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Future Course Offerings

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A look ahead at upcoming semesters for your planning purposes

Summer 2020

June 8-August 13

Wednesdays, 6pm-9pm

Force, Conflict, and Change: Empires--Good Thing or Bad Thing? (MALS610-010)

The image of empire has been largely shaped not by historians but by Hollywood: marching Roman legionnaires or pith helmeted Britons ordering Asians or Africans about. (The image of empire might well include the American "winning of the West" but, for some reason, seldom does.)  But empire is a much more complex business than cinematic spectacle and worthy of very serious attention.  After all, much more of human history has been shaped by empires than by nation states and parliamentary democracies--both quite recent arrivals on the scene and by no means guaranteed to dominate the future.  Empires of various sorts are still with us--and also aspire to write that future. We will look comparatively at several long lived and influential empires and seek at least a tentative answer to the question posed by the course title.

The basic reading for the seminar will be Krishan Kumar's "Visions of Empire" (Princeton,2017).  A paper edition is available.  Further readings will grow out of the discussions in the seminar and the paper topic chosen.

Every student will be expected to do a paper of roughly 15 pp on a topic developed out of the reading and seminar discussions.  A one page proposal will be handed in at the end of the first month of the course.  Once approved, the full paper will be due at the last class meeting.  Details (footnote form, etc.) will be discussed in class.

Fall 2020

September 1-December 10

Encountering 'the Other' in Tourism and Travel

International tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world, and has produced one of the largest population movements in the history of humanity.  In this course, we will discuss tourism and travel as cultural practices as well as globalization phenomena. We will pay particular attention to tourism as an encounter in search for authenticity and otherness. The course will examine topics such as tourism and modernity, sexual and romantic tourism, ecotourism and environmental tourism.

Death and Dying

This course will consider a number of responses to the "problem" of death and dying. Our premise is that there is such a thing as a good death, that many traditions consider the good life as the one that ends in a good death, and thus the highest practice in life prepares one for a good death. We will not address the question of an afterlife per se, but rather we will focus on the meaning of death and the meaning of a life that ends in death. We will look at representatives of Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Western philosophical and psychological traditions, and religious viewpoints. Students are invited to form their own conclusions and seek their own coherence.

How to Read an Election

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

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 F19.pdf

Winter 2021 (tentative)

Dates TBD

Contemplation and Technological Change

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.

Spring 2021

Dates TBD

Earth, Air, Fire, Water: Elements of Global EcoFiction

  • Instructor: Délice Williams

Through works of fiction that depict disaster, imagine utopia, advocate for environmental justice, and create fantasies of escape, we will explore the ways that contemporary authors from around the world prompt us to imagine and reimagine our dynamic and fraught relationship to "nature" and its elements. As we engage with texts that focus on human interactions with earth, air, fire, and water, we will consider the ways that writers around the world raise, complicate, and contend with serious ethical and political questions that arise in such encounters.

The central premise of this course is that narrative in general, and imaginative literature in particular, plays an important role in our conceptions of and relationships non-human nature. In other words, stories mediate—clarify, complicate, enchant, perhaps even distort—interactions between the human and non-human. Readings & discussions will explore the hows, whys, and so-whats of such mediation.  Another (closely related) premise is one that critic Rob Nixon has made famous:  that imaginative literature plays a role in the crucial ethical and political work of making the "slow violence" of environmental harm both visible and morally urgent. This seminar will explore ways that these authors stage their own interventions in that process.

Why elements?

  • Because the term connotes basics, building blocks, beginnings. "Global Eco-fiction" cannot possibly be contained in a single course, even at the graduate level. The seminar offers starting points for further scholarly and imaginative exploration.
  • Also, because, as the editors of the volume Elemental Ecocriticism note, the term evokes ancient conceptions of a vibrant, vividly animate non-human world with which humans are in dynamic relation.  A number of the texts we will encounter conceive of non-human nature in these terms.

Bauhaus, Bucky and Black Mountain

Description coming soon.

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