Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Wake Forest University

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Exploring timeless human questions and studying essential human experiences through diverse perspectives.


Wake Forest University Graduate School » Master of Arts in Liberal Studies » Past Courses

Spring 2012 Courses

MLS 725   The African-American Freedom Struggle 1941-1975

African Americans struggled for liberation from 1941-1975. They organized mass movements for equality, cultural reclamation, political power, and community control that had national and international ramifications. Activists struggled for the national conscience. Nonviolent direct action mobilized communities demanding full participation in American society; revolutionists rallied city dwellers fighting for a separate nation. These alternative movements reflect the ambivalent identity of Africans in America struggling for liberation. Themes of this course will include communities organizing for change, the impact of mass demonstration and urban riot in modern mass society, the relationship between media and movement, sports heroes and societal change, social stratification of race, social implications for religious and political institutions, the sociology of violence and nonviolence in social movements, public policy and social conflict, gendered and class relations in organizational structure and leadership, the social implications of childhood and youth in mass movements, war and societal change, and prisons and redemption.

MLS 738    The Sublime is Now: A History of the Aesthetic

When we look at mountain scenery we presume that what we feel about it has always been felt. This is not so; this course will attempt to understand why. The sublime dates back to ancient times, but the emergence of the sublime as an important category of the aesthetic in the eighteenth century can be said to signal the growth of modern consciousness. The sublime is often seen as a way out of skepticism or a way into it, that is, it is either cited as proof of the transcendental or as evidence that sensory and psychological experience forms the limits of our understanding.  When the sublime was first defined at the height of the Enlightenment it was viewed as an elevated form of the beautiful; with the increasing importance of Edmund Burke’s Enquiry, however, we see that the sublime is based in terror, in the revolt of the irrational. We will read excerpts from Longinus, Burke and Immanuel Kant as well as critical overviews of the subject in order to understand the difference between the rhetorical sublime, the natural sublime, among others. We will then discuss the famous Romantic formulations, consider the developments in the 19th century, and then debate modernist and postmodernist philosophical and artistic responses. Though the emphasis will be on aesthetic philosophy and literature, parallel developments in painting and music will also be examined.

 

Fall 2011 Courses

MLS 705   Myths of Creation 

Where did it all come from; when did it all begin?  This course explores a variety of ancient and “primitive” mythological texts concerned with the origins of the cosmos, the gods, and humanity. Selections from Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, Babylonian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, Persian, and Norse mythology are examined within their respective cultures as well as in comparative context.  Attention is given to various anthropological and psychological theories of myth and literary methods of myth analysis.  We also explore the creative reinterpretations of the Biblical images of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  The course concludes with a consideration of the survival of myth in the postmodern world and the relationship of the mythological imagination to scientific explanations of universal origins.

MLS 852   Hollywood Renaissance: American Cinema of the 1970s

During the decade of the 1960s, the old Hollywood system of filmmaking was brought to the brink of total collapse. A recent Supreme Court decision had shaken the industry’s way of doing business to its foundation, leaving the old guard with no workable business model with which to support its creative community. Meanwhile, a cadre of young filmmakers, steeped in the youth culture of the Sixties and fascinated by avant-garde aesthetic trends in European cinema, successfully stormed the gates of an industry that a decade earlier would have been utterly inaccessible to them. As the 1970s dawned, the inmates were about to take over the asylum. The resulting revolution would leave in its wake some of the most astonishingly creative films ever seen within the bounds of mainstream Hollywood. This course seeks to explore that extraordinary period in the history of American cinema from aesthetic, industrial, and social viewpoints.

Summer 2011 Courses

MLS 848       Religion, Culture, and Capitalism


This course focuses on some of the ways that capitalism, religion, and culture intersect across time and geographical areas. Special emphasis will be placed on the evolution of capitalism in Protestant Europe, its transmission to the Americas through the interplay of various historical and discursive forces, particularly colonialism and Christian teachings, and historical and contemporary responses in select case studies. The purpose of the course is threefold: (1) to introduce students to some of the ways that history has linked capitalism with religious teachings in theory and practice, running the full gamut from rejection and criticism to accommodation and celebration; (2) to encourage and foster critically informed thinking on the topic and to develop a nuanced vocabulary to articulate thoughtful analyses and positions on the relationship between capitalism, religion, and culture; (3) to learn to think of the present and future as determined by a complex and sometimes contradictory past, to become comfortable with cultural pluralism, and to appreciate the global human struggle in creating life-affirming economic, religious and cultural systems.

MLS 849       Shaping our Environment: Urban Design & Public Policy

This course looks at how our world is impacted by design of the urban environment, and the ways in which cities and their landscapes are controlled and shaped by public policy and planning practices.  What generalizations can we make about urban landscapes, and what processes affect their evolution? How does public input weigh into design decisions?  We will focus on Winston Salem and Greensboro as case studies in design, and go through a series of exercises to develop perceptual awareness of the characteristics of built space and ways of describing it and visualizing it. A detailed look at some of the projects of today’s top architects and planners will help us develop an inventory of “good design” tools and best practices, with course readings drawing from studies in urban design, urban planning, architecture, and public policy and housing studies.  We will also survey of some of the challenges that architects face and ways they overcome them.  In addition to examining what makes for good design and how it affects us, the course will focus on methods for analyzing urban space and how to apply our observations in making proposals for intervention and improvement.    

Spring 2011 Courses

MLS 844 Celtic Christian Traditions

This course will provide an introduction to Celtic Christianity, with particular focus on historical foundations, women religious leaders, monastic settlements, liturgical texts, and theological themes belonging to communities in Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales between the fifth to tenth centuries. Class readings and discussions will feature primary texts from the period, including hagiography, monastic materials, poetry, devotional texts, apocrypha, exegetical works, homilies, and theological treatises. Special attention will be given to the role of the feminine in the ancient Celtic world and the leadership of women in the development of the Christian tradition.

MLS 845 Psychology of Marketing:  The Strategy of Buying Behavior

We live in an age of marketing saturation.  Consumers must choose among countless competing products and services of ever-increasing customization.  This course will reveal how various psychological theories are behind the marketing campaigns seen in today’s globally integrated market. Market psychology will be viewed in light of the recent financial crisis and through a multi-cultural lens.  This seminar on Market Psychology will blend theoretical, practical, and cultural issues that will enable students to better understand the strategy behind buying behavior, the psychological theories that are utilized in a marketing context, and the importance of cultural diversity and customer familiarity in the marketing message.

MLS 846  Writing Short Stories: The Workshop

Writing Short Stories will be a class in which, in addition to writing short exercises, each student will write two short stories (13-16 pages each, on average) to present to the class as a whole for feedback.  These workshops will be interspersed with discussions on the elements of fiction writing: point-of-view, characterization, plot, setting, and so on.  The class discussions will also include a selection of published work, which will be examined in light of the strength of its craft.  While the stories that we’ll be discussing and writing are called “literary” – the sorts of stories found in Best American Short Stories, for instance – the range of these stories is wide.  Please note: Straight genre fiction – sci-fi, vampire, romance, etc. – will not be under discussion this semester.  The goal of this course is to strengthen each student’s writing skills, while deepening their understanding of how craft functions in literary fiction.

MLS 847   Wine: A Biography

Where was wine first made and by whom? What were the cultural and historical forces that spread its influences to the whole of Europe and the world? Where is the “best” wine grown today? What factors determine quality? These questions are central to our journey. The course would explore the world of wine as an historical, sociological, geographical, scientific and intensely human phenomenon. After exploring portions of Hugh Johnson’s monumental history Wine, the class will read  biographies of famous wine personalities, learn about famous wine regions and the families who made them (the Rothschilds of Bordeaux and the Mondavis of Napa, for instance), and survey some of the physical and  environmental factors that make some wine regions better than others. We will ponder the relationship among wine and food and the cultures that create them. Along the way, the class will be offered guided tasting experiences to allow class members to develop basic skills in identifying grape varieties and their places of origin. We will ponder the competitive relationships between the old and new worlds of wine. Phenomena such as the “the French Paradox” and other food and health relationships will also be considered.

Fall 2010 Courses

MLS 704   Science, Values, & Culture

This is a course designed to allow non-scientists to better understand the impact of science on society and of society on the scientific process.  In this course we will examine what distinguishes science from other ways of knowing, what is or is not science, who are the great scientists, and what made their discoveries great.  We will also look at the relationship between science and religion,  the differences between scientific creativity and other forms of creativity or imagination, the future of science, and what scientists really do and how they do it. Finally, we will discuss the ethical issues surrounding some of the important scientific controversies of today, including cloning, stem cell research, gene therapy and genetic engineering. Readings will include selections from well known scientists such as Richard Dawkins, James Watson, Louis Wolpert, and Carl Sagan.

MLS 843   Happiness

Probably all of us wake up every morning and go to bed each night with one question somewhere in the back of our minds: am I happy?  Implied in this question are, of course, all sorts of other inquiries.  What is happiness?  How do I achieve happiness?  Is happiness the true goal of life?  Or is there a kind of joy in sorrow?  Is it in fact true that melancholy is just as important for the good life as is happiness? These are huge and perhaps ultimately unanswerable questions, but it’s possible that they’re the only ones really worth asking.   In this course, we’ll explore these and other related questions from a number of angles.  Through studying philosophers, psychologists, theologians, poets, novelists, and artists, we’ll try to discover the nature of joy and of sorrow, and how these states relate to ethics, aesthetics, and knowledge.  In the end, we’re after an understanding of the good life: what it is and how to get it. Readings will include Plato, Aristotle, Luther, Marsilio Ficino, Shakespeare, Kant, Jane Austen, John Keats, John Stuart Mill, Emily Dickinson, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Julia Kristeva, and others.  Requirements will include a 15-20 page research essay and an oral report. 

MLS 841   Nightmare Cinema

The horror genre is a perennial favorite among movie audiences, and has been since the medium’s infancy. Moreover, the cinema of fear draws on a rich narrative tradition reaching back centuries. The viability of the genre continues to be reaffirmed, most recently with a spate of new vampire movies. This course seeks to trace the development of horror cinema while situating it within the larger tradition of the literature of fear. The genre will be considered in the context of the broader topics of genre studies, cinema studies, and popular culture. Special emphasis will be placed on the commercial nature of the art of cinema and how commercial considerations influence the content and style of motion pictures that capitalize on a popular genre.

MLS 842   Bloomsbury Group

Bloomsbury, a small fashionable area in central London, was home to some of the most influential writers, intellectuals, and artists of the early twentieth century.  Famed novelists lived in walking distance of England’s most important economic theorists, historians, and painters.  While enduring World War I and other radical cultural and social upheavals, this collective of relatives and friends profoundly influenced and supported one another.  What was the nature of this intellectual community, and what were the circumstances that enabled its formation?  In this course, we will explore the works of writers (Virginia Woolf, E. M. Forster, T. S. Eliot), economists (Maynard Keynes), artists (Dora Carrington, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant), historians (Lytton Strachey), as well as publishers, interior designers, and journalists associated with the Bloomsbury group.  The spirit of Bloomsbury will inspire our own inquiry.  That is, members of this class will draw upon their diverse life experiences and passions to understand the period’s larger cultural issues that still resonate in our own era.  In the end, we will create our own unique intellectual community.

Summer 2010 Courses

MLS 774 The History and Culture of Venice

Venice is a miraculous city, where palaces filled with priceless artistic treasures rise in the most improbable way from the ocean, where streets are water and boats replace cars, and where for centuries some of the world’s greatest works of art and music were created.  This course is an in-depth introduction to Venetian culture and history, ranging from its unlikely origins in the lagoon in the seventh century to the present day.  Musical and visual masterpieces will be viewed in cultural and historical context.  Emphasis will be placed on the period of 1450 to 1800, including works by Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Canova, and compositions by Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Marcello and others.

MLS 839       Human Rights and the Humanities

This course will examine a topic of ever-increasing global significance, Human Rights, from the point of view and with the resources of the Humanities.  By examining works of history, literature, film, and philosophy, this course will study the origin and spread of the idea of rights in the eighteenth century, the active suppression of rights in colonial contexts in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the revival of rights by the UN after WWII, and the current state of rights and “states of exception” in the era of Guantanamo and “rendition.”  Our course will consider the following questions:  What artistic practices helped establish the “self-evidence” of rights?  How did the invention of biological “race” help advance or halt the spread of rights?   How can rights be universal, yet applied in limited instances?  Given that international law has limited reach, can literature and other arts teach us new forms of community, recognition, and responsibility?  Some of our course texts will include The Invention of Human Rights (Lynn Hunt), Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul, as well as a course-reader including documents related to the history of rights in Europe, the US, and the UN. 

MLS 840       The Psychology of Art

Ever wonder why one painting is so appealing while another seems unpleasant?  Likewise, why do individuals vary so much in the art they prefer?  To answer such questions requires considering a broad range of psychological processes that underlie the execution and appreciation of art.  Toward that end this course will take an interdisciplinary approach and explore what draws us to the aesthetics of painting, sculpture and architecture.  It will expose students to a number of psychological theories, both current and historical, across multiple domains.  These interpretations will include readings from psychoanalysis, personality development, cognitive psychology, social psychology, biopsychology, symbolic-cultural psychology, transcendental psychology, and visual perspective psychology.

 

Spring 2010 Courses

MLS 835       Contemporary Views of Mental Illness:  Exploration of Fact and Fiction

One in four adult Americans suffer from a mental illness such as mood disorder or thought disorder each year, a staggering figure that is reflected in the numerous books and movies devoted to mental illness in our culture. In this course, we will explore specific mental illnesses as portrayed in recent literary and cinematic works (fiction) and survey the recent scientific research relevant to the selected illness (fact). Combining fictional portrayals with scientific fact will provide the unique opportunity to delve into ethical and philosophical issues of stigma related to mental illness, the emotional and financial burden of mental illness on individuals and their families, and the impact of mental illness on society as a whole.

MLS 836 Early Modern Venice: Intellectual and Artistic Culture 

Venice’s prosperity during the early modern period helped made it a center of cosmopolitan culture between the 15th and 18th centuries.  We will concentrate on the work of such figures as the libertine writer Pietro Aretino; Rabbis Judah Messer Leon, Judah del Bene and Leon da Modena; the women poets Gaspara Stampa and Veronica Gambara; composers including the Gabrielis and Monteverdi and visual artists such as Titian, Veronese and Giorgionewho flourished in Venice during this era.  We will also give attention to Venice’s complex Jewish community and to life in the Venetian ghetto.
Student contributions to the seminar will include reports on special topics in their areas of interest.

MLS 837  Globalization at the Crossroads

Globalization is at the crossroads.  With the onslaught of the current global financial crisis and the ensuing recession in many of the world’s leading economies, the time has come to step back and assess the true benefits and costs of a globally integrated world.  Have the global advances been solely a process of westernization, or have developing countries been allowed their place at the table? Will a more humane globalization improve world poverty? What does the continued development of China, India and others mean for our sustainable future? This course will enable students to discuss the importance of cultural awareness in a globally integrated society, to elaborate on the ethical challenges of globalization, and to discern the challenges to further integration given the current economic climate. This seminar on Globalization will blend practical, cultural, political, and ethical issues in an effort to uncover the best pathway forward for our times. 

 MLS 838    The City in American Literature and Culture

This course examines the attempts of U.S. urban intellectuals to find meaning in the historical processes of urbanization and the social landscapes that these processes created.  These intellectuals have transformed “cities of fact”—such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami—into “cities of feeling” through a variety of literary genres and aesthetic forms: fiction, drama, journalism, memoir, photography, film, architecture and landscape design.  We will discuss how urban intellectuals such as Frederick Law Olmsted, Theodore Dreisser, Jane Addams, Charlie Chaplin, Raymond Chandler, Jane Jacobs and Joan Didion attempt to make sense of the city.  The course will also familiarize you with some of the critical approaches that scholars have used to analyze this body of urban literature and culture.  In addition to encountering methods of analysis drawn from literary studies, we will learn from critical methodologies practiced by scholars working in history, urban planning, architecture, political science, geography and sociology.

Fall 2009 Courses

MLS 715   Rumor and Urban Legends

Alligators in the sewers of New York City?  A major home products manufacturer announcing its pact with the devil on a television talk show?  What’s going on here and how can we make sense of it?  The purpose of this course is to allow students to explore and discuss academic literature on rumor, urban legends, gossip and myths.  Our society prides itself on its rationalist perspective but the reality is that people find and construct knowledge in ways that are idiosyncratic, but personally logical.  These four related communication phenomena may serve constructive social functions even if those are not immediately obvious.  The power of rumor and urban legends to capture the human imagination and to influence the workings of society is profound and fascinating.  The readings will draw on important studies in sociology, psychology, communication and folklore.

MLS 813   The Goddess in Myth and History

Beginning with the archaeological evidence for the dominance of Goddess worship in prehistoric Europe, this course will explore the myths and cults of goddesses from the history of world religions.  We will examine goddesses and feminine symbolism within the mythological literatures of the ancient Near East (Ishtar, Anat, and Isis), Greece (Athena, Artemis, and Aphrodite), and India (Durga, Kali, and the Mahadevi), as well as other historical traditions.  The course will conclude by engaging the contemporary theological debates surrounding feminist spirituality, Wicca, and the rediscovery and revitalization of Goddess worship in our own society.

MLS 833   Re-imaging Islam and the West

This course examines the various ways in which “Islam” and the “West” imagine and present each other and the implications of these processes of “othering” on human and international relations.  We begin with the debate over Edward Said’s controversial account of the role ideas about “the Orient” has played historically in what he perceived to be the West’s project of domination.  We pair the “Orientalism” thesis with writings critical of “Occidentalism” or “Orientalism-in-reverse” in Islamic regions. These debates provide frameworks for analysis of works from diverse genres, including Nabil Abou-Harb’s short film, Arab in America; Jack Shaheen’s documentary essay, Reel Bad Arabs; Tayeb Salih’s novel, Season of Migration to the North; Tony Kushner’s play, Homebody/Kabul; and a 2005 debate in Qatar on the topic of the war on terrorism.  We also look at how claims of a “clash of civilization” are imagined in both the US and the Middle East, and revisit recent controversies in Europe over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad and attempts to ban the headscarf.

MLS 834   Sexuality: The Individual and the Community

Sex can draw people together in healthy, intimate relationships. It can also fuel destructive and hurtful behaviors. This course examines human sexuality’s multiple dimensions, considering a variety of theories that explain our sexual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We will explore how different cultures express and regulate sexuality. We look at how sex and love can be interconnected as well as how they can be dissociated from each other.  Attention will be devoted to contemporary attitudes and values about sex in the United States today. That will include issues such as the recent trend toward sexualization of young girls, the growing “hook-up culture” on college campuses, and the impact of the internet on sexuality. Is sexual liberation truly liberating? How do we balance rights of individual sexual expression with the best interests of the community? We will read a variety of sources and view documentaries which are both enlightening and provocative.

Summer 2009 Courses

MLS 832  India Calling

Many people in the United States have had the experience of receiving unsolicited phone calls from India, in which a person with a strange accent attempts to sell a product.  This phenomenon is the result of “outsourcing,” resulting from a combination of economic, political, social, cultural, and technological conditions of the 20th and early 21st Century.  Multi-national corporations maximize their profits by hiring large pools of affordable trained staff in safe havens such as India, which in turn provides a large educated middle-class population that is culturally close to the West and is constantly looking for new opportunities. Simultaneously, new technologies of the Internet have made it easier to connect people across the globe.  In this course we will cover different factors, such as India’s history, culture, political structure, technological advancement, and communication patterns, to see how the country is becoming a significant player in the global environment, not only by attracting businesses to India but also with global Indians playing a role in global capitalism. We will discuss the potential impact of the global “India Inc.” using theories drawn from communication, sociology, history and economics.  The students will leave with a better understanding of how the emerging nation impacts everyday life in America.  The course will utilize readings from a diversity of disciplines and will also expose students to current popular cultural artifacts from India such as television from India, and films from the Indian film industry called Bollywood.

MLS 759   Developing Communities: The Role and Place of Design

What is architecture? How are our cities designed, and what are their elements? This course will begin with a critical investigation of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and an exploration of the components of design and planning processes.  We will also explore alternatives to current planning and architecture paradigms. We will study the aspects of planning and design that lead to poor urban design, discontinuities in space, and degradation of urban form as well as the elements of good community design.  As we prepare to enter the 21st century, architects and urban planners are looking back to the early and mid-twentieth century for design approaches that will help to foster a new sense of community and urban identity. We will examine the approach to planning known as “New Urbanism,” and discuss the challenges that planners face as they attempt to forge new communities.  We will also explore the role that memory plays in creating a sense of place. Group projects and presentations will introduce the class to design elements of other cultures as well.

Spring 2009 Courses

MLS 756  U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East

The foreign policies of our nation are at the forefront of the daily news, and the crises in the Middle East are complex and seemingly endless. In this course we will utilize the case-study method to approach United States foreign policy toward the Middle East since the Second World War. Topics include: the Truman presidency; the Suez crisis; the 1967 war and its aftermath; Henry Kissinger’s diplomacy; Camp David; Iran and the hostage issue; Lebanon and Reagan; the Gulf War; the Oslo Process; Camp David II; the second Iraq war; and US policy with respect  to Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  Evaluation will be based on intensive in-class discussion and a paper written on a relevant topic. No prior knowledge or expertise in political science or foreign policy is required for this class.

MLS 802       Shakespeare’s Comedies and Tragedies: from Source Text to Subtext

Shakespeare’s sources made for a great read but a bit of a dilemma: imagine Shakespeare sifting through chronicle histories full of blunt criticism of kings he was supposed to praise.  English and Italian plays and novellas could be a challenge too: these often contained material that was too controversial or racy for the Elizabethan stage.  As we will see, many of these narrative and dramatic sources stand perfectly well on their own and make for a great read.  But examined alongside Shakespeare’s plays, the texts he mined—with his eventual inclusions, exclusions, polite changes, and philosophical turns—afford us a deeper appreciation of Shakespeare’s major themes and his brilliant transformative mind.  Sometimes, as in Othello, Shakespeare will ask moral questions of the merely tawdry source to produce a tragedy that all the same retains the whiff of the low comic source.  At other times, as with Twelfth Night, he will treat daintily the sexual innuendo that his Italian sources trotted out as no big deal, the What You Will of that play’s subtitle.  Among the dramas whose sources and contexts we will examine are The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear.

MLS 810  An Ounce of Prevention

Most people have heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  While it is not hard to convince people that disease prevention or health promotion is important in improving or maintaining health, few people understand that prevention is grounded in over 25 years of scientific research. When good science is not practiced, the results can be counterproductive. For instance, the well known DARE program annually receives millions of dollars in government (and taxpayer) money, yet the overwhelming majority of evaluations of DARE over the past 20 years have found it to be ineffective. How can this happen? In this course we will explore the basic ingredients that comprise effective preventive interventions and campaigns.  Specifically, students will learn about the value of prevention through a careful examination of health behavior change theories, message design, campaign strategies, and policy change.

MLS 825     What Style Is It? – The History of Architecture &    Décor

Whether it be a simple classroom desk or an ornate coronation chair, everything has a style. This class is a survey of the history of Western architecture and the decorative arts from ancient times through the 20th Century. The class will examine architecture, furniture, and other décor through numerous photographic and pictorial examples. Students will learn how to identify major styles and understand the historical context of many major movements. The class will follow design elements that have origins in the ancient world and that still appear today. Local field trips will augment the study of American styles by examining real-world examples. Students will also undertake research projects in support of class material.

Fall 2008 Courses

MLS 728   Prose Fiction Workshop: Courting the Inner Muse

The Prose Fiction Workshop takes a self-conscious, practical, modular, laboratory approach to writing.  Students are expected to write weekly exercises focused on such narrative elements as voice, tense, description, dialogue, and group conversation and to read them aloud in class for feedback.  They will also be asked to read diverse examples of published fiction intended to illuminate the exercise and to inculcate both ambition and humility.  The professor will open the problems and choices the exercise involves for class discussion and provide detailed editing of student work.  The goal is to give students a sense of strong fiction writing so that they will be ready and able to when inspiration and opportunity strike.

MLS 828   Women in the Church

The Apostle Paul admonished women to keep silent in the church, not to ask questions or speak in public assemblies, declaring that a woman’s public voice was shameful (I Corinthians 14:34-36).  This biblical injunction, and others like this one, have worked well in our culture, keeping women from assuming equal positions with men, equal pay, equal respect, and equal voice.  This course makes connecting links between first-century Pauline Christianity, the nineteenth-century women’s rights movement, and the current role of women leaders.  Together we will explore these familiar biblical injunctions that prohibit the leadership roles of women in the church and support the cultural subordination or women, review the biblical influence on the views of the early nineteenth-century suffragette movement, and survey the current view of women as public leaders.  The course will conclude with a survey of women’s leadership, the role of public speaking, personal voice, and power by reviewing the current status of women, leadership, and religion in our global culture.

MLS 829   Fact or Fallacy:  What you need to know to be healthy


If an individual is interested in improving one’s health, readily available resources to obtain information on the topic include reading newspapers, health publications, and websites as well as listening to television and radio programs.  Based on the motivation and background of the authors of such information, the consumer may be exposed to a wide range of facts, from truth to quackery.  This course will examine how to interpret this information by providing students with grounding in basic knowledge of chronic disease states and methods for their treatment and prevention, through healthy lifestyles.  The class will examine the impact of diet, physical activity, and other means of complementary and alternative medicine on personal health.  Students will learn about diseases, including heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, and obesity, along with the general process of aging.  Examples of nutrition topics covered will be red wine, chocolate, fish oils, and vitamin and mineral supplements.  The professor will provide the background for the specific areas and students will be assigned current literature to serve as the basis for discussion topics.  The format will not be a traditional personal health lecture format course, but will cover some of the political, industrial, and social aspects of lifestyle behaviors on health. 

MLS 830 The Scientist in Literature and Film

Other than science fiction, there are surprisingly few depictions of the scientist in literature and film.  In those books and films that do deal with science, the scientist often appears as evil, detached from reality, and impersonal, while science is viewed as reckless and a danger to society.  There are examples, however, where the scientist is depicted as a hero, working for the betterment or even the salvation of mankind.  In this course we will look at fiction, non-fiction, poetry and film to compare the depictions of science and the scientist as presented in the arts to that of the viewpoint of the scientist, and in turn compare these real world roles of scientists.  The course will include readings and films such as Contact, Frankenstein, Brave New World, Oryx and Crake, and Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science.

 

Summer 2008 Courses

MLS 826 The Digital World

The Internet has become a staple part of life for many, making us increasingly live in a digital world. Email, the Web, online services, high definition digital television, mp3 players and numerous other digital applications have become commonplace. Researchers working in technology and society are concerned with better understanding of the impact of living in the digital world. In this course we will be covering different aspects of the digital world, such as the Internet in general, Web-based applications, interpersonal communication tools such as blogs, podcasts, chat rooms, and the overall impact of these technologies on the way we live. The course will discuss the benefits and burdens of living in the digital world so that we are better able to understand the impact of the digital developments.

MLS 827 The Four B’s: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Bartok

This course focuses on four masters of the Western classical music tradition, placing them in their cultural and historical contexts. Bach’s counterpoint and daring harmonies are both summations of the traditions that preceded him, as well as windows into the future. Beethoven’s stirring works break new ground while building upon Bach’s legacy. Brahms clearly articulated his debt to Beethoven and Bach while crafting works of Romantic expression. Bartok, master of 20th-Century Modernism, absorbed the styles and techniques of the “Three B’s,” fusing them with his own modern sensibilities and explorations of folk music. Readings, listening assignments and class discussions will focus on each composer and their cultural milieu.

Spring 2008 Courses

MLS 705 Myths of Creation

Where did it all come from; when did it all begin? This course explores a variety of ancient and “primitive” mythological texts concerned with the origins of the cosmos, the gods, and humanity. Selections from Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, Babylonian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, Persian, and Norse mythology are examined within their respective cultures as well as in comparative context. Attention is given to various anthropological and psychological theories of myth and literary methods of myth analysis. We also explore the creative reinterpretations of the Biblical images of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The course concludes with a consideration of the survival of myth in the postmodern world and the relationship of the mythological imagination to scientific explanations of universal origins.

MLS 803 Citizenship and Global Justice

Should citizens of rich countries pay a tax redistributing much of their wealth to poor countries? This course explores the extent to which the moral duties we have towards each other as fellow citizens are different from the ones we have to each other as fellow human beings anywhere in the world. This vital problem has implications for many practical issues, including the proper scope of our concern for justice. The first part of the course deals with some general philosophical questions, including whether US citizens have stronger moral obligations to help needy fellow citizens over people suffering elsewhere in the world. We will also consider whether the fact that different cultures hold different moral values means that morality is fundamentally relative. The remaining three parts of the course deal with specific global moral issues of great contemporary concern – issues such as humanitarian intervention in international crises, just war doctrine, global distributive justice across national boundaries, global famine and poverty, global environmentalism, and international human rights, especially pertaining to female circumcision and AIDS. Much has been written by moral and political philosophers on these issues in recent years. Readings for the course will be drawn from writers such as John Rawls, Samuel Scheffler, Will Kymlicka, Joseph Raz, Martha Nussbaum, Amartya Sen, and Peter Singer. A formal background in philosophy is not necessary for this course.

MLS 808 Honor and Revenge in Drama and Film

Revenge drama releases violence and passion while raising questions about justice, free will, and the impulses of one person or a collective opposing the status quo. Examining revenge in literature and film, we’ll consider the tension created among duty and passion and punishment and pity in classical and succeeding traditions as we consider the plays’ economies of injury, compensation, and catharsis. Our first readings will focus on ancient tragic theory and Greek and Latin tragedy as a backdrop for treatments of revenge in subsequent texts and film. After reading from Aristotle’sPoetics,we’ll examine Aeschylus’s Oresteia and Seneca’s, Thyestes; Thomas Kyd’sThe Spanish Tragedy, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Othello; and Lope de Vega’sFuente Ovejuna and Punishment without Revenge. We’ll also read Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s The Oxbow Incident, and Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden. We’ll examine film treatments of The Oxbow Incident (1943) and Death and the Maiden (Roman Polanski dir.); in addition, we’ll view Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, dir.) and Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (Tarantino) or Munich(Spielberg).

MLS 824 Commemoratives of the Middle Passage

Next year, the world commemorates the bicentennial when the British parliament and the American congress both simultaneously abolished the international slave trade on January 1, 1808. This course will examine the historical memory of the slave trade which forcibly removed more than 10 million Africans from their homes. The Middle Passage has been memorialized in films, novels, poetry, the plastic arts, exhibits, and historical monuments, especially the slave castles along the West African coast. Major themes that will be explored are the sensatory and experiential expressions, cultural diversity, internal population dynamics, gendered relations of power, and sexual difference. The social reproduction of cultural mores with the removal of “saltwater” Africans to the Americas and the absorption of new sources of slaves in Africa will also be examined.

Fall 2007 Courses

MLS 756 U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East

The foreign policies of our nation are at the forefront of the daily news, and the crises in the Middle East are complex and seemingly endless. In this course we will utilize the case-study method to approach United States foreign policy toward the Middle East since the Second World War. Topics include: the Truman presidency; the Suez crisis; the 1967 war and its aftermath; Henry Kissinger’s diplomacy; Camp David; Iran and the hostage issue; Lebanon and Reagan; the Gulf War; the Oslo Process; Camp David II; the second Iraq war; Afghanistan; etc. Evaluation will be based on intensive in-class discussion and a paper written on a relevant topic. No prior knowledge or expertise in political science or foreign policy is required for this class.

MLS 821 Novels from Ancient Times: Romance, Satire & Religion

Readers of modern fiction are often surprised to learn that the novelistic form flourished for a brief period in antiquity also. A small but fascinating body of ancient Greek and Roman novels survives, including romances and satirical fiction. Ancient Jewish and Christian writers also drew on novelistic conventions to produce narratives that proved popular and inspirational within their communities. Ancient novelistic literature is often marked by motifs of travel, adventure, intrigue, mistaken or transformed identity, lovers separated and/or united, and the guidance or influence of divine beings. We will study pagan novels such as The Golden Ass, Daphnis and Chloe, and An Ethiopian Story; Jewish novellas such as Greek Esther,Joseph and Aseneth, and Susanna; and early Christian “apostle romances” such as the Acts of Paul and Thecla, Acts of John, and Acts of Andrew. Throughout, we will explore how these stories confirm or disrupt social conventions (including roles for men and women), and how they variously depict deities and religious practice.

 

MLS 822 The American Diet: Environment’s Impact on How We Eat

The food we eat has undergone radical changes in the past century. This is apparent on the regional, national, and global scale. Altogether, the farming, processing, marketing, distributing, and purchasing of food has been altered by industrialization and mass production. All these actions from our social and built environment dictate what and how much we eat. This course will examine the impact of our nation and the world becoming a “Fast Food Nation” on our eating environment. In addition, political issues such as subsidizing farmers by raising excess corn and soybeans, has influenced the availability and types of food available to purchase. Questions such as: Is consumption of organic foods more healthy than conventional foods? Is buying local produce more healthy? Is buying from self-sustaining farms more environmentally friendly than from large corporate giants? Defining and understanding terms like natural, organic, and cost-effective will be covered in the course. This discussion-oriented course will spur emotions as political, social, and health issues are addressed. Finally, challenges will be made to students to develop probable solutions to issues that are raised. Readings will come from 2 best-selling books on the topic: Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

MLS 823 Fact & Fiction: A Novel Study of U.S. History

This class explores the construction of American identity through the discipline of history. How did Americans see themselves and what did they see as the pressing issues of the day? In order to recover a sense of how and why Americans saw themselves in particular ways, participants will read a variety of popular literature from various periods of American history. In addition to a consideration of political and social issues of the periods, students will be asked to weigh aesthetic and cultural appeals of citizens within various periods in an attempt to broaden our appreciation of national identity and the past. The course will begin by examining the literature of among European settlers and Americans through the first centennial celebration of the United States. Works such as Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse and Mark Twain’s The Gilded Age will serve as historical barometers for recovering a sense of the past. During this course students will be asked to investigate critical theories about the function and purpose of literature, including aesthetic, cultural, and religious considerations while developing a greater appreciation for American social life prior to the twentieth century.

Summer 2007 Courses

MLS 717 Shakespeare Unbound & Rewound: Adaptations in Literature and Film

We will examine literary and film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, always beginning with close examinations of Shakespeare’s original texts. Then we’ll consider how contemporary literature and film offer new insights into Shakespeare’s texts and worldview while also creating new narratives that sometimes “reactualize” his plays for a new audience or purpose. Plays to be studied include: Richard III, Macbeth, Hamlet,Romeo & Juliet and The Tempest. Other plays to be examined include Stoppard’s playRosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. Films to be investigated include: The British Film Institute’s Silent Shakespeare, Pacino’s: Looking for Richard, Stoppard and Norman’s Shakespeare in Love, Loncraine & McKellen’s Richard III, Kurosawa’sThrone of Blood, Polanski’s Macbeth, Zeffirelli’s Hamlet, BBC’s Hamlet, Stoppard’sRosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet.

MLS 820 Interpreting East Asian Film and Drama: Artistic Expression in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Culture

This course focuses on the film and dramatic literature of the East Asian cultures of China, Japan, and Korea. We will investigate the oeuvre of leading cinematic directors and playwrights in each of these cultures, incorporating the study of social and cultural themes, forms of expression, and aesthetics. Our discussions and interpretations will focus on the crafts of film-making and dramatic writing, and class members will conduct film and dramatic analysis. The cultural perspective will be integral to our analysis as well. Cross-cultural comparisons will lead to insights into both commonalities and distinctions in each culture. An introduction to values and belief systems, history, religious practices, gender roles, and forms of interaction will provide class participants with additional investigative tools.

Spring 2007 Courses

MLS 774 The History and Culture of Venice

Venice is a miraculous city, where palaces filled with priceless artistic treasures rise in the most improbable way from the ocean, where streets are water and boats replace cars, and where for centuries some of the world’s greatest works of art and music were created. This course is an in-depth introduction to Venetian culture and history, ranging from its unlikely origins in the lagoon in the Seventh Century to the present day. Musical and visual masterpieces will be viewed in cultural and historical context. Emphasis will be placed on the period of 1450 to 1800, including works by Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Canova, and compositions by Garieli, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Marcello and others.

MLS 816 Life on a Small Planet: Environment, Science, & Politics

Both nationally and globally we are faced with numerous environmental challenges, including loss of biodiversity, water and fuel shortages, air and water pollution, and global climate change. Environmental problems are almost always interdisciplinary in nature, involving scientific, economic and political dimensions. Polarization also often occurs when environmental issues are presented and discussed. Through background readings, presentations, class discussions, and pro/con debates, we will explore various environmental challenges and the potential solutions

MLS 817 Living in Mortal Time: Clinical & Literary Approaches

The purpose of this course is to explore how the awareness of mortality informs our living. We begin with the concept of mortal time. By “mortal time” we mean the experience of human beings confronting the prospect of imminent death. This concept will be illuminated by focusing on a number of specific questions: How is one to live knowing that one is to die soon? How is one to shepherd a loved one who has entered mortal time? What do people living with mortal illness have to teach us about living close to death? What is the function of empathy in the face of mortal time? What is the function of platitudes in helping people face death? What does literature have to teach us about living in mortal time? What do various religious traditions teach about living in mortal time? In seeking answers to these and related questions, we will draw upon class discussions of clinical studies and a wide selection of literary texts as well as philosophical reflections on the living and dying we call mortal time. A selection of texts for the course may include the following: Mortally Wounded by Michael Kearney,Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and Immortality by Milan Kundera.

MLS 818 Contemporary Shamanism in a Global Perspective

This course will introduce students to cultural, religious, social, and historical aspects of indigenous healers (also known as shamans, medicine women/men, or wisdom keepers) and their healing practices. These practices often include a deep knowledge of plants and other biological healing substances, psychological and spiritual insights, and visionary experiences. We will begin with an overview of seminal studies of shamanism by European trained scholars, and explore contemporary Western explanations of the spectrum of healing techniques subsumed under the popular notion of “shamanism.” We will then explore descriptions and autobiographies by indigenous healers from around the globe, and contrast their voices with Western studies. In the final section of the course, students will study the resurgence of indigenous healing methods across the world as an alternative to European-based medicine. We will look at a range of responses, from shallow New Age appropriations and the presence of fraudulent “plastic shamans” to serious studies by Western trained medical researchers. The course will be conducted with a strong emphasis on class discussions and the careful analysis of reading assignments. No previous knowledge of indigenous world views and interdisciplinary cultural studies is required.

Fall 2006 Courses

MLS 811 Wars, Just & Unjust: A History of Interpreting Conflict

In this course we’ll examine the history of modern warfare and the development of theories (both pre-modern and modern) about the origins and meaning of war to human culture. Students will explore the history of warfare in the modern period in a global context including events in Africa, China, and India. The course will also spend time examining western ideas about the meaning and origins of war including the ethical debate incorporated by the “just war” school. Thinkers such as Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Reinhold Niebuhr, and more recent manifestations of this thesis by intellects such as Michael Walzer will be covered. Challenges to this perspective by the Realism school and non-violent traditions, including pacifist thought, will be touched upon. We will also examine emerging viewpoints of religious nationalism that are so dominant on the contemporary scene today. Among the wars under consideration will be the American Civil War, both World Wars, Vietnam, conflict in Sri Lanka, etc.

MLS 812 Utopia & Its Discontents in Literature and Film

How does the word utopia reflect its root meanings as the good place and no place? We’ll explore the literature and, more recently, the films that have responded to these questions from ancient times to the present. Our principal course book, The Utopia Reader will provide us with an overview of utopian texts from antiquity to the twentieth century. Our full-text readings will include Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888), Eugene Zamiatin’s We (the inspiration for Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984). Further, we’ll consider feminist utopias such as Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time(1977) and Margaret Atwood’s dystopic Handmaid’s Tale (1985). We’ll sample film treatments of utopia/dystopia such as Blade Runner (1982) and Equilibrium (2002).

MLS 813 The Goddess in Myth and History

Beginning with the archaeological evidence for the dominance of Goddess worship in prehistoric Europe, this course will explore the myths and cults of goddesses from the history of world religions. We will examine goddesses and feminine symbolism within the mythological literatures of the ancient Near East (Ishtar, Anat, and Isis), Greece (Athena, Artemis, and Aphrodite), and India (Durga, Kali, and the Mahadevi), as well as other historical traditions. The course will conclude by engaging the contemporary theological debates surrounding feminist spirituality, Wicca, and the rediscovery and revitalization of Goddess worship in our own society.

MLS 814 Fall from Grace: The Decline of the Russian Aristocracy

This course examines the decline of the nobility in Russia from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of the First World War. The late nineteenth century was a challenging period for the nobles who tried to cope, often in vain, with new social and economic forces. An interdisciplinary approach is taken by using both history texts and the literature of the time to capture the changes and emotions of the period. Topics will include the nobility and the growing middle class, the nobility and the new legal system, the effect of the free peasantry on nobility and agriculture, and the superfluous lives of the nobles. Readings will include Nobility and Privilegeby Seymour Becker as well as The Cherry Orchard by Chekhov, Resurrection by Tolstoy, The Summer People by Gorky, and Fathers and Sons by Turgenev.

MLS 815 What’s Up, Doc? The Ethics of Health Communication

The ethics of health communication is a growing specialty in the fields of communication, medicine, and other related disciplines. Health communication researchers are primarily concerned with better understanding health promotion, disease prevention, and treatment process within the ethical, social, and political context of human interaction. The purpose of this course is to provide you with an overview of the many substantive areas of study within the health communication field. We will be covering areas related to interpersonal communication, intercultural commun

Summer 2006 Courses

MLS 809 Modern Legends of Troy

Wolfgang Petersen’s recent film Troy (2004), starring Brad Pitt, is only one of many modern versions of the Trojan legend. Twentieth-century re-workings of the legend include such literary works as Jean Giraudoux’s There Will Be No Trojan War (1935), Marion Zimmer Bradley’sFirebrand (1987), and Colleen McCullough’s The Song of Troy (1998), and such films asIphigenia (1979) and Helen of Troy (1956 and 2003 versions). We will discuss Heinrich Schliemann’s discovery of “Troy” as well as Brian Rose’s recent archaeological findings at the site near Çannakale (Turkey), and see how they fit and don’t fit Homer’s description of the ancient city. We will then examine how the moral lessons, feminist retellings, and anti-war messages of modern cinematic and literary versions differ from their classical counterparts.

MLS 782 Mother Love: The Genesis of Emotional Attachments

Many believe that the loving interactions a child shares with caregivers, typically the mother and/or father, create an emotional blueprint of what should constitute an intimate relationship. That is, many consider these early attachment patterns to evolve into the prototype of how to interact with one’s own children and partners. Given that social and cultural practices influence this process, as do the emotional and temperamental characteristics of the child and adult, this topic in psychology is fraught with controversy. Thus, this course will explore how emotional relationships develop, are influenced, and may change over the life span. Toward that end, each student will keep a journal that will include vignettes and a reflective analysis of their own interpersonal history and emotional predispositions. Class discussion will revolve around various theories that might promote understanding these interpersonal experiences. Human Attachment by Virginia Collin will serve as a reference text, while famous works from literature and film will provide the cultural backdrop against which to explore one’s own life experiences.

Spring 2006 Courses

MLS 728 Prose Fiction Workshop

This workshop will take a self-conscious, practical, laboratory – or “hands-on” -approach to various techniques used in writing fiction. Students will do weekly exercises addressing choices and problems of narrative voice, dialogue and group conversation, description, and timing and present them to the class for discussion. The professor will be happy to edit the students’ work. Radiant and diverse examples of published fiction will be assigned for discussion each week to illustrate and to clarify the demands of the weekly exercise and to inculcate both ambition and humility. While style, subject matter, and syntax are a writer’s individual choices – as long as we may criticize how well they work – the goal of the course is to help students to develop control, to build a repertoire, and to be ready and able when inspiration strikes.

MLS 766 The Life, Teachings, and Method of Mohandas Gandhi

This seminar explores the life, teachings and method of nonviolent coercion (satyagraha) practiced by M.K. Gandhi. Seminar participants will define and implement group projects designed to promote change within the context of a Gandhian methodology. Students will also be assigned readings from Gandhi’s own voluminous writings found in the Autobiography and from secondary sources. Students will participate in on-going group projects, and will write a seminar paper dealing with an aspect of Gandhi’s life, political philosophy, and/or methods.

MLS 805 Isle of Saints & Sinners: Ireland’s Literature & Culture

An Irish saying runs: “Were all the Irish who left their country ever to return to Ireland, the island would sink under their weight!” The Irish traveled widely, and they brought with them a reservoir of customs and traditions. Even in North Carolina there are many examples of Celtic traditions and connections, which are evident, for instance, in the music, in the art of storytelling, and in the inflection of certain brogues. The experience of the Irish has a special significance for many ethnicities in this country because, being shaped by colonization, their struggle for independence compares to the American struggle for independence; their suffering and endurance compares to the African-American experience; and their exile compares to the plight of any newcomer and immigrant, present and past. No wonder such a small island has produced so many important writers who have sung of the bondage and liberation of a country divided by religious and political strife. Through the literature of Ireland, we are going to explore the many facets of its historical and cultural legacy as a key to understanding and appreciating the complexities and contradictions of its contemporary society. Starting concomitantly with the Wake Forest Irish Festival, which celebrates Irish culture around Saint Patrick’s Day, this course on Irish literature and culture (history, religion, music, film, and the fine arts) offers an appropriate vademecum, or set of guidelines, for the week-long trip to Ireland that we are going to take at the end of the semester.

MLS 806 A Delightful re(Past): A History of Food & Drink in Europe and the U.S.

Most of us give little thought to the meals we eat every day or the occasional beer we share with friends at a local bar. And we’re even more unlikely to think about what we eat and drink in historical terms. Yet, increasing numbers of historians have turned to the study of food and drink, with an understanding that what people consume reflects and in turn influences the economy, society and culture in which they live. In this course, we will consider the historical significance of a wide range of issues such as the spice trade and its consequences for the global economy and colonialism, religious practices and attitudes with respect to food and drink, and the creation of communities in restaurants, cafes and taverns. We will read and discuss a number of monographs relating to the history of food and drink, from antiquity to the present.

MLS 807 Mathematicians as People: Clearing the Myths

Recently there has been a surge of popular interest in mathematics: movies such as The Proof, Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind, TV shows such as Numb3rs, and even a short opera,Fermat’s Last Tango. Are mathematicians really as eccentric as the popular caricature? Do they live in a different world from the rest of humanity? Is there actually such a thing as a “mathematical” type, or in the words of Karl Sabbagh, a “mathematical tribe”? Why have mathematical problems and their solutions been so fundamental for progress? These kinds of questions will be our focus as we explore the personalities and lives of a few famous mathematicians and the kinds of problems that drove their imaginations. This course is designed for even those who are math-averse, but are curious about this corner of the intellectual world and its hidden mysteries.

Fall 2005 Courses

MLS 703 Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us: The U.S. & U.K. Compared

What are the United Kingdom’s attitudes to the United States? Can the U.K. continue to have a “special relationship” with the U.S.A.? This course will examine the similarities and differences that help define the two great western democracies, and use that comparison to throw light on the nature of the contemporary United States and on contemporary overseas reactions to it. It will examine the history and changing relationship of the U.K. and U.S. over time. “U.S. exceptionalism” and “the peculiarities of the English” will be explored. We will discuss whether the U.K.’s experience of empire and decline foreshadows the U.S.’s own. The course will draw parallels and lessons from the comparison of class systems, gender patterns and immigration; and it will examine the nature of shared political projects (from Reagan-Thatcher to Bush-Blair).

MLS 801 Changing World, Challenging Decisions: The History of Bioethics

Biomedical science is developing at a rapid pace, raising increasingly difficult ethical questions. These questions must be faced by patients, doctors, care-givers, researchers, legislators and religious leaders. Issues such as end-of-life and death with dignity decisions, the use of human subjects in medical research, equal access to health care and cloning are not only in the news media, but can and do touch our personal lives. This course will examine several events which were decisive in the emergence of contemporary biomedical ethics from 1962 to today. The immediate repercussions of each event for the public and biomedical science and the wide ranging consequences resulting from each event will be discussed. The course will draw upon a broad range of experts as guest lecturers from the fields of medicine, law, communication, philosophy and biomedical science.

MLS 802 Shakespeare: His Comedies, Tragedies, and Their Sources

The sources of Shakespeare’s works make for a great read. The original chronicles he used contain fanciful and blunt assessments of historical figures. The English and Italian plays and novellas often contain fascinating, though sometimes unsettling, story lines. As we shall see, many of his narrative and dramatic sources stand perfectly well on their own. But when these sources are examined alongside his plays, the texts that Shakespeare used (with his inclusions, exclusions, polite changes, and philosophical turns on them) afford us a deeper appreciation of Shakespeare’s dramatic themes and of his mind at work. Sometimes as in the sources ofRomeo and Juliet, a comic novella turns into a tragedy in Shakespeare’s hand. At other times, as in Othello, Shakespeare draws the sublime out of a merely tawdry source. Among the plays whose sources and contexts we will examine are The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night,Measure for Measure, Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth. Students will lead discussions and write short responses to plays; one 8-10 page research paper will be required.

MLS 804 Health, Environment, and the Active Lifestyle

The importance of being physically active has never been more evident than now. One sign of this increasing awareness is that as of January 2005 the United States Department of Agriculture included “increasing physical activity” as part of their Dietary Guidelines. As we are beginning to be realize, the sedentary behavior patterns of US citizens contribute to many health problems, including the epidemic of obesity. So why don’t we “just go out and do it”? One major problem may be that our environment is not always conducive to being active with a lack of sidewalks, bike paths, and unsafe neighborhoods. But this problem is not world-wide. The definition of appropriate physical activity and attitudes towards it vary across cultures throughout the world. Part of the reason for the US’s lack of physical activity may include societal, psycho-social, and physiological barriers. This course will use discussions on public health policies for physical activity, how they can be implemented, and what this would mean to us as citizens with regards to our society. We will discuss components of exercise programs and consider specific exercise programs for improving health, fitness and performance. This course will address health and social concerns, both on a local and international level.

Summer 2005 Courses

MLS 736 Architecture, Memory, and Meaning: The World

Trade

Center and Memorial Architecture in America

This seminar examines the role of architecture in the creation of memorials, and the symbolic roles that memorials play in creating environments and in shaping public memory. What framework can we develop to establish our own standards for evaluating architectural proposals, drawing from the history of memorials in America? What role does the urban fabric and its history play in the design of the memorial site? Finally what lessons can be learned about the ways in which our physical design of the environment can be shaped to address our spiritual needs? Following an exploration of the potential of architectural design to be symbolic, and a review of the ways in which American culture provides a framework for the development of spiritual and symbolic architecture, class members will examine the case of New York City and the debates surrounding the plan to incorporate a memorial into the World Trade Center site.

MLS 777 Paradise or Prison: Utopian Novels of the 20th Century

The concept of a Utopian society has existed since Plato’s Republic. However, in the last century a growing number of distopian novels have emerged. These writings reflect a growing concern that unbridled increases in technology, behavioral genetics, pollution, and the global economy may have unforeseen detrimental consequences. This course will focus on famous literary novels of the 20th century that speak to human desire to maximize its potential in the face of ambitious times. Through writing, discussion, and presentations, students will be encouraged to explore some of the ramifications inherent in the “advances” made possible in the 20th century. This will provide a basis for what to expect in the new millennium. The novels to be read will include: Looking Backward 2000-1887 (Bellamy, 1887), We (Zamyatin, 1924), Civilization and Its Discontents (Freud, 1930), Walden Two (B.F. Skinner, 1948), A Clockwork Orange (Burgess, 1962), and Ishmael (Quinn, 1992).

Spring 2005 Courses

MLS 712 Literary Classics of World Religions

This course examines great works of literature from the world’s religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. While the basic teachings of selected religions are introduced to students with no requirement of a background in the subject, the focus of this class remains on scriptural and literary texts that offer classic theological perspectives on the human condition. These are beautiful and profound writings, ranging from the tragic to the sublime, that challenge readers with perennial questions of religious significance. Our subjects and readings encompass philosophical discourses, prophetic oracles, lyric and mystical poetry, lamentation and tragic narrative, erotic imagery, and apocalyptic visions of cosmic destruction. Readings may include the Gilgamesh Epic, Biblical texts (e.g., Job, Genesis, Song of Solomon, Jonah, Isaiah, Revelation), the Qur’an, Sufi poetry, Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada, and Zen sutras.

MLS 734 Classical Music in the Twentieth Century

Why did Western music, intended for the concert hall, change so rapidly at the beginning of the 20th century? This course will start with an exploration of how composers such as Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, and Mahler planted seeds that were bound to create a new style of music. We will then survey the rich panoply of styles that burst on the scene in the first decades of this century: impressionism, expressionism, serialism, neoclassicism, electronic music, and new sound materials. During the second half of the 20th century we will see how these various musical styles combine with each other and with Minimalism to create the exuberant diversity of today’s music.

MLS 735 Theatre as Political, Religious and Cultural Protest

A dramatic work is a chronicle that offers entertainment as well as insight into the cultural, political, and religious influences that surround the play’s creation. Our study of plays will range in time from the Late Middle Ages to the present, and in geography from South Africa to Russia to Mexico. How is a play different than a novel or a poem? What is the difference between drama and theatre? Through a study that crosses geographical and chronological distinctions, we can distinguish how people change, and how they do not.

MLS 774 The History and Culture of Venice (Travel Course)

Venice is a miraculous city, where palaces filled with priceless artistic treasures rise in the most improbable way from the ocean, where streets are water and boats replace cars, and where for centuries some of the world’s greatest works of art and music were created. This course is an in-depth introduction to Venetian culture and history, ranging from its unlikely origins in the lagoon in the Seventh Century to the present day. Musical and visual masterpieces will be viewed in cultural and historical context. Emphasis will be placed on the period of 1450 to 1800, including works by Giovanni Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Canova, and compositions by Garieli, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Marcello and others.

MLS 783 American Paths to Freedom

Freedom defines America, and the need to protect American freedom is what should guide public policy. Americans differ sharply, however, about what constitutes freedom, and these disagreements frequently engender political conflicts. For some people, a government-guaranteed pension is liberating; for others, it entails an unacceptable loss of freedom to invest one’s own income as one pleases. For some people, freedom will not be safe until the terrorists are defeated; for others, freedom is a state of mind that only exists among those who refuse to be afraid. In this course we will examine fourteen conceptions of freedom which have commanded the attention of some of our country’s most thoughtful citizens. We will read a variety of texts from American literature, economics, theology, and political philosophy, as well as examine the visual arts and popular culture.

Fall 2004 Courses

MLS 711 Global Population & the Environment: Moral Choices & Public Policy

From the beginning of time, human global population has slowly been increasing. It took until 1950 for the world population to reach 2 billion. From 1950 to 2000, the world population increased to 6 billion. By 2100 the population is projected to reach between 9 and 13 billion. As a result, the competition for living space poses a threat of extinction for as many as 30% of the earth’s species and has led to a dramatic reduction in the arable land available for food production. The scarcity of natural resources and freshwater is becoming a limiting factor in development. Industrialization in the developed countries is leading to pollution of air, soil, and water, and is responsible for global climate change. In this course we will examine the impact of human population growth on the environment, the economy, and on the social structure of developed and third world nations, and the related ethical and public policies issues.

MLS 727 An African Atlantic

This seminar investigates the African experience on both sides of the English-speaking Atlantic from 1750 to 1815, when their number made up eighty percent of the immigrants to the Americas. Using their memoirs, narratives, political tracts, poems and other writings, this course examines the Africans’ encounters with American Indians and Europeans in the colonies and their adaptation to slave traders in West Africa. Another question raised in this seminar is: how did Africans and African-descended people in Britain and its colonies respond to changes in British policy? Although Britain carried more slaves into its colonies and benefited more than any other European power, Britain began to reverse its position on the progressive effects of enslavement, promoting instead abolition and emancipation. Other topics include: their identity as Africans, Afro-Britons, and African Americans; African royal status and its implications for enslavement; reactions to loss, captivity, and enslavement; yearnings for liberation, both spiritual and corporeal; the Africans’ role in abolitionism and revolution; and their return to Africa as missionaries and colonists. The course will also examine white patronage and representations of Africans in art and print.

MLS 731 The Cultural Politics of American Presidents

From the First Roosevelt to the Second Bush, U.S. presidents have viewed politics as a cultural war. This war is to be waged primarily with images, especially images that linked the nation’s well being to their own positioning as virile and virtuous men. Presidents deployed these images against other male rivals, creating contested cultural grounds where they vied over anti-communism, family politics, racial imagery, and homophobia, among others. We will examine how selected presidents of the twentieth century drew these issues for the raw material of their presidential images, and at the same time injected images of their own. We end the semester by studying the “war on terrorism” in this election year.

MLS 768 Love, War, & Wisdom: Hebrew Literature from the Bible to Today

We will study in translation some of the great prose and poetry of the Hebrew Bible (“Old Testament”), as well as masterpieces of modern literature written since the revival of Hebrew as a living language in the last century. Biblical texts will include stories from Genesis that typify Hebraic narrative techniques; selected psalms, Song of Songs, Ruth, and Jonah. We will then explore some medieval poems reflecting the courtly environments of Moslem and Christian Spain, as well as a sample of liturgical poetry influenced by both biblical and secular literature. Then we will examine the remarkable regeneration of Hebrew as a modern language in the 20th century. At least half of the semester will be devoted to modern and contemporary Israeli texts by a significant number of women writers as well as men. Among the representative writers are Amichai, Bialik, Hareven, and Oz. Although our emphasis will be on the literary culture, we will consider social, political, and religious contexts as appropriate.

MLS 775 Twins & Doubles: Carbon Copies in Literature & Science

The doppelgänger, or ghostly double, has fascinated humankind for an eternity, and artists and writers have supplied a ready store of material on this captivating topic. From ancient sacred texts and Greek myths, to works by Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Fyodor Dostoevsky, literature offers probing insights into our universal fascination with and trepidation about twins and doubles. After the successful cloning of the sheep named Dolly in 1997, science suddenly began to imitate art. With the possibility of human cloning on the horizon, the same age-old questions of identity and individuality are at the forefront. This seminar offers a literary focus on the topic of “carbon copies,” both imagined and real, which we will approach decidedly as humanists rather than as scientists. In addition, time will be devoted to strengthening student writing.

Summer 2004 Courses

MLS 708 The Culture & History of Vienna (Travel Course)

From Hapsburgs to Hitler to the Sound of Music and beyond, this course will explore Austrian historical and cultural developments of the modern era. Within this context, we will also explore representative works of Austrian music, art, architecture and literature as expressions of or responses to cultural-historical events. Readings and discussion will be augmented by field trips to the Schoenbrunn Palace, the Kahlenberg Mountain, the Sigmund Freud Museum, the Arnold Schoenberg Center, the Army History Museum, the historic Ring Boulevard, the Vienna Secession (Gustav Klimt), the Jewish Museum, musical performances, and of course, coffee houses. Our task will be to trace the influence and trajectory of competing facets of Austria’s historical and cultural legacy as a key to understanding and appreciating the complexities and contradictions of contemporary Austria. What made Austrian culture so great? What made Hitler to popular in the land of Mozart? Why are there so many great cafés in Vienna? Why is the Sound of Music tour the most popular tour in Austria? How is the historic Ring Boulevard like a Hollywood set? Come to Vienna for two weeks and find out!

MLS 714 Hearing the Divine Voice: Pilgrimage & The Act of Reading

An introduction to a specific contemplative practice, the lectio divina, or the reading of sacred texts practiced in Western monastic tradition. With a special focus on Spain, this course will explore how this practice developed in the Middle Ages and influenced intellectual life and non-religious literary creation up until the 20th century. The guiding thread will be the theme of pilgrimage and its power of transformation or conversion, from John Ford’s Stagecoach to Saint James of Compostela to the reading of a book, the contemplation of an altarpiece or El Greco’s paintings. The course will have a “contemplative” component. Students will practice lectio divina and discuss how this method of reading the Scriptures applies to literary reading and the visual arts. This component pays particular attention to the intimate encounter with the text, the moment when the reader experiences an awakening as a result of that encounter. In line with the overall theme of “allowing oneself to be spoken to,” the course will also identify some of the ways in which the practice of contemplation may be of practical value to contemporary readers from any tradition.

Spring 2004 Courses

MLS 705 Myths of Creation

Where did it all come from; when did it all begin? This course explores a variety of ancient and “primitive” mythological texts concerned with the origins of the cosmos, the gods, and humanity. Selections from Hindu, Buddhist, Native American, Babylonian, Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, Persian, and Norse mythology are examined within their respective cultures as well as in comparative context. Attention is given to various anthropological and psychological theories of myth and literary methods of myth analysis. We also explore the creative reinterpretations of the Biblical images of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The course concludes with a consideration of the survival of myth in the postmodern world and the relationship of the mythological imagination to scientific explanations of universal origins.

MLS 706 German Culture Clash: Modernity and Tradition in Conflict, 1890-1940

Early 20th-century Germans struggled to respond to economic, social, political, and cultural upheaval. In the arts, that upheaval generated striking innovations, as Germans contributed significantly to the development of modernism. However, most Germans felt threatened by, and bitterly resisted, modernism—and modernity. To explore this contested terrain, we will focus on art (from Expressionism to New Sobriety to Nazism), film (from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to The Blue Angel), and literature (from Kafka to Rilke to Mann), but we will discuss these works in the historical context of social disruption, shattering defeat, economic gyrations, and political violence which Germans faced. And together we will seek to understand how works which were very much of their time and place can still speak to us 60 to 100 years later.

MLS 707 Women’s Political & Social Activism since 1776

Using an interdisciplinary approach, this course analyzes women’s political and social activism in American history since the eve of independence. Some topics we will examine include activities during wartime (Revolutionary, Civil War, World War I and II, and Vietnam), reform activities, anti-slavery campaigns, the various women’s rights movements and civil rights movements. Not all women fought for the same issues. As such, this course attempts to offer a balanced view of women’s activism. We discuss women who supported slavery, women who opposed suffrage and the equal rights amendment, and women who oppose abortion rights. Readings are a combination of primary sources by activists (Abigail Adams, Sojourner Truth, the Grimke sisters, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Phyllis Schlafly, among others) and primary source novels written by women about women’s activism. We pay particular attention to the issues of race and class throughout the semester.

MLS 709 Italian Opera

Love! Passion! Revenge! Operas are a compelling fusion of words, music and theater, conveying the most powerful of human emotions on a grand scale. This course will focus on operas in Italian, from its origins in the early 1600’s, through the grand late 19th century masterpieces of Verdi and Puccini. Recordings, videos and live performances will supplement class lectures and discussions. No previous background in Italian or Music is required.

MLS 766 The Life, Teachings, and Method of Gandhi

This seminar explores in detail the life, the teachings and the method of nonviolent coercion (satyagradha) practiced by M.K. Gandhi. The course starts with a detailed exploration of interpretations of Gandhi’s life including Judith Brown’s biographyGandhi: Prisoner of Hope. It also explores Gandhi’s religious thought (esp. Chatterjee); psychological implications of that thought (e.g. Erik Erikson); and focuses on his role as a political activist (Rudolfs; J.M. Brown, etc.) Students will also be assigned some materials from Gandhi’s own voluminous writings found in theAutobiography and Fischer. With this as a background the students will be encouraged to go in one of three directions: towards a more detailed treatment of one of the themes covered above; towards an applied version of Gandhian method as it applies to later proponents of nonviolent coercion (e.g. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X); or towards the development of an original, albeit mock, satyagraha campaign directed at a student-defined local target. The products and findings of the student research would then be shared with the seminar participants.

Fall 2003 Courses

MLS 701 Culture and Spirituality in Contemporary Native America

An interdisciplinary survey of Native American issues in cultural, political, and religious life, including the arts and literature. Special emphasis will be placed on the impact of the Conquista, encounters with Northern Atlantic societies, and contemporary themes and developments. The course will include several film screenings and discussion-oriented classroom instruction. The class readings are authored or co-authored by Native American Indian scholars and writers. If there is interest, a visit to a regional Pow-Wow will be arranged.

MLS 702 Daughters of the South

The Southern Lady remains one of the most prominent icons of the American South. Yet Southern women, past and present, have always defied such simplistic categorization. This course begins by examining the construction of the Southern Lady ideal. Where did it come from? Is it a vestige of the Old South or a Hollywood creation? We will then explore the origins of other stereotypes about Southern women as well. Southern women, white, black, Native American, or immigrant, have always devoted themselves to families and work, to struggling and surviving. Their contributions to the South have been enormous, if all too frequently overlooked. We will consider how a variety of Southern women made sense of themselves and their world in the midst of great social and political change over the past two centuries. Using novels, autobiographies, history and film, our goal will be to understand the complex and transforming nature of Southern womanhood.

MLS 703 Seeing Us as Others See Us: The U.S. and U.K. Compared

What are the United Kingdom’s attitudes to the United States? Can the U.K. continue to have a “special relationship” with the U.S.A.? This course will examine the similarities and differences that help define the two great western democracies, and use that comparison to throw light on the nature of the contemporary United States and on contemporary overseas reactions to it. It will examine the history and changing relationship of the U.K. and U.S. over time. “U.S. exceptionalism” and “ the peculiarities of the English” will be explored. We will discuss whether the U.K.’s experience of Empire and Decline foreshadows the U.S.’s own. The course will draw parallels and lessons from the comparison of class systems, gender patterns and immigration; and it will examine the nature of shared political projects (from Reagan-Thatcher to Clinton-Blair).

MLS 704 Science, Values and Culture

This is a course designed to allow non-scientists to better understand the impact of science on society and of society on the scientific process. In this course we will examine what distinguishes science from other ways of knowing, what is or is not science, who are the great scientists, and what made their discoveries great. We will also look at the relationship between science and religion, the differences between scientific creativity and other forms of creativity or imagination, the future of science, and what scientists really do and how they do it. Finally, we will discuss the ethical issues surrounding some of the important scientific controversies of today, including cloning, stem cell research, gene therapy and genetic engineering. Readings will include The Unnatural Nature of Science by Louis Wolpert, Ingenious Pursuits:Building the Scientific Revolution by Lisa Jardine and Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins.

MLS 728 Prose Fiction Workshop

This workshop will take a self-conscious, practical, laboratory – or “hands on” approach to various techniques used in writing fiction. Students will do weekly exercises in such things as narrative voice, dialogue and group conversations, various kinds of description, control of verb tenses, and flashbacks and forwards, and present them to the class for discussions, and the professor will edit the students’ work. Radiant and diverse examples of published fiction will be assigned each week to illustrate and clarify the demands of the weekly exercise and to inculcate both ambition and humility. While style, subject matter, and syntax are a writer’s individual choices – as long as we may criticize how well they work – the goal of the course is to help students to develop control, to build a repertoire, and to be ready and able when inspiration strikes.