2020 -2021 Curriculum

Open book on a table


MLA 101A Foundations I

Edward Steidle

Lecturer in CSP and MLA

Required of first-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess # 30616

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

Linda Paulson

Associate Dean and Director, MLA Program
Paul RobinsonRichard W. Lyman Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus

Required of second-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess # 30617

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, Wordsworth, Schubert, Balzac, Kierkegaard, Mann, 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 262: The Economics of Life and Death

Jay Bhattacharya

Professor of Medicine and, by courtesy, of Economics

Natural Science or Social Science
Tuesdays & Thursdays 7:00-8:15pm
Axess # 29961

This course is a survey of economic perspectives on issues of life and death.  The central idea of economics is that scarcity and constraints are unavoidable facts of life.  While economists traditionally focus on the role of scarcity in decisions that people make about work, saving, and spending (among other topics), the role of scarcity extends to a much broader range of decisions, including to fundamental decisions about health, life, and death.  The analytic framework of economics helps to explain many puzzling facts about life and death decisions.  In this course, we will apply this framework to a diverse set of topics, including the value of life, behavior under uncertainty, rationing healthcare, COVID-19, errors in medical training, smoking, and obesity. Though the language of the economics literature is often very mathematical, no mathematical sophistication is necessary to do well in the course.

MLA 357: Historic Journeys to Sacred Places

Elaine Treharne

Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities

Wednesdays, 7:00-9:00pm
Axess # 29964

In a world of touchscreens and instant knowledge, going on a journey for the good of the soul might seem strange. But pilgrimage—spiritual travel—has witnessed a huge resurgence. Why? We’ll investigate the pilgrimage through its long history, studying routes to some of the world’s most sacred places to consider this fundamental form of spiritual and personal expression. From Rome and Mecca, to Japan and Tibet, to Wales and California, these often-spectacular routes inspire, test, and reward travelers. Who travels on these routes and how do they travel? Who and what guides travelers on their way? What motivates these journeys and how did travelers access the spaces they desired to see? What objects testify to pilgrimage and the desire for salvation and remembrance? Indeed, what happens once we get to where we’re going? Working with personal accounts and with texts on cultural heritage, walking, pilgrimage, spirituality and individual growth, we shall emphasize these questions as we study some of the most well-trodden paths and most famous places in global history.

MLA 398: Thesis-in-Progress

Linda Paulson

Associate Dean and Director, MLA Program

Fridays, 5:30-7:30pm
Axess # 14658

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.


MLA 101B: Foundations II

Edward Steidle

Lecturer in MLA and CSP
Peter Mann, Lecturer in MLA and CSP

Required of first-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:00pm
Axess # 23210

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 298: Heretics, Prostitutes, and Merchants: The Venetian Empire

Paula Findlen

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

Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess # 24100

Between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries the republic of Venice created a powerful empire that controlled much of the Mediterranean.  Situated on the shifting boundary between East and West, the Venetians established a thriving merchant republic that allowed many social groups, religions, and ethnicities to coexist within its borders.  This seminar explores some of the essential features of Venetian society, as a microcosm of early modern European society.  We will examine the relationship between center and periphery, order and disorder, orthodoxy and heresy as well as the role of politics, art, and culture in Venice.  The seminar will conclude with a discussion of the decline of Venice as a political and economic power and its reinvention as a tourist site and living museum for the modern era.

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

Joseph Lipsick

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

Natural Science
Tuesdays & Thursdays, 7:00-8:15pm
Axess # 21397

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 398: Thesis-in-Progress

Linda Paulson

Associate Dean and Director, MLA Program

Fridays, 5:30-7:30pm
Axess # 23211

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.


MLA 101C: Foundations III

Peter Mann

Lecturer in MLA and CSP

Required of first-year MLA students
Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess # 23720

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 359: The Big Shift: Demographic and Social Change in America

Michael Wilcox

Senior Lecturer in Native American Studies/Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity

Social Science
Tuesdays, 6:00-8:30pm
Axess # 23803

What are the most pressing and challenging issues facing Americans today? Is the middle class shrinking? How do people who live at the extremes of American society- the super rich, the working poor and those who live on the margins, imagine and experience "the good life"? How does a soldier in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley (TRIBE/War), by Sebastian Junger) Valley come to experience friendship, kinship and masculinity? How does an African American researcher’s experience living in a “Whitopia” (Searching for Whitopia, by Rich Benjamin) change his preconceptions about race and class?  How does modern agribusiness (Tomatoland, by Barry Estabrook) draw immigrants from around the globe and how do we deal with these invisible populations? In “Tattoos on the Heart” by Father Greg Boyle we learn how a Jesuit priest in Los Angeles is literally turning lives around through compassion, business savvy and community engagement. What creative responses are generated to these problems by normal everyday people such as yourselves? 

This class uses the methods and modes of ethnographic study in an examination of American culture. Each of these narratives provides a window into the various ways in which Americans approach the subjects of wealth and the good life, poverty and the underclass, and the construction of class, race, and gender in American society. Students will not be required to have any previous knowledge, just curiosity and an open mind. 

MLA 360: The Impossibility of Love: Opera, Literature, Culture

Heather Hadlock

Associate Professor of Music

Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm
Axess # 34012

Opera has been called “A Song of Love and Death,” and most plots feature love forbidden by family, rivals, or social rules. This seminar will study five operas from the Romantic era in which star-crossed love is not merely forbidden but impossible due to illness, psychology, divine law, or the boundary between humans and non-humans. In addition to being gorgeous in itself, each work represents a different language and national style and a stage in the development of opera across 19th-century Europe. We will see how opera responded to currents in literary romanticism, folklorism, national consciousness, and symphonic music.

  • Giuseppe Verdi, La Traviata (1853)
  • Jules Massenet, Manon (1884)
  • Richard Wagner, Die Walküre (1870)
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin (1879)
  • Antonin Dvorak, Rusalka (1901)

We will study the five works closely, spending about two weeks on each, and read scholarly interpretations from musical, literary, political, and socio-historical perspectives. You will learn to recognize the building blocks of Romantic opera: solo showpieces, introspective soliloquies, love duets, trios and quartets of intrigue, grand and festive choruses, ballets, and of course death scenes. We will compare multiple stagings of certain scenes to see how decisions of directors and performers can transform the meaning of the drama and music. 

All works will be studied in translation and on video with subtitles. No prior musical knowledge is required.

MLA 398: Thesis-in-Progress

Linda Paulson

Associate Dean & Director, MLA Program

Fridays, 5:30-7:30pm
Axess 23718

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.


MLA 326: Nature through Photography

Robert Siegel

Professor (Teaching) of Microbiology and Immunology

Natural Science
Axess # 23593

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, June 24; 6:30-8:30pm (via zoom)
Saturday, June 26; 9am-2pm (in-person, off campus field trip)
Thursday, July 8; 6:30-9:30pm (via zoom)
Saturday, July 10; 9am-2pm (in-person, off campus field trip)
Thursday, July 15; 6:30-9:30pm (via zoom)
Saturday, July 17, 9am-2pm (in-person, off campus field trip)
Thursday, July 22; 6:30-9:30pm (via zoom)
Saturday, July 24; 9am-2pm (in-person, off campus field trip)
Thursday, July 29; 6:30pm-9:30pm

MLA 361: From Empire to Republic: History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey

Associate Professor of History; Director of the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Tuesdays, 6:00-9:00pm
Axess # 23566

This course focuses on the Ottoman Empire, its transformation, collapse, and the emergence of the Republic of Turkey. In the first half of the class, we will discuss the multi-ethnic and multi-religious character of the Ottoman world, spread over three continents, as well as several themes such statecraft, public life, art and architecture, family, and sexuality. Then we will discuss how this imperial order collapsed because of complex global and regional developments. In the second half we will focus on emergence and transformation of Modern Turkey in the 20th century and visit themes such as secularism and Islam, Turkey's relations with Europe, the USA, NATO and the Middle East, ideological movements such as nationalism, liberalism and socialism, as well as the recent crisis of Turkish democracy.

Stanford campus