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Course Archive

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These MALS courses have been offered in the past and can give you a flavor of our curriculum.

Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies (MALS601)

A gateway experience for incoming MALS students. Students learn the conventions and expectations of graduate-level reading, writing, research, and critical analysis and explore the concept of interdisciplinarity. Topics include documentation of sources, formulation and development of independent research projects, research methods, use of online databases. The content will be interdisciplinary and/or intercultural, and the course methodology will include lecture, discussion, independent research, and varied forms of academic writing.

Click here for a sample syllabus: MALS 601 Syllabus F18.pdf

Nature and Human Nature (MALS600)

Addresses the development, status, and understanding of humanity within a larger context, e.g., how writers in various disciplines have defined humanity, nature, and the relationship between the two, or the interaction between humans.

Force, Conflict and Change--From Turning Points to Myths: How History Gets Presented  (MALS610)

Historians, confronting the confusion and strangeness of the past, try to make it more comprehensible by organizing their narratives around a significant event or personality.  Hence the fascination with "decisive battles", "turning points" and "key figures".  The shapers of popular culture--poets, painters novelists and, in our time, film makers and television producers--take this narrative convenience and spin myths around it.  The end result is that what happened and why becomes obscured and what is believed to have happened is often a literary or cinematic construct.

In this seminar, we will look at three case studies of this phenomenon. 

Click here for a draft syllabus: MALS610 draft syllabus summer 2019.pdf

Force, Conflict and Change: World War II (MALS610)

This seminar will provide an overview of the causes, course and outcome of World War II and the general impact it had on world history until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The seminar will use an extensive collection of oral interviews of World War II veterans (American, other Allied and Axis, both men and women from all theaters of the war) personally conducted by the instructor to illustrate the conflict.

The Arts in Context: Drama in Performance (MALS617)

This course proceeds from the premise that drama is designed to be performed, not just read.  To that end, we will focus on productions by UD's Resident Ensemble Players, and several members of that group will be visiting our class.  Other visitors will include directors, designers, and reviewers.  In addition, we'll look for opportunities to attend plays off campus, including optional trips to Wilmington and Philadelphia.  The course will also include a unit on film adaptation, and each student can choose one work by a major playwright (such as Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, or August Wilson) to see ways that a movie reworks a dramatic text.  "Drama in Performance" will not require acting talent (as the professor himself will illustrate), but each class meeting will include brief, unrehearsed readings from the plays being discussed.

Interpreting the Past: The Dream of Empire (MALS622)

There have always been empires.  Their number far exceeds the number of democracies of any sort that have ever existed.  Why is this so?  How are empires born?  How to they grow and flourish?  Why do they die?  Most important of all: what do they do to and for those they rule and what do they leave behind when they vanish?  All these questions will be explored through history and literature. This course will be based and reading and class discussion and a course essay will be required.

Interpreting the Past: The Rise of Modern Technology--Industrialization, Culture, and Ideology (MALS622)

"Modernity" is the outcome of revolutionary technological change - from the steam engine to the computer. How did this arise? What have been the effects? The past two centuries were littered with broken bodies and spirits as technology transformed war and reshaped society. A great divergence arose between the industrialized West and the rest. We have experienced rapid advances in living standards and life spans, increasing separation from the natural world, and release from grinding physical labor. Capitalism shaped the industrial revolution, while at the same time siring mass democracy, fascism, communism, imperialism, nationalism, globalism, environmental catastrophe, and the means to extinguish human life on the planet. Art, literature, and history give us tools to analyze the paradoxes of technological "progress."

Click here for a sample syllabus: MALS622 Rise of Modern Technology syllabus 2018.pdf

Studies in Contemporary Culture: Composing Identities (MALS626)

Who we are and where we come from impacts all facets of our lives from our families to our professions to our social media presence. This course considers how culture and language shape our racial, ethnic, gender, sexual, and socioeconomic identities and how we represent them online. We will spend the semester considering how we "write" ourselves and our communities and how we are "written" by technologies and media around us. We will investigate the use of visual, audio, and cultural conventions within certain technological communities (Facebook, LinkedIn, Match) in creating individual and group identities. We will also discuss the importance of identification through association (with one another, with media, with brands, etc.) and how this necessitates critical awareness of the technologies we use.

Click here for a sample syllabus: MALS620 Composing Identity.pdf

Studies in Contemporary Culture: American Nightmares (MALS626)

There is a tension in our culture between our aspirations idealized by the notion of the American Dream, and our fears that things are--or are on the verge of getting worse.  We might call these fears American Nightmares.  This seminar will explore some of these contemporary concerns about inequality, injustice, conspiracies, and the like.

Click here for a draft syllabus: MALS626 American Nightmares Draft Syllabus.pdf

Environmental Ethics (MALS648)

Ethical problems associated with environmental protection, local, national, and international. Relations to social and political movements. Seminar format. Cross-listed with Philosophy and Urban Affairs & Public Policy.

Click here for a sample syllabus: MALS 648 Environmental Ethics Syllabus_draft.pdf

Imperial Sunset: The Decline and Fall of European Empires in the 20th Century (MALS667)

In 1914 Europeans--and their overseas offshoots--ruled the world.  In less than 50 years these empires had all vanished, often leaving wreckage and ongoing conflict behind.  This half century of dramatic transformation largely shaped our world.  How and why it all happened will be the focus of this course.

Beyond Sight: Rhetoric and Race in Contemporary Times (MALS667)

This course draws on approaches to rhetorical theory, critical race theory, visual culture, and new media technologies to explore relationships between words and images. Written discourse increasingly involves visual dimensions that are influenced (and sometime controlled) by writers, and this understanding is most concretely rendered in areas that depend on technology. In a real sense, technology has pushed us to see visual dimensions of meaning as falling under our influence as writers and scholars in the humanities. Visual rhetoric also places audience in the center of theories of the visual and the design process. We will be looking at images, magazine covers, pages and screens other people have designed, and figuring out why (or why not) they succeed in doing what they set out to do. Throughout the course, we will be working to answer questions like the following:

  • What happens if we approach visual rhetoric only as reception (or interpretation) and not as production?
  • How do we, as scholars, learn to see and come to understand ourselves as viewers?
  • How are racialized subjects produced through practices of looking?
  • How can writers, designers, and decision makers for businesses build responsible documents for specific and general audiences?

Outcomes for scholars in the course include:

  • Identifying issues for visual rhetoric in writing studies and other disciplines
  • Connecting theories of rhetoric, race, and visual culture
  • Writing and producing a visual story by applying visual rhetoric and race in the service of the classroom or another community

Memory Speaks:  The Craft of Contemporary Memoir (MALS667)

To document, explore, commemorate, and ultimately to understand the relationship of ones' life to history is no easy undertaking, but this is the task of the memoirist.  From the initial recollection of events to the quest to bestow upon these events inward and outward meaning, memoir is a public genre, and it requires the imagination of the storyteller, the knowledge of the historian, and the discipline of the editor:  a delicate interplay of skill and talent that, with practice, yields memorable literature.  Creative, contemplative, and critical, Memory Speaks is a disciplined exploration of the theory and practice of written recollection, grounded in reading and discussion of influential memoirists' work as well as workshop discussion of participant work.

Two Cultures: Four Epochs (MALS667)

This course will focus on iSTEAM (Interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). We will address the classic division between STEM and the arts and humanities and how we might build a "Third Culture." We will couple four plays/movies with counterparts in science, technology, and society texts: Bertolt Brecht's Galileo with his notion of revolutionary theater with Thomas S. Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions; Jerome Lawrence's and Robert Edwin Lee's Inherit the Wind with Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species as an abolitionist anti-slavery, anti-racism thesis; Anna Ziegler's play Photograph 51 about Rosalind Franklin's role in the discovery of the structure of DNA with Anne Fausto Sterling's Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men on sexism in science;  and Margot Lee Shetterly's Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race with Robert Moses and Charles Cobb's Radical Equations: Math Literacy and Civil Rights.

Who, or What, Drives History? (MALS667)

Historians have long argued about what powers historical change.  The dominant answer, until after World War II, was: great individuals (usually Great Men).  Then historians began to widen their view: demographic changes, climate change, new technologies, the rise of new social groups (or the rediscovery of neglected ones), new ideas--all these seemed of greater import than any individual, no matter how dazzling (or horrifying).  Focus on the individual became the province of biographers, with whom historians were often reluctant to claim kinship, or, worse yet, the playground of novelists, playwrights and film makers.  The argument goes on, and we will join it in this seminar.  We will look at a trio of great figures: Elizabeth I, Winston Churchill--and each student will fill out the trio with a person they choose to investigate.

How to Read an Election (MALS667)

How do people really make important decisions, like how to vote in an election? Why are lies so often effective, even when they're transparent? How is it possible for two apparently rational individuals to draw the opposite conclusions from the same evidence? How to Read an Election moves beyond partisan politics to delve into psychology, literature, and film for insights into these and other questions that inevitably arise during an election season. We'll read recent best-sellers, such as Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow (excerpts), in which he summarizes his Nobel-prize-winning research on how humans make and manipulate decisions; The Secret Life of Pronouns, in which psychologist James Pennebaker offers hints on how to read between the lines to understand what people are really saying; and Weaponized Lies, a primer of critical thinking by neuroscientist Daniel Levitin. We'll also discuss relevant literary works, such as Arthur Miller's The Crucible and George Orwell's 1984; and films like Dr. Strangelove and Wag the Dog. A course website will provide links to lectures and interviews by many of these authors. In addition to the reading, the course will involve two response papers, a personal essay, and a take-home final exam. 

Click here for a sample reading list: How to Read an Election Reading list.pdf

Contemplation and Technological Change (MALS667)

How do innovations change the nature of humanity and life on earth?  How can individuals prepare themselves ethically to confront technological issues as diverse as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, solar energy, carbon sequestration, clean water, and nuclear terror?  How can contemplative practices lead to better technological policy decisions?  “Contemplation and Technological Change” will integrate mindfulness, psychology, behavioral science, philosophy, and engineering to empower students to solve grand challenges for innovation and society.  The course is co-taught by three faculty from three Colleges, bringing expertise in engineering, entrepreneurship, and mindfulness.  The intensive five-week format will foster an interdisciplinary learning community.

Vested Interests: Identity, Gender and Clothes in History (MALS667)

An examination of clothing and gender ambiguity throughout history.  The manipulation of identity and gender roles as portrayed in plays, novels, memoirs, movies and more will be used to examine the construction and changes in distinctions rooted in dress from antiquity to the present. Click here for a sample syllabus: MALS gender syllabus draft.pdf

Black Bodies on Display: Race in Museums (MALS667)

The complex and performative nature of museums vis-a-vis race, remembrance and reconciliation with a focus on Black American and African Diasporic history and culture. What role[s] do objects, history, and culture perform under such curatorial and museum mandates and visions? How do changing socio-political and cultural landscapes and challenges to representational politics shape museum practices? Considered here are black cultural institutions, their formation and foundation as well as exhibition histories of black visual art and culture.

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