2022 -2023 Curriculum

Open book on a table


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 JunkermanAssociate Provost & Dean, Continuing Studies (1999-2018)

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 368: Russia and Ukraine: Historical Interconnections

Nancy Kollmann

William H Bonsall Professor of History

Mondays, 7:00-9:30pm

The course explores the separate histories and cultures of Ukraine and Russia – from the tenth through the seventeenth centuries – and concludes by analyzing nationalist discourse on both sides in eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and Russia’s imperial governance of Ukraine through mid-nineteenth century. Class will consist of lectures and discussion of readings, which will include extensive primary sources.

MLA 369: Mapping Poverty, Colonialism, and Nation Building in Latin America

Alberto Diaz-Cayeros

Senior Fellow, Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law and Director, Center for Latin American Studies

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

Cartography is one of the main devices through which humans have attempted to capture and understand complex social, economic and political phenomena. Map-making in Latin America was one of the most important processes of discovery and appropriation during the colonial period, as the Spanish and Portuguese (as well as the Dutch, French and English if we include the Caribbean islands) used mapping for practical uses related initially to navigation, and as a means of control and extraction of resources from their empires. Indigenous map making was used by the original peoples of the Americas as a form of resistance and a device for adaptation. This course uses mapping in colonial and early independent Latin America as a lens through which students may learn about the process of colonization, state building, and the legacies on those processes on poverty and underdevelopment today.


MLA 101B: Foundations II

Peter Mann

Lecturer, MLA and CSP

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

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.

MLA 295: The American Enlightenment

Caroline Winterer

William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies, Professor of History and, by courtesy, of Classics and of Education

Mondays, 7:00-9:30pm

Eighteenth-century America was like a laboratory for exciting new political, religious, scientific, and artistic theories that we collectively call “the Enlightenment.” But to what extent were the major ideas and questions of the Enlightenment shaped by the specific conditions of North America? Was the new world of America fundamentally different or the same as Europe, and did animals, plants, and peoples improve or worsen there? Could a perfect new society and government, uncorrupted by European problems, be created in America? To what extent did the American Enlightenment lay the groundwork for modern American society and its ideal of continual improvement and progress? We will attempt to answer these questions in this class through short lectures, readings in original documents from the era, and in discussions together.

MLA 370: Henry David Thoreau: Seeing Into the Light of Things

Charles Junkerman

Associate Provost & Dean, Continuing Studies (1999-2018)

Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

When you go to Walden Pond these days, you inevitably find yourself walking the trails with hundreds of pilgrims from around the world:  Brazil, France, Korea, China, Turkey . . . Thoreau has long been one of our country’s secular saints, and not just for one reason.  He was way ahead of his time, and publicly outspoken, on issues like abolition (his mother and sister were conductors on the Underground Railroad), education for children, women’s rights, Indian rights, what we today call “ecology” and environmental protection.  He was one of the first to translate Buddhist and Hindu texts for American readers, and was an early experimenter in a range of spiritual exercises: voluntary simplicity, self-relinquishment, contemplative solitude, and what is called “extrospection” (seeing through others’ eyes, including other species and what are often assumed to be inanimate objects like rocks and trees).   He was also a startlingly accomplished naturalist, one of Alexander von Humboldt’s most astute students, and one of the first readers to understand the earthquake-impact of Darwin.  William Blake once wrote, “When the doors of perception are open, we will see things as they are, infinite.”  Every afternoon, Thoreau walked out, with his doors wide open, a receptive and non-judgmental “seer,” and the next morning he wrote it all down in his Journal, the astonishingly gorgeous life-long record of his being in the world (of which we’ll read two edited versions).

In the seminar, we will immerse ourselves in Thoreau, but will also recruit a small band of philosophers and artists to help with our explorations (Constable, Ruskin, Heidegger, Merleau Ponty, Van Gogh, Frederic Edwin Church, James Turrell, John Cage, Annie Dillard, William James, Aldous Huxley, and – of course ­– Thoreau’s lifelong companion, Ralph Waldo Emerson). 

MLA 371: Narratives of Enslavement

Grant Parker

Associate Professor of Classics

Thursdays, 7:00-9:30pm

Widely dispersed narratives by and about enslaved persons are the focus of this course. We’ll seek different ways to understand the concept of ‘slave narrative’ by comparing enslaved pasts via texts from the ancient Mediterranean, the Cape of Good Hope, and the United States. We’ll juxtapose famous autobiographies with less familiar material such as the micronarratives that can be reconstructed from court cases. Guiding questions include: What are the affordances, what are the limits of narrative as a source of insight into enslaved pasts? What notions of enslaved experience emerge? How different do such experiences seem when compared across time and space?

MLA 398: Thesis-in-Progress

Linda Paulson
Associate Dean & Direcor, 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.


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 372: Shakespeare in Love

Denise Gigante

Sadie Dernham Patek Professor in the Humanities

Wednesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

Love—requited and unrequited, faithful and false, heterosexual and same-sex—was a topic that obsessed Shakespeare throughout his career. Fluid, ever changing, fresh and quick, love has always been the stuff of imagination: who can define it? We’ll see Shakespeare tackling the subject in various ways in his sonnets and a selection of his plays. Our focus will be on the poetry, both dramatic and lyric (sonnets), with the goal of becoming not only more sophisticated literary interpreters, but confident readers of poetry, familiar with its various techniques for conveying and pursuing the complex nuances of emotion, sexuality, and identity. 

MLA 373: Artificial Intelligence and Society

Mykel Kochenderfer

Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and, by courtesy, of Computer Science

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

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform society in a way that has not been seen before. AI can bring many positive benefits, such as allowing ideas to more flexibly cross language barriers, improve medical outcomes, and enhance the safety and efficiency of our transportation systems. However, as with the introduction with other technologies, there is the potential of negative consequences, such as job insecurity and the introduction of vulnerabilities that come with greater levels of automation. We will delve deeply into the core issues at stake that come with the greater integration of AI into society.

MLA 374: Gender and Sexuality in Chinese History

Matthew Sommer

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

Tuesdays, 7:00-9:30pm

This graduate seminar explores gender and sexuality in China during the last few centuries through a survey of scholarship in history and anthropology.  Our focus is the Ming-Qing, Republican, and Maoist eras.  Readings have been selected to introduce the work of major scholars and basic issues and debates in this field. Our topic is historical, but the course as a whole explores questions fundamental to gender studies more generally.  How have culture and history shaped the categories of “woman” and “man”?  How have class, status, and divisions of labor influenced the shaping of normative gender roles and sexualities, as well as actual patterns of behavior?  How has gender performance interacted with bodily disciplines and constraints (e.g., reproductive and cosmetic technologies)?  How has the modern transformation played out across different societies, and how has the construction of normalcy/deviance changed over time?  Is the experience of Euro-American women relevant to women in other parts of the world?  What roles have women and “the woman question” played in revolution? By what standards should liberation be defined, and how can it be achieved?

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.


MLA 326: Nature Through Photography

Robert Siegel

Professor (teaching) of Microbiology and Immunology

Natural Science
June 20-July 13

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.

Tues June 20: 6:30-9:30pm
Thurs June 22: 6:30-9:30pm
Sat June 24: 9am-2pm Field trip
Sun June 25: 9am-2pm Field trip
Tues June 27: 6:30-9:30pm
Thurs June 29: 6:30-9:30pm
Sat July 1: 9am-2pm Field Trip
Sun July 2: 9am-2pm 
Thurs July 6: 6:30-9:30pm
Sat July 8: 9am-2pm Field Trip
Sun July 9: 9am-2pm Field Trip
Tues July 11: 6:30-9:30pm
Thurs July 13: 6:30-9:30pm 

MLA 375: An Archival Intensive

Roberta Bowman Denning Professor and Professor, by courtesy, of German Studies and of Comparative Literature

August 1-17

This course asks how communities and institutions preserve their records: how are materials collected, categorized, described, preserved, displayed, and made accessible? How do we learn to interpret these documents and their place within broader cultural contexts? Whose voices and memories are included and excluded? The course will introduce students to the critical skills and methodological framework required for working in archives and manuscript repositories. Students will be taught how to read and analyse archival sources, and will be trained in the transcription, editing, evaluation, and publication of primary textual materials. Our textual materials will be generically varied and chronologically and linguistically diverse. In sum, students will acquire, through two intensive weeks, the basic tools and methods of Archival Studies, with a particular focus on representation.

Tues Aug 1: 6-9pm
Thurs Aug 3: 6-9pm
Sun August 6: 1-5pm
Tues Aug 8: 6-9pm
Sat Aug 12: 10am-3pm
Sun Aug 13: 1-5pm
Thurs Aug 17: 6-9pm

Stanford campus