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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.

 

SPRING 2017 (Current Quarter)

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 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.

AUTUMN 2017

MLAP 33302: 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 25 - December 4 / 6-9PM

This course fulfills an Elective requirement.
MLAP 33302 Syllabus AQ 2016 (Last Year's Syllabus.  For Review Purposes Only.  New Syllabus Forthcoming)

MLAP 33501 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 26–December 5 / 6:00–9:00 PM
MLAP 33501-01 Ethnographic Traditions Syllabus 2016 (Last Year's Syllabus.  For Review Purposes Only.  New Syllabus Forthcoming)
This course fulfills the Social Science requirement

MLAP 34704 Understanding World Poetry

Reading poetry is for everyone! This course is an introduction to the study of poetry, providing both the technical knowledge and tools useful for appreciating poetry, as well as an overview of the history of world poetry. We will read and discuss some of the finest and most memorable poems ever written. These will include examples of classical, medieval and modern European poetry in Latin, Greek, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Czech, by some of the most famous European poets (such as Horace, Petrarch, Spenser, Goethe, Schiller, Coleridge, Pushkin, Baudelaire, Rilke, Garcilaso de la Vega, and Mácha), but also examples from non-European languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit and Tamil. The temporal range will be from ancient Indian poems composed about 1500 BCE to poems about the civil war in Sri Lanka written in 2015. All explanations and discussions will of course be in English, but for most poems we will look at the original language text as well as English translations by ourselves and others (which will provide us with the opportunity to discuss issues of translations as well). The course is intended for anyone interested in exploring poetry in a less familiar language, and no language skills will be a prerequisite. But we will also be glad to welcome students (or speakers) of any of the above languages who would like to share their specific language skills with us and who might benefit from an opportunity to see how poetic texts function in their respective languages. Participants with little or no prior experience of reading poetry will be introduced to the various possibilities of examining a poetic text, while more advanced readers may profit from the wide comparative perspective adopted in this course. 

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, September 27–December 6 / 6:30–9:30 PM
This course fulfills the non-Western requirement

MLAP 31400: 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.

Thursdays, September 28-December 7 / 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM
MLAP 31400-01 Renaissance Age of Discovery Syllabus (Last Year's Syllabus. For Review Purposes Only. New Syllabus Forthcoming)
This course fulfills the Humanities requirement.

MLAP 35105: Imagining the City

The rise of the modern city makes possible new modes of experience, new kinds of people, and new kinds of stories.  To appreciate these novelities, we will start by looking at sociologist Georg Simmel's "The Metropolis and Mental Life."  Then we will explore how writers and filmmakers have tried to capture this experience of city life in different genres (the detective story, romantic comedy, modernist poetry, realism), and from different social perspectives.  Texts and films may include Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; The Big Sleep; Do the Right Thing; Manhattan; "The Waste Land"; "Sonny Blues"; Blade Runner; and Lost in Translation

Larry Rothfield is an Associate Professor in the Department of English, Department of Comparative Literature, and is a Research Affiliate in the Cultural Policy Center.  His research focuses on the way in which literature, criticism, and other cultural activites are caught up within epistemic and political struggles.

Saturdays, September 30-December 11 / 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM
This course fulfills an Elective requirement.

WINTER 2018

MLAP 32330: Lyric Poetry and Critical Thinking

David Wray is an 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.

Tuesdays January 9 - March 13 / 6:30-9:30PM
This course fulfills the Humanities requirement.
 

MLAP 34001 Some Versions of the Apocalypse

The end of the world is one of the most durable of mankind's obsessions. From prophetic texts of the ancient world to today's fascination with zombie plagues, environmental disaster, and nuclear winter, the genre of apocalypse has proven an extraordinarily fertile way to give expression to religious, moral, political, and economic beliefs and anxieties. In this course we will explore what is both fearful and alluring about catastrophe on an unimaginable scale, as we read and view some paradigmatic apocalyptic works across a wide historical range. The course will focus on close attention to the aesthetics of individual works, locating those works in their historical contexts, and the theoretical analysis of the texts' motivating concerns

Mark Miller is an Associate Professor 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.

Wednesdays, January 3 – March 7 / 6:30–9:30 PM
This course fulfills an Elective requirement

MLAP 33200: Models of the Universe

Many of the activities we honor and cherish in our culture—such as art, literature, music, philosophy, sports, and religion—struggle with the question, “What is our place in the universe?” Our attempts to answer this question have always been influenced by our perception of the answer to another question, “What is the universe?” The size, shape, center, nature, and origin of the universe are some of humanity’s oldest and deepest questions. The readings and lectures of this course will trace the development of our view of the universe starting with the Earth-centered cosmology of Aristotle, through the Sun-centered universe in the Copernican revolution, to the modern big bang theory, and recent speculations about a quantum origin of the universe. The course focuses on the ideas as well as the people who shaped our view of the universe. The readings and lectures will not require mathematics or physics, only a curiosity about the universe. Readings include: Edward W. Kolb’s Blind Watchers of the Sky, Craig Hogan’s The Little Book of the Big Bang, Alan Guth’s The Inflationary Universe, and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

Edward W. Kolb is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. He was the founding head of the NASA/Fermilab Astrophysics Group at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. In addition to more than 200 scientific papers, he is a coauthor of The Early Universe, the standard textbook on particle physics and cosmology. His book for the general public, Blind Watchers of the Sky (winner of the 1996 Emme Award from the AAS), is the story of the people and ideas that shaped our view of the universe. Kolb was awarded the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Oersted Medal of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Saturdays, January 6–March 10 / 9:30AM – 12:30 PM
This course fulfills the Physical Science 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.

Andreas Glaeser is a Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Sociology. He is a sociologist of culture with a particular interest in the construction of identities and knowledges. His work interlaces substantive interests with efforts to build social theory. He is currently finishing a book aiming at the development of a political epistemology which asks how people come to understand the world of politics from within their particular biographical trajectories and social milieus. He also has begun work on a new project which studies the emergence of dominant understandings about Muslim immigrants in the interaction between contingent historical events, the cycles of electoral politics, everyday experiences and mass-mediated discourses in Germany, France and Britain.

Saturdays, January 6 - March 10 / 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
This course fulfills the Social Science requirement.

SPRING 2018 

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 27–May 29
This course fulfills the Humanities requirement.

MLAP 45950: Pursuits of Happiness in Chinese Cinema

This course will offer an in-depth introduction to Chinese cinema from the 1930s to the present. We will explore a variety of films and genres, situating them in their historical and social contexts, analyzing their forms and techniques, and investigating how they appropriate and adapt elements from other national cinemas as well as from other media such as theater and photography. The premise for this course is that movies entertain, move, and mobilize audiences by presenting explicit or implicit visions of happiness, or of how to be happy and lead a meaningful life. Such visions are, of course, historically specific, and they may be at work even in unhappy or bleak films that do not seem to offer any promise of redemption. Through the lens of cinema, this class will offer an opportunity to learn about the desires and aspirations underlying the social and political upheavals of twentieth- and twenty-first-century China.

Paola Iovene is an Associate Professor in Chinese Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations.  Her work focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century Chinese literature and film.  Areas of research include contemporary Chinese fiction and criticism; popular science; conceptions of Chinese realism, modernism, and avant-garde; the translation of foreign literature in socialist China; narrative temporality in fiction and film; late 1940s cinema; opera film; and post-1989 Chinese independent documentary film.

Wednesdays, March 28 – May 30
This course fulfills the non-Western 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.

Thursdays, March 29 – May 31
This course fulfills the Non-Western 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, March 31–June 2 / 9:30 AM–12:30 PM
This course fulfills the Biological Science requirement.

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