2011-2012 Curriculum


MLA 101A: Foundations I (Required of first-year MLA students)
Axess # 54125
Wednesdays, 7-9:30pm
The first quarter of the Foundation sequence will cover Antiquity from Greece to the beginning of the Christian era.

Edward Steidle
Lecturer in English

MLA 102: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Graduate Study (required of 2nd-year MLA students)
Axess # 54125
Wednesdays, 7-9:30pm
Thematically, this course will focus on the historical, literary, artistic, medical, and theological issues raised by war and its narratives. Practically, it will concentrate on the skills and the information students will need to pursue MLA graduate work at Stanford: writing a critical, argumentative graduate paper; conducting library research; expectations of seminar participation. There will be frequent guest lecturers. Readings will include selections from Euripedes, Shakespeare, Woolf, Brecht, Howarth, and McPherson, as well as selected poetry, scientific, and historical writings.

Linda Paulson
Associate Dean, Director of the MLA Program, Lecturer in English

MLA 269: The Meaning of Life: Moral and Spiritual Inquiry Through Literature (Humanities)
Axess # 54125
Thursdays, 7-9:30pm
Short novels and plays will provide the basis for reflection on ethical values and the purpose of life. Some of the works to be studied are Albert Camus' Stranger, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby, Hermann Hesse's Siddharta, Jane Smiley's Good Will, and Leo Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Ilyich. We will read for plot, setting, character, and theme using a two-text method-looking both at the narrative of the literary work and at students' own lives-rather than either deconstructing the literature or relating it to the author's biography and psychology. There will be many answers to the kinds of questions examined: Why are we here? How do we find meaningful work? What can death teach us about life? What is the meaning of success? What is the nature of love? How can one find balance between work and personal life? How free are we to seek our own destiny? What obligations do we have to others? Both secular and religious world views from a variety of contexts will be considered. The authors chosen are able to hold people up as jewels to the light, turning them around to show all of their facets, both blemished and pure, while at the same time pointing to any internal glow beneath the surface.

Scotty McLennan
Dean for Religious Life

MLA 274: From Slavery to Obama and the 2012 Presidential Election (Social Science)
Axess # 54125
Tuesdays, 7-9:30pm
In his epic treatise The Souls of Black Folk published in 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois, commenting on the legacy of Slavery in our country said "the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line." More than a hundred years after he wrote those words, the racial struggles in the United States remain the most pervasive theme in our history. Slavery, the Civil War, and nearly a century of racial segregation stand as stains on the moral fabric of the United States. However, frank discussions on race and its impact on society has become taboo. This seminar is designed to enable honest and critical discussion of race in America. We will examine significant milestones, and the works of some of America's leading authors and black scholars along the historic road of Barack Obama to the White House and the potential role of race in the 2012 Presidential Election.

Clarence Jones
Scholar in Residence, King Institute/Visiting Professor


MLA 101B: Foundations II (Required of first-year MLA students)
Axess # 54125
Wednesdays, 7-9:30pm
The second quarter of the Foundations sequence will move from the early Middle Ages to the Enlightenment. Topics to be discussed will range from the origins of the Christian west, the barbarian invasions of the 5th century, the advent of Islam, the flowering of medieval culture from the 12th to the 14th centuries, Renaissance theater and art, the scientific revolutions of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.

Edward Steidle
Lecturer in English

MLA 285: The Age of Enlightenment (Humanities)
Axess # 56464
Tuesdays, 7-9:30pm
Before it came to embody various social and political programs, the Enlightenment was conceived of as a particular historical moment. Its definition, by extension, rested on a certain understanding of the recent and remote past - more specifically, of the Scientific Revolution and Antiquity - as well as a projection of the future. In this course, we will examine how this historicized conception of the Enlightenment was central to the major literary, philosophical, and scientific endeavors of the age. While our primary focus will be on France, we will branch out to consider the broader European and American Enlightenment as well.

Dan Edelstein
Associate Professor of French, and, by courtesy, of History

MLA 286: Evolutionary Theories of Music (Humanities or Social Science)
Axess # 56465
Mondays, 7-9:30pm
Music is a pervasive, often obsessive aspect of human behavior. We tend to strongly associate music with salient life events ('They're playing our song') and we often use music to (consciously or sub-consciously) assist us in remembering. Music is associated with physical motion - whether simply tapping feet or the carefully choreographed complex moves of a ballet dancer. Music and language share mental processing resources, yet have a high degree of independence. Over the past decade a number of hypotheses have been raised regarding the possibility that music is evolutionarily adaptive. In this course we will consider these theories, and, in so doing, explore the phenomenon of music in our lives.

Jonathan Berger
The Denning Provostial Professor in Music

MLA 287: Ancients vs. Moderns (Humanities)
Axess # 56468
Wednesdays, 7-9:30pm
This is an old-fashioned sort of course. We will read great books, talk about them intelligently, and seek to learn from the reading and the talking something about the way writers ancient and modern have considered the human condition. As always in a seminar of this sort, the readings will direct and shape the discussion in ways that cannot be predicted. The syllabus sets a framework for what should turn out to be a freewheeling and energizing conversation. The point of a course like this is not the acquisition of information but learning to think; success is measured not by a filled notebook but by a more capacious mind. Our ten weeks together will be given over to five specific concerns, with two weeks devoted to each: suffering and meaning; faithful/fateful choices; all in the family; duty; and sacrifice.

William Chace
Professor of English and President Emeritus, Emory University


MLA 101C: Foundations III (Required of first-year MLA students)
Axess # 37034
Wednesdays, 7-9:30pm
Foundations III explores how have men and women attempted to locate themselves in the modern world through different rational, mental, instrumental, humanistic, artistic, conceptual ways--Kant and the Enlightenment, Marx, Freud, science v humanities debates, feminism, postcolonialism, anthropology, chronotopes, neuroscience. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is used as a master literary text through which to see all, or nearly all of these topics.

David Palumbo-Liu
Professor of Comparative Literature and, by courtesy, English

MLA 288: Who was Shakespeare? (Humanities)
Axess # 56899
Thursdays, 7-9:30pm
This seminar will construct an in-depth narrative of William Shakespeare’s life and work between 1594 and 1599. Individual classes on the sonnets that Shakespeare wrote for “his private friends” will address issues of chronology, self-reference, and love vs. time. Turnin