and/or a final research paper (approximately 15-20 pages) due at the end of the semester.

Rationale:
This second course in the Science and Technology Studies track will expose students to major examples across time of different technologies and scientific discoveries that have in turn changed the course of human history, often with unintended consequences. In the spirit of the Graduate Center’s recently established Committee for Interdisciplinary Science Studies, this course will also introduce students to one in-depth case study of a particular culture and its response to science and technology, or of science and technology as viewed through different genres or reflected in a specific science or technology. China, the first example as described above (p.2, in the general Rationale for the track) has a long history of science and technology, but one that interacted with western science in ways that have also changed and reshaped its destiny, as well as the rest of the world with which China co-exists. This second required core course—Social Impacts of Science and Technology: Case Studies—will be a timely opportunity to bring the full resources of science studies to the analysis of how science and technology have shaped the modern world.

Learning Goals and Outcomes:
Upon successful completion of this course, students will possess a basic understanding of the methods, concepts, and theories employed by scholars concerned with science and technology studies, who approach their subjects from diverse perspectives.

Questions about the MALS track in Science and Technology Studies may be directed to liberalstudies@gc.cuny.edu.