2023 -2024 Curriculum

Open book on a table

Autumn

MLA 101A: Foundations I

Peter Mann

Lecturer, MLA and CSP

Required of first-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

The first quarter of the Foundations sequence introduces students to the critical reading of literary works in historical context. The time span ranges roughly two thousand years, from the second millennium BCE, when the epic of Gilgamesh assumed written form, to Augustine's articulation of Christianity and the self shortly before the fall of Rome. Students will read epics, tragedies, philosophical works, natural history, lyric poetry, satire, autobiography and theology from Ancient Assyria, Greece, Rome, and China. 

MLA 102: Introduction to Interdisciplinary Graduate Study

Linda Paulson

Associate Dean & Director, MLA Program
Charles Junkerman
Dean Emeritus, Stanford Continuing Studies

Required of second-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

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, Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, Balzac, Douglass, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Lincoln, Darwin, Woolf, Hughes, as well as selected poetry and critical writings. The course will culminate in a research paper and a presentation of each students' findings.

MLA 376: Performance and Photography

Peggy Phelan

Ann O'Day Maples Professor of the Arts and Professor of English

Humanities
Tuesdays, 7:00-9:30-pm

This class will combine classic critical essays in the history of photography with close analyses of particular artists’ work. Readings from Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag, Deborah Willis,  Peggy Phelan, Hilton Als, and Fred Ritchin (among others) will guide our approach to fundamental issues in the conjunction of photography and performance. While our main emphasis will be on photographic portraiture and performances such as fashion shoots and selfies, we will also look at how photography performs in a diverse range of settings from criminal trials to sports events. As photography moves from high art to documentary evidence, to a node in an information network to a practice of everyday life, how does it help and hinder the political and philosophical belief in a singular self and a “once in a life-time event”? We will be discussing the photographs of: Matthew Brady, Alfred Stieglitz, Walker Evans, Sherry Levine, Diane Arbus, Lorna Simpson, Cindy Sherman, Carrie Mae Weems, Andy Warhol, Emily Mann, Richard Avedon, Francesca Woodman, Ansel Adams, and Gordon Parks, among others.

MLA 377: A Deep Dive in the Indian Ocean: From Prehistory to the Modern Day

Krish Seetah

Associate Professor at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, of Oceans, of Anthropology and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment

Social Science
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

The Indian Ocean has formed an enduring connection between three continents, countless small islands and has become the focus of increasing interest in this geographically vast and culturally diverse region. This course explores a range of issues, from the nature and dynamics of colonization and cultural development as a way of understanding the human experience in this part of the world, to topics such as food, disease, and heritage. The course studies the many ways in which research in the Indian Ocean has a direct impact on our ability to compare developments in the Atlantic and Pacific. Classes will initially take a longitudinal perspective, looking at the major changes over time to have impacted communities in the Indian Ocean. The course will then explore key topics: maritime endeavor, food, and labor, with particular emphasis on the colonial period and influence of Europeanization. Throughout the course, stress is placed on how archaeo-historic datasets can inform our understanding; however, the course will also be enriched through the inclusion of evidence and perspectives from anthropology and art.

MLA 398: Thesis in Progress

Linda Paulson

Associate Dean & Director, MLA Program

Fridays, 5:30-7:30pm

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

Peter Mann

Lecturer in MLA and CSP

Required of first-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

The second quarter of the Foundations sequence ranges from the medieval courtly romance to the flowering of 19th-century Romanticism. In between, the course covers journeys historical, philosophical, and spiritual: across the medieval Islamic worlds of Ibn Battuta and Rumi, to the Americas at the dawn of European colonialism and transatlantic slavery, and through the Renaissance and Enlightenment of Dante, Boccaccio, Cervantes, Montaigne, Wollstonecraft, and Rousseau.

MLA 347: Rome: From Pilgrimage to the Grand Tour

Paula Findlen

Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of History and Professor, by courtesy, of French and Italian

Humanities
Tuesdays, 7:00-9:30-pm

Imagine yourself in Rome. What do you see beyond the ruins of an ancient city? In the fourteenth century the city of over one million ancient Roman inhabitants had shrunk to a paltry population of less than twenty thousand. With the return of the papacy in the fifteenth century the rebuilding and revival of Rome began in earnest. By the late sixteenth century it was the center of global missions, an expanding state, and a nascent tourist industry. This course explores the history of the "Eternal City" from the late Middle Ages through the age of the Grand Tour. It examines the political, diplomatic, and religious history of the papacy, Roman society and cultural life, the everyday world of Roman citizens, the relationship between the city and the surrounding countryside, the material transformation of Rome as a city, and its meaning for foreigners.

MLA 358: The Intersection of Medicine, Science, Public Policy and Ethics: Cancer as a Case Study

Joseph Lipsick

Professor of Pathology, Genetics, and, by courtesy, of Biology

Science, Engineering, Medicine
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

How has our approach to cancer been affected by clinical observations, scientific discoveries, social norms, politics, and economic interests? Approximately one in three Americans will develop invasive cancer during their lifetime; one in five Americans will die as a result of this disease. We will explore how society has attempted to understand and manage this problem using clinical trials, population studies, public health interventions, and laboratory research. We will also discuss how race, politics, economics, and ethics have affected the outcomes of these efforts.

MLA 364: A Short History of Security

Stephen J. Stedman

Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and Professor, by courtesy, of Political Science

Social Science
Tuesdays, 6:30-9:00pm

This course interrogates what people mean when they talk about security. Security justifies inconveniences like passwords that are nearly impossible to memorize, and metal detectors to enter sporting events, political talks, and airports. Security is said to be central to processes leading to war: the pursuit of security by one state may imperil the security of another, leading to a spiral of conflict that international relations scholars call “the security dilemma.” Sometimes we are asked to ignore impolite, nasty, or thoughtless behavior because someone suffers from the absence of security. Yet despite its importance and centrality in social and political life, security suffers from vagueness and imprecision. It can connote freedom from fear, or freedom from threat. Security’s modifiers are abundant and suggest a wealth of objects to be secured; a non-exhaustive list includes human, social, national, international, nuclear, cyber, food, economic, energy, and homeland.  In this course we will investigate how the meanings of security have shifted throughout history. We will ask why security becomes a societal preoccupation at different times in history. We will ask whether our current preoccupation with security will be permanent. 

MLA 398: Thesis in Progress

Linda Paulson

Associate Dean & Director, MLA Program

Fridays, 5:30-7:30pm

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.

Spring

MLA 101C: Foundations III

Peter Mann

Lecturer in MLA and CSP

Required of first-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

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 378: The Sublime and the Ugly

Denise Gigante

Sadie Dernham Patek Professor in the Humanities

Humanities
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

Why is it that the aesthetic pleasures resulting from artistic representation so often depart from the “pure” ideal of beauty? Is tainted beauty more, or less, than beautiful? Is there any such thing as a “pure” aesthetic category, after all, or is all experience in relation to the arts hybrid? Pain may enhance pleasure in the case of the sublime, but where does disgust fit in? or does it? And what about ugliness? Campiness? Grotesqueness? The uncanny? This course is designed to put literary, psychoanalytic, sociological, architectural, post-structural, and queer theory as well as philosophical and art historical writings in conversation with poetry, narrative fiction, creative nonfiction, and film, in order to develop a critical skill set designed not only to address such questions but, more critically for an active mind, to posit new ones.

MLA 379: Chinese Legal History

Matthew Sommer

Bowman Family Professor of History and, by courtesy, of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Humanities
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

This MLA course introduces students to the history of law in imperial China through a close reading of primary sources in English translation and highlights of the best relevant scholarship. We begin with the Confucian and Legalist classics and the formation of law in early China. Then we explore how law served as a field of interaction between state and society during China's last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644-1911). Specific topics include the formation and function of imperial legal codes; autocracy and political crime; evidence, review, and appeals; the regulation of gender and sexual relations; the functioning of local courts; property and contract; the informal sphere of community regulation outside the official judicial system; and law in cultural context, as seen in religious practices and popular fiction. There are no prerequisites for this class: prior knowledge of Chinese history and/or language are welcome but not expected or required.

MLA 380: The Past and Present of Survey Research in America: Controversies, Drama, and Successful Science

Jon Krosnick

Frederic O. Glover Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor of Communication and Political Science at the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability and, by courtesy, of Psychology

Social Science
Mondays, 7:00-9:30pm

Commercial companies, government agencies, NGOs, and academics routinely rely on surveys to guide their work. Poor quality surveys have been proliferating in recent years and creating the misleading impression that surveys are routinely inaccurate. But in fact, high quality surveys continue to precisely forecast election outcomes and measure many other phenomena more accurately and quickly and efficiently than lots of other approaches.But to achieve that accuracy, a researcher needs to know what scientists have learned over decades about how to draw truly representative samples from well-defined populations, how to hire and train interviewers to carry out their work objectively and effectively, how to write questions that are easy for respondents to interpret and answer and don't cause bias, how to properly analyze data with weights, and much more. During this course, students will review the evidence documenting accuracy and inaccuracy in survey measurements, guidelines for best practices in collecting survey data, and optimal approaches to analyzing and interpreting survey evidence. In addition, we'll look at in-depth stories of the findings and controversies surrounding surveys of opinions on global warming, surveys assessing the impact of massive chemical spills on the public, surveys assessing the frequency with which safety-endangering things happen during flights of commercial passenger aircraft, and more. This course will help students to be smarter users of survey data, will help to differentiate good surveys from unreliable ones, and will illuminate the roles that surveys play in society today.

MLA 398: Thesis in Progress

Linda Paulson

Associate Dean & Director, MLA Program

Fridays, 5:30-7:30pm

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 381: John Muir

Charles Junkerman

Dean Emeritus, Stanford Continuing Studies

Humanities
Stanford campus