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Master of Liberal Arts Course Schedule

If you value spirited dialogue and being challenged to defend your point of view, the University of Chicago Graham School’s Master of Liberal Arts program is your next springboard.

Choose 4 liberal arts courses to build an interdisciplinary foundation—1 each from the humanities, and social, biological, and physicial sciences—plus 4 electives of particular interest and 1 thesis/special project course. Complete the MLA program within 1 year or take up to 5 years to earn your degree.


MLAP 33302-01: From Madness to Mental Health

In this seminar, we will critically engage and discuss historical and contemporary texts on the topic of “mental health.” Whereas early research, practice, and literature tended to characterize people as mad, insane, or crazy, more recent works have adopted the philosophy and language of mental health, well-being, and recovery. Still stigma on mental health remains pervasive, and portrayals in popular culture often dramatize mental illness and the potential dangers that people with mental illness pose to the public good. In this course, we will endeavor to define what is meant by “mental illness” and “mental health,” how these definitions are historically, socially, and culturally situated, and how different understandings shape both private and public responses. Course materials will draw from a wide range of disciplines, including psychiatry, psychology, sociology, anthropology, law, public health, and social work, as well as portrayals in popular culture and the narratives of people living with and affected by mental illness.

Alida Bouris is an Associate Professor in the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Her primary research focuses on the relationship between social context and adolescent health, with a particular emphasis on understanding how parents and families can help prevent HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and unplanned pregnancies among marginalized youth aged 10-24 years old. The overall goal of Dr. Bouris's research agenda is to develop effective interventions that capitalize on the strengths of families and other supportive persons in the lives of young people. In addition, she studies the social-contextual factors associated with poor mental health among LGBT youth of color, and how structural inequalities and co-occurring psychosocial problems are linked to health.  At SSA, Professor Bouris teaches courses on social work practice and cognitive-behavioral therapy. In 2013, she was the recipient of the William Pollak Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 2015, she received the Award for Excellence in Doctoral Student Mentoring.

Mondays September 26 - December 5 / 6-9PM

This course fulfills the Elective requirement.
MLAP 33302 Syllabus AQ 2016

MLAP 33501-01 Ethnographic Traditions

This class will introduce students to the practice of ethnographic field work, or participant observation research. Students will read works on the practice of ethnography and actual ethnographic studies to acquire exposure to a variety of theoretical approaches, empirical topics, and debates. Students will also conduct several weeks of ethnographic research, produce field notes, and write a short final paper based on their research. Each week we will discuss the field notes, which students will have exchanged before each session. The class should appeal to students interested in both the social sciences and the humanities, in part because it concerns the study of and reflection upon the human condition in live situations, and in part because the main theoretical approaches to the practice are rooted in deeper philosophical traditions. So, while becoming familiar with ethnographic theory students will be introduced to philosophical strains such as semiotics, existentialism, pragmatism, and phenomenology.

Omar M. McRoberts is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and The College. McRoberts' scholarly and teaching interests include the sociology of religion, urban sociology, urban poverty, race, and collective action. His first book, Streets of Glory: Church and Community in a Black Urban Neighborhood is based on an ethnographic study of religious life in Four Corners: a poor, predominantly black neighborhood in Boston containing twenty-nine congregations. It explains the high concentration, wide variety, and ambiguous social impact of religious activity in the neighborhood. It won the 2005 Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. McRoberts currently is conducting a study of black religious responses to, and influences on, social welfare policy since the New Deal, culminating with George W. Bush's Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives. He is also initiating an ethnographic project on cultures of death and dying among black congregations in low-income urban contexts.

Tuesdays, September 27–December 6 / 6:00–9:00 PM
MLAP 33501-01 Ethnographic Traditions Syllabus 2016 (**Note there are assigned readings for the first class)
This course fulfills the Social Science course requirement

MLAP 34203-01 The Ancient Greeks on Community, Justice, and Happiness

What qualities make a life worth living and a life story worth retelling and celebrating? Is there a highest human good? If so, do we reach it through heroic action, through wisdom, or both? Is heroism a problem? Is wisdom a solution? Does the pursuit of individual excellence make us better at living together in communities, or worse? Can we learn something about how to live by telling poetic stories and asking philosophical questions? Why did the hero Achilles quarrel with King Agamemnon and refuse to fight in the Trojan War? What made him put aside his anger in the end? Why did Plato’s Socrates regard Homer the poet with reverence, yet banish Homer's poems from his ideal city? We will spend ten weeks engaged with these and related questions while closely reading two central, vital, and exuberant masterworks of ancient Greek thought and literature: Homer’s Iliad and Plato’s Republic. Instead of reading the two works in sequence, we will bring them into conversation with each other by discussing both at each meeting, starting with the first book of the Iliad and the first book of the Republic.

David Wray is Associate Professor in the Department of Classics, the Department of Comparative Literature, and the College. He is the author of Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood (Cambridge 2001), a coeditor of Seneca and the Self (Cambridge 2009), and is currently writing Ovid at the Tragic Core of Modernity. His research and teaching interests include Hellenistic and Roman poetry (especially Apollonius Rhodius, Catullus, Lucretius, Virgil, Tibullus, Ovid, Seneca, Lucan, and Statius); Greek epic and tragedy; Roman philosophy; ancient and modern relations between literature and philosophy; gender; theory and practice of literary translation; and the reception of Greco-Roman thought and literature, from Shakespeare and Corneille to Pound and Zukofsky. He is a member of the Poetry and Poetics program.

Wednesdays, September 28–December 7 / 6:30–9:30 PM
MLAP 34203 Syllabus (**Note there are readings to be completed for the first class meeting)
This course fulfills the Humanities core requirement

MLAP 33001-01: The Problem of Evil

“If God exists, whence comes evil; and if God does not exist, whence comes good?” (Boethius). This course will consider the theological problem of evil, starting with the Book of Job. We will next investigate the problem from the perspectives of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, for whom evil was the major, stumbling block in the proof of God’s existence. At issue will be the question of whether the view of evil initiated by Augustine as the “privation of good” represents an adequate explanation of evil. This pursuit will lead into the problem of theodicy: can—or should—God’s ways be justified to human beings? We will look at theodicy in selections from the works of Hume, Bayle, Voltaire, Leibniz, and Kant. We will then study several fictional treatments of the problem of evil, including Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Melville’s Billy Budd, and the Coen Brothers’ movie No Country for Old Men, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy.

Stephen Meredith: The Problem of Evil will be taught by Stephen Meredith, Professor in Pathology and the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago. Meredith never abandoned his passion for literature during his academic training in the biological sciences. His familiarity with James Joyce, Thomas Aquinas, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky would later merge with his scientific teaching career at Chicago. Meredith developed an undergraduate course on literary and philosophi¬cal reflections on disease. Popular acclaim from his students brought an invitation to teach other courses. He received the Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching in 1994 and the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2005.

Thursdays September 29 - December 8 / 6:30-9:30PM
The Problem of Evil course syllabus 2016 (**Note there are readings assigned for the first class)
This course fulfills the Elective requirement.

MLAP 31400-01 Cannibals, Magicians, Bastards, and Others: The Renaissance as an Age of Discovery

The idea of the course is explore a group of texts dealing with discovery, magic, scientific investigation, overseas exploration, the New World on the Western shore of the Atlantic –all of this focused on the excitement of newness in the age of the Renaissance. The texts are from tragedy, comedy, non-fictional prose, philosophical prose, and lyric poetry, enabling us to study ways in which we can talk and write creatively and analytically about different kinds of literary genres.

David Bevington is the Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature, and Chair of Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago. He teaches courses on Shakespeare, Renaissance and medieval drama, and the history and theory of drama from 5th century B.C. to the present day. Bevington received the 2010 Graham School Excellence in Teaching Award.

Saturdays, October 1–December 10 / 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM (no class meeting November 26)
MLAP 31400-01 Renaissance Age of Discovery Syllabus (**Note there is an assignment for the first class)
This course fulfills the Humanities core requirement.


MLAP 33005 Introduction to Political Philosophy

We will look at some of the major texts in the western tradition of thought about the good and the just society. The study of the past is crucial for its own sake; done properly, it also illuminates the present. The texts we will examine express different conceptions of society and the person, as well as different accounts of what makes it rational to accept a conception of society and the person. We will look closely at each view, both to understand it in its own terms and to assess its claim to be rationally compelling.

Dan Brudney, Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the College; Associate Faculty in the Divinity School; Associate Faculty, MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. He writes and teaches in political philosophy, philosophy and literature, bioethics and philosophy of religion. He is the author of Marx's Attempt to Leave Philosophy (Harvard, 1998).

Tuesdays, January 3–March 14
MLAP 33005 -- WQ17 Syllabus
This course fulfills an Elective requirement.

MLAP 30600 Meaning and Motive in Social Thought

The “social sciences” encompass a broad array of academic fields, from econometrics and political economy on one end, to personality psychology and behavioral science on the other. This course emphasizes detailed study of some formative works dealing with the organization of human societies, both simple (with respect to scale and technology) and complex; the patterning of cultures and culture as an instrument of continuous human creativity; and the adaptation of persons and personalities to life in ordered communities. The function of religion as a means of social integration and as an organizing principle for disparate cultural meanings and values forms one focus of work in the course. A second deals both with “materialist” and “idealist” approaches to the study of culture and society and with the issues of consciousness in human mental life and the motivation for action.

Reading includes works by Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, and Claude Lévi-Strauss. In addition, there will be readings that represent the perspectives of women and of authors whose cultural traditions lie outside Western civilization. The aim of the course is to provide an integrated conception of the relationships between culture, society, and the person. In disciplinary terms, these concepts correspond to the academic fields of anthropology, sociology, and personality psychology; this course seeks a broadly integrative view of the human sciences.

Amy Dru Stanley is an Associate Professor in the Department of History. Her research and teaching focus on US history, from the early Republic through the Progressive Era. She is especially interested in the history of capitalism, slavery, and emancipation, and the historical experience of moral problems. Methodologically, she works at the intersections of intellectual, social, and legal history. Along with scholarly essays, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Dissent Magazine, The Nation, and Jacobin. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships, from institutions including the Center for Human Values at Princeton University, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Museum of American History, the American Bar Foundation, and the New York University Law School. She has also been awarded the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2009 and a Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring in 2005.

Wednesdays, January 4–March 15
MLAP 30600 -- WQ17 Syllabus
This course fulfills the Social Science Requirement

MLAP 34703 Colonial Fictions: Novels of Adventures, Exoticisms, and East and West

The Age of Empire has bequeathed us a wealth of literary texts, among them adventures tales, such as Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, as well as more serious novels about colonial encounters and life in the colonies, such as E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India. At the same time, colonialism introduced the novel as a new literary genre to many literatures in Asia. This course will examine what Empire was in the case of British India and the Dutch East Indies (today’s Indonesia) by reading English and Dutch novels together with the work of Asian writers. This will help us develop an idea of how literature was both collusive with and critical of colonialism, how different cultures wrote about their contact with each other, and how the writing of that era has shaped our modern world.

Sascha Ebeling is an Associate Professor in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations. His book Colonizing the Realm of Words: The Transformation of Tamil Literature in Nineteenth-Century South India was published by SUNY Press in 2010. He is working on two projects: a history of contemporary Tamil writing which will map the genealogies of Tamil literary production from a global perspective; and a monograph which will address the connections between Western imperialism, Asian modernities, and the global history of the novel.

Wednesdays, January 4–March 15
MLAP 34703 -- WQ17 Syllabus
This course fulfills the non-Western Elective Requirement

MLAP 35104 Cultural Heritage and Cultural Diplomacy

One of the key concepts in cultural policy is the idea of cultural heritage. In this course we will try to understand what the term “cultural heritage” means and the various political uses it serves. We will begin by tracing the philosophical and historical roots of the term. Then we will examine how heritage policy has mobilized heritage in the service of nationalist agendas: within the nation-state, as a means of forming citizens, repressing minorities, and civilizing its subjects; and internationally, as a means of projecting “soft” power. We will also look at the counter-nationalist alternatives to these approaches to heritage: cosmopolitanism and sub-nationalism. Particular policy initiatives or controversies to be explored may include demands for restitution of cultural patrimony (i.e., the Elgin Marbles); the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act; the Chinese government’s Confucius Institute initiative; Cold War cultural diplomacy (i.e., The Jazz Ambassadors, the Fulbright international exchange program, the 1955 “Family of Man” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art); heritage in Iraq from Saddam to ISIS.

Larry Rothfield, Associate Professor of the Department of English, Comparative Literature and a Research Affiliate of the Cultural Policy Center. His special interests include 19th-century British and French fiction; the novel, critical theory, literature and the human sciences, and cultural studies.

Thursdays, January 5–March 16
MLAP 35104 -- WQ 17 Syllabus
This course fulfills an Elective requirement



MLAP 31200 Darwinian Medicine

Human beings, like other living organisms, are products of evolution and natural selection. Disease is a major factor in evolution; individuals who are relatively resistant to disease are the ones who survive and reproduce, and who transmit their genes to the next generation. Throughout most of human history, nutritional deficiencies and infectious diseases were probably the major cause of infant and childhood mortality and thus were important factors in natural selection in humans. Culture has greatly altered the human environment, providing us with new but sometimes toxic foods, exposing us to new infectious diseases, and creating other conditions for which our evolutionary heritage has poorly prepared us. We will examine the evolutionary principles and genetic mechanisms that inform our understanding of disease and will discuss the interplay between biological and cultural factors in the etiology of disease.

Robert Perlman is Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Pediatrics and Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences, and the College.  His research has focused on the synthesis and secretion of neurotransmitters and on cellular communication in the nervous system.

Mondays, March 27–June 5
**No Class on Monday May 29
MLAP 31200 Syllabus SQ17
This course fulfills the Biological Sciences requirement.

MLAP 31850 Twentieth Century American Fiction

This course presents America's major writers of short fiction in the 20th century. We will begin with Willa Cather's "Paul's Case" in 1905 and proceed to the masters of High Modernism, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Porter, Welty, Ellison, Nabokov, on through the next generation, O'Connor, Pynchon, Roth, Mukherjee, Coover, Carver, and end with more recent work by Danticat, Tan and the microfictionists. Our initial effort with each text will be close reading, from which we will move out to consider questions of ethnicity, gender and psychology.

William Veeder is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English Language and Literature and the College. He has taught courses on American and British Gothic literature of the 19th century, contemporary fiction, and on specific figures such as Henry James and Ambrose Bierce. He is the author or coauthor of various books such as Mary Shelley & Frankenstein: the Fate of Androgyny; Henry James, the Lessons of the Master: Popular Fiction and Personal Style in the Nineteenth Century; The Woman Question: Society and Literature in Britain and America, 1837-1883; and Henry James: Lessons of the Master as well as essays on 19th and 20th-century Anglo- American gothic texts, psychoanalysis, gender issues, and popular culture.

Tuesdays, March 28–May 30
MLAP 31850 Syllabus SQ17
This course fulfills the Humanities requirement.

MLAP 45801 Hinduism: Sources and Contexts

An exploration of Hindu attitudes to, and mythologies of, women, animals, people of low caste, members of various religious groups, homosexuals, foreigners, criminals, and in general violaters of the codes of dharma.  A new anthology of the texts of Hinduism makes available for the first time the full historical and textual range of this great tradition, from the Vedas to the prose and poetry of the 21st century.  These texts will be read against a background of the history of Hinduism and a collection of essays illuminating major recurrent themes-- non-violence, pluralism, human rights, and changing understandings of the nature of the divine and the meaning of human life. 

Wendy Doniger is the Mircea Eliade Professor in the Divinity School, Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations, Committee on Social Thought, and the College. A prolific writer and world-renowned scholar, Doniger holds two doctorates, in Sanskrit and Indian Studies, from Harvard and Oxford.

Wednesdays, March 29 – May 31
MLAP 45801 Hinduism: Sources and Contexts 
This course fulfills the Non-Western Elective requirement.

MLAP 33002 Reading Freud

This course focuses on the Freud that has been important to work in philosophy, gender and sexuality studies, and literary and cultural studies engaged with those traditions. One thing this means is that we will be reading Freud less for his positions or theories than for his engagement with a set of interlocking problems that have been important for work in those fields over the last 30-40 years. Topics of particular concern will be the relations among psychoanalytic symptoms, the unconscious, and representation; the enigma of sexuality; Freud’s development of a radical account of desire and the drives; and Freud’s revisionary account of ethics.

Mark Miller is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the English Department at the University of Chicago. He is in the early stages of a book project called The Drive of Psychoanalytic Theory: A Reintroduction to Freud and Lacan. He also teaches and writes about medieval literature and culture, especially Chaucer and other 14th century English writers. In 2004 he received the Mark B. Ashin Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Thursdays, March 30–June 1
Freud Syllabus SQ17
This course fulfills an Elective requirement.

MLAP 31205 Resolving the Environmental Crisis

Humans have evolved unique capabilities for transforming their environment rather than adapting to it; in doing so we pass along the costs of improving their circumstances to the environment and future generations. This pattern has accelerated enormously during the past 200 years.

It is now profoundly important to come to terms with our species’ impact on all aspects of our environment, and the implications for our own health, welfare, security, and pleasure in life. How can we improve our social and civil institutions so as to resolve our environmental crisis? How should societies now attempting to join the industrial world proceed with their development? This course will consider these and related issues, and examine approaches to address them.

Theodore L. Steck, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Resolving the Environmental Crisis is taught by Theodore L. Steck, His work in environmental education includes founding and chairing the undergraduate Environmental Studies Program at the University of Chicago from 1993 to 2007.

Saturdays, April 1–June 3 / 9:30 AM–12:30 PM
MLAP 31205 Resolving the Environmental Crisis (2015 Syllabus, For review only, new syllabus pending)
This course fulfills the biological science requirement.

MLAP 31700 The New Cosmology

Discoveries made and ideas put forth over the past 25 years have profoundly changed our view of the universe and our place within it. More discoveries and ideas are likely to come over the next 15 years. After thoroughly developing the Big Bang framework, this course will turn to the ideas that are central to the New Cosmology, the successor to the Big Bang theory. At the heart of the New Cosmology are the deep connections between the inner space of elementary particles and the outer space of cosmology. Inspired by those connections, the course will focus on dark matter, dark energy, the destiny of the universe, the origin of (ordinary) matter, cosmic inflations, and the multiverse.

Michael S. Turner, Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Physics, the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the College, and Director, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics
His research focuses on the application of modern ideas in elementary particle theory to cosmology and astrophysics. Turner is Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics and Physics, the Enrico Fermi Institute, and the College at the University of Chicago, and Director, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics.

Saturdays, April 1–June 3 / 9:30 AM–12:30 PM
MLAP 31700 Syllabus SQ17
This course fulfills the physical science requirement.