2017-2018 Curriculum

Current students can find syllabi for each quarter at Stanford Syllabus. Syllabi are posted as soon as they are received from faculty.

Autumn: 
MLA 101A: Foundations I
Required of first-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: 1101
Lecturer in CSP and MLA

The first quarter of the Foundations sequence will range from the early second millennium BCE to the early first millennium CE. Among the major topics covered will be the Classical Ideal of Greece and Rome as illustrated in the art, literature, and philosophy of the period, and the central tenets of the world's most influential ethical and metaphysical traditions: Hinduism, Judaism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Islam.

MLA 102: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Graduate Study
Required of 2nd-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: 1100
Associate Dean and Director, MLA Program

Co-taught with Paul Robinson, Richard W. Lyman Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus.

Thematically, this course will focus on the historical, literary, artistic, and philosophical issues raised during The Long Nineteenth Century (1789-1914). 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; presenting a concise oral summary of work accomplished; actively participating in a seminar. Readings and assignments will include Austen, Mozart, Burke, Schubert, Mary Shelley, Mill, Marx, Dickens, Darwin, Freud, and Woolf, as well as selected poetry and critical writings. The course will culminate in a research paper and a presentation of each students' findings.

MLA 334: The Material Book: Ancient and Modern
Humanities
Mondays. 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: 31012
Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities

From buildings constructed to resemble books, to collectibles and memorials shaped as open pages, to the language and effect of the Web and Kindle, The Book seems as culturally present as any object could be. This course seeks to investigate this thing—The Book—to see what it means, what it represents, and how it is itself represented. We shall examine medieval and modern books; books about books; artists’ books; and objects that are books, even if they don’t look like books (and vice versa). We’ll also spend time considering the book as Monument, as Relic, as Fetish, as Thing, and as Immaterial.

MLA 335: A Tale of Three Rivers
Natural Science or Social Science
Tuesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: 31717
Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law, and Perry L. McCarty Director & Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment

Rivers are of exceptional importance to society.  Rivers drain 75 percent of the Earth’s surface.  Before railroads, trucks, and airplanes, they were the major arteries of transportation and commerce – and they still retain important commercial importance.  They furnish us with one of the cleanest sources of energy.  They provide us with fresh water for domestic, irrigation, industrial, and commercial use.  They serve as “natural” borders between states and nations.  They afford critical habitat for fish, birds, and many mammals.  And they offer boundless recreational opportunities, from fly fishing to white water rafting.  In the last century, these multiple uses have often clashed, leading to fierce political battles.  Not surprisingly, rivers are also intimately bound up in the history of the region through which they flow.  In this course, we will study three western rivers – the Colorado River, which is the water lifeblood of the American Southwest; the Columbia River, which produces almost half of the nation’s hydroelectric power; and the Los Angeles River, which was channelized in the middle of the 20th century but today is making a potential comeback.  Each student will write a paper on the history, cultural significance, or current controversies of a river of his or her choice.

MLA 398: Thesis in Progress
Fridays, 5:30-7:30pm
Axess #: 1098
Associate Dean and Director, MLA Program

Students who have an approved prospectus should enroll in MLA 398: Thesis-in-Progress. Students who are working on their theses are part of this class and meet regularly to provide peer critiques, motivation, and advice under the direction of the Associate Dean.

Winter: 
MLA 101B: Foundations II
Required of first-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: 1081
Lecturer in CSP and MLA

Co-taught with Dr. Jeremy Sabol, Lecturer in SLE and in MLA.

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.

MLA 336: Love as a Force for Social Justice
Humanities
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: 33862
Consulting Professor, Human Biology

This course will explore the concept of love as a force for social justice and action and as the inspiration for service and the application of knowledge to positive social change.  Biological, psychological, religious, and social perspectives of love will be discussed, drawing on the expertise of people from a variety of disciplines. 

During the ten-week quarter, the following topics will be raised and discussed: kinds of love/should we define love; non-violent communication; love and the biology of the brain; love as a basic concept of religious and ethical beliefs (e.g., Buddhism, Christianity, Gandhian Thought, Islam, Judaism); and artistic and poetic expressions of love as a social force.  This curriculum will hopefully foster a sense of the importance of love as a key phenomenon in creating community, connection, and functional societies among humans.
MLA 337: Science and Law in History
Thursdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: TBA
Professor of History

This course considers how the intertwined modern fields of science and law, since the early modern period, together developed central notions of fact, evidence, experiment, demonstration, objectivity, and proof.

MLA 338: William Blake: A Literary and Visual Exploration of the Illuminated Poetry
Humanities
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: TBA
Professor of English

This course will explore the visionary, illuminated world of William Blake—poet, prophet, revolutionary, and experimental artist. Blake’s genius lived, moved, and had its being in the radical world of the 1790s when modernity was taking shape: religious dissent, scientific breakthroughs, industrialization, urbanization, commodification, and political turmoil that involved agitation for the abolition of slavery, the rights of women, and the restructuring of social class hierarchies, were all part of the ferment from which his illuminated artwork emerged. Its immediacy, relevancy, and capacity to inspire have only grown to this day.

Students will gain familiarity with Blake’s visual iconography, the basic principles of his system and ideology, his unique, multicultural mythology, and his “infernal method” of relief etching that allowed him to make every illuminated book a unique work of art. 

Spring: 
MLA 101C: Foundations III
Required of first-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: 1092
Lecturer in Stanford's Program in Structured Liberal Education (SLE), and Lecturer in MLA

Foundations III explores how men and women attempted to locate themselves in the modern world through different rational, mental, humanistic, artistic, and conceptual ways. The course begins at the moment of the French Revolution and moves through to our contemporary global present. Along the way we will address capitalism and its critiques, liberalism, evolution and anthropology, world wars, the rise and fall of colonialism, struggles for equality, modernism, and the impact of modern science on the human condition.

MLA 326: Photography and Science
Natural Science
Axess #: 34944
Professor (Teaching) of Microbiology and Immunology

This course uses the idiom of photography to learn about nature, enhance observation, and explore scientific concepts. The course theme builds upon the pioneering photographic work of Eadweard J. Muybridge on human and animal locomotion. A second goal is to learn the grammar, syntax, composition, and style of nature photography to enhance the use of this medium as a form of scientific communication. Scientific themes to be explored include: taxonomy, habitat preservation, climate change; species diversity; survival and reproductive strategies; ecological niches and coevolution, carrying capacity and sustainability, population densities, predation, and predator-prey relationships, open-space management, the physics of photography. We will also explore the themes of change across time and space. Assignments will combine visual and written presentations and write-ups based on student research.  Course makes extensive use of field trips and class critique.

Thursday, April 5, 7-9:30pm
Saturday April 7, 9am-2pm (exact times TBA)
Sunday, April 8, 1-4pm (exact times TBA)
Thursday, April 12, 7-9:30pm
Saturday, April 14, 9am-2pm (exact times TBA)
Sunday, April 15, 1-4pm (exact times TBA)
Thursday, April 19, 7-9:30pm

 

MLA 339: The Human Predicament in Three Masterpieces
Humanities
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: 34945
Professor of English

The human predicament is in many ways tragic—or so argues the pessimistic South African philosopher David Benatar in his new book by that title. We are beset by pain and evil and we can eke out order and meaning only with sustained effort. In this class, we will study three masterpieces in some detail: Paradise Lost by John Milton (1667), Gulliver’s Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift, and Middlemarch by George Eliot (1872). These three works take up the human predicament (“all our woe” as Milton famously calls it) in diverse forms: political, social, physical, psychological, financial, marital, domestic. They are astonishing works that more than repay intense close study. We will take these great works on their own terms first, and then in relation to the great questions of suffering, joy, redemption, and transcendence that they offer. Participants in the class are asked to read David Benatar’s The Human Predicament before the first class meeting.

MLA 340: Dante and the Sacred Feminine
Humanities
Tuesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess #: 34946
Visiting Professor in Comparative Literature

We will be looking at Dante's work in a sweeping history of divine female figures and will be considering his female characters, in The Vita Nuova and all three canticles of the Comedy, to discuss how each illustrates his awareness of the principle of the sacred feminine and also goes against it.  We will also look at the subsequent history of this principle to better understand Dante's contribution. The purpose is to understand Dante's work as a fulcrum in the history of the principle of the sacred feminine.

MLA 398: Thesis in Progress
Fridays, 5:30-7:30pm
Axess #: 1091
Associate Dean and Director, MLA Program

Students who have an approved prospectus should enroll in MLA 398: Thesis-in-Progress. Students who are working on their theses are part of this class and meet regularly to provide peer critiques, motivation, and advice under the direction of the Associate Dean.

Summer: 
MLA 341: Aesthetics of Dissent in Contemporary Iran
Social Science
Mondays, 6:30-9:30pm
Axess #: 23905

The purpose of this seminar is to inquire into some of the different and subtle forms of dissent in the quotidian of the Islamic Republic of Iran, particularly in many realms of aesthetics. Only by understanding the subversive subaltern life of the vibrant youthful globalized society, and comparing it with the dour image of its dogmatic and aged central despotic political structure can we understand the paradox that is contemporary Iran. Through reading and analyzing novels smuggled out of the country (or published as Samizdat inside Iran), through watching films officially banned but shown in Iran or in Diaspora, through understanding the increasing assertive role of women in social spaces and their actual sartorial styles, through looking into the secret world of fashion, underground theater,  underground music (from rap to hip-hop), and the burgeoning of social media can we hope to both better understand these aesthetic texts and the complicated paradoxical context that is contemporary Iran. 

MLA 342: The Human Story in the Archives
Humanities
Axess #: 23906
Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities

This immersive course will examine how Archives reveal the stories of people from the past. We shall examine Archive theory and practice, learning what an Archive is; how knowledge and the historical record is constructed; and how we can access textual objects through Archival and Online information tools. We’ll work in Stanford Archives, and with small collections of ephemera to uncover individuals’ stories, and to reveal the larger social, literary and cultural significance of traces of those who’ve come before us.

Tuesday, July 17, 6:00-9:00pm
Thursday, July 19, 6:00-9:00pm
Sunday, July 22, 1:00-5:00pm
Tuesday, July 24, 6:00-9:00pm
Saturday, July 28, 10:00am-3:00pm
Sunday, July 29, 1:00pm-5:00pm
Tuesday, July 31, 6:00-9:00pm