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        Samuel Yelton

        Committee on Liberal Studies
        6 East 16th Street, room 711A
        New York, NY 10003
        Tel: 212.229.2747 x3026
        Fax: 212.229.5473 

        Mailing Address
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        New York, NY 10003

        Paul Kottman

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        Jeff Feld

        Student Advisor
        Weston Finfer

        Liberal Studies Student Handbook (PDF)


    • Courses in the Department of Liberal Studies survey modern society through groundbreaking thinkers and significant developments in the arts, social history, cultural theory, politics, and philosophy. Students will enhance their own ideas through nonfiction writing and criticism, improving the clarity of their thinking and analytical construction.

      Please consult the New School Course Catalog for a full list of courses. Fall 2019 courses include:

      • Women's Intellectual History, GLIB 5145
        Gina Walker, Professor of Women's Studies

        Women’s Intellectual History complements and corrects the traditional narrative of Western thought, created by and dealing with mainly men. We ask: What are the historical assumptions about the connections between women’s sexuality and their learning, beginning with the ancients? What role did religion and “natural philosophy” play in facilitating or limiting women’s access to education? How did continuing debate over whether the mind “has sex” influence decisions about the cultural roles for which women should be educated? Was there a causal relation between la querelle des femmes and the diffusion of l’égalité des sexes, first proposed by the Cartesian Poullain de la Barre? We examine texts on, contexts of, and new information about earlier “learned ladies” that feminist scholarship has recovered over the past 40 years: Enheduanna, Sappho, Diotima, Aspasia, Hypatia, early Christian martyr Vibia Perpetua, the 12th-century thinker Hildegard of Bingen and her contemporary Heloise, the erotic trobaritz, and Christine de Pizan and her political vision of a “City of Ladies.” We ask: Did women have the same “Renaissance” as men? We read the 16th-century Venetian humanists, “honorable courtesans,” and poets Tullia d’Aragona, Veronica Franco, and Gaspara Stampa, who develop neo-Platonist ideas of their own. We consider Elizabeth I of England as an early modern humanist “prince,” one of “the monstrous regiment of women rulers" in Europe and a beacon of clusters of early modern women thinkers. We scrutinize new critical perspectives, such as an enlightened “republic of women,” to elucidate disputes in current theory and historiography about a lineage of earlier “feminists” and what we have inherited from them.

      • What Was the Human, GLIB 5149
        Dominic Pettman, Professor of Culture and Media

        This course starts with the provocative claim that we are no longer human. (Indeed, it entertains the possibility that we never were human — but we'll get to that later.) Reviewing key moments in the history of thought concerning our own "species being" (Marx), this seminar is aimed at identifying common themes concerning the self-description of the human across epochs and cultures. In doing so, we effectively chart a retrospective prospectus of the human race. Special attention is placed on canonical attempts to identify and fix a human essence or element and on intellectual projects designed to demonstrate the errors — and even delusions — they contain. The last part of the course concentrates on the figure of the so-called posthuman, especially in its role as avatar of triumphant or inevitable technics. Readings include works by Plato, La Mettrie, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Georges Bataille, Marshall McLuhan, Gilles Deleuze, Alphonso Lingis, Bernard Stiegler, David Wills, Steven Shaviro, Donna Haraway, Sylvia Wynter, and Rosi Braidotti. We also discuss films and other pop cultural phenomena relating to this theme. Undergraduates seeking to take this course must contact the instructor for permission.

      • The Personal and the Political in Creative Nonfiction, GLIB 5176
        Melissa Monroe, Assistant Professor of Liberal Studies

        How does a writer shape personal experience into work that speaks to issues of general political and social importance? In this course, we examine short pieces and excerpts from books by a wide range of writers who have used the first person to report on current events, engage with public figures, and reflect on social or cultural phenomena. Authors covered include James Agee, Nicholson Baker, James Baldwin, Max Beerbohm, Jenny Diski, Susan Faludi, Henry James, Margo Jefferson, Alfred Kazin, Janet Malcolm, Jan Morris, Maggie Nelson, E.B. White, Colson Whitehead, and Virginia Woolf. We focus on the construction of narrative voice and perspective and on the ethical and psychological questions that arise when an author serves as a character in their own work. The course has a strong workshop component: Students write three brief essays and one longer one, and we spend part of almost every meeting discussing effective examples of student work.

      • The Death of Everything: The Postmodern Condition Revisited, GLIB 5232
        Jeremy Varon, Professor of History

        In the last decades of the 20th century, a specter haunted the intellectual and cultural life of the developed West: postmodernism. Adherents of a new, postmodern sensibility declared the project of Occidental modernity dead, with its great pillars lying in ruins: reason, rationality, the self, the author, ideologies of emancipation, all myths of progress, and the very idea of truth. The question burned: How were we to make sense and make the most of this brave new world? Could the postmodern condition be grasped as a “system”? Could it ever be transcended, whether by the force of its own logic or by collective political will? Never fully answered, such questions faded from view. Interest in postmodernism has roared back to life with the characterization of Trump and other strongmen as “postmodern” leaders, reveling in a “post-truth” world. Left-wing intellectuals who promoted the postmodern turn are made to wonder if they had a hidden hand in today’s authoritarian condition. This indictment raises the questions: Just what was postmodernism? What have its effects and legacy been? How might a past bear responsibility for a future? This seminar approaches these questions by reconstructing postmodernism at its moment of inception. We examine seminal postmodern texts that set the terms of debate; look at exemplary instances of postmodern culture drawn from film, TV, media, art, and architecture; ask if postmodernism had, or implied, a “politics”; blend “deep play” with rigorous inquiry; and consider both negative and positive ways of understanding the legacy of postmodernism.

      • The Making of the Modern World, GLIB 5542
        Paul Kottman, Associate Professor of Liberal Studies

        The course presents an interpretation and evaluation of the fate of modernity, as understood by some of the most influential thinkers of the past 250 years, involving currents in the arts, social history, cultural theory, politics, and philosophy. “Modernity” is understood here to entail such phenomena as the emergence of the nation-state, ambitious claims for the authority of reason in human affairs, the increasing authority of the natural sciences, the advent of a discourse of natural or human rights, aesthetic modernism, capitalism and the free market, and globalization and social movements that take up new demands of mutuality, from feminism to the labor movement. Each of these issues will be addressed, through readings of works by Descartes, Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Nietzsche, de Beauvoir, Arendt, and others — alongside consideration of a range of cultural products and social practices. (Required core course for MA Liberal Studies students)

      • Nihilism, GLIB 5705
        Eugene Thacker, Professor of Media Studies

        This seminar will examine philosophical nihilism through an engagement with the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and of thinkers responding to him, including Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Luce Irigaray, Karl Jaspers, Pierre Klossowski, Karl Löwith, Lev Shestov, and Keiji Nishitani and more recent figures including Ray Brassier, Arthur Kroker, Keith Ansell Pearson, and Nandita Biswas Mellamphy.

      • Conceptualization of Culture, GLIB 6157
        Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies

        The preoccupation of many social thinkers with the phenomenon of “culture” long antedates J.G. Herder's remark that “nothing is more indeterminate than this word.” Still, a preoccupation with culture has been widely shared ever since — by historians, sociologists, and anthropologists. This seminar is addressed to those who are interested in the history of social thought, the sociology of knowledge, and studies of culture and will explore the main debates surrounding the idea of culture and its development. Whether discussing the Greek notion of paidea, the romantic ideal of genius, or the historiographic essays of the Annales historians of our own day, we trace the dynamics of two contrasting approaches to culture: the broadly empirical and anthropological approach and the more narrowly normative “humanistic” approach. The readings — some of them passionate critiques of culture — include works by Plato, Aristophanes, Vico, Rousseau, Herder, Goethe, Marx, Ferdinand de Saussure, Sigmund Freud, Fernand Braudel, J. Heuzinga, Ernst Cassirer, Mikhail Bakhtin, Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Samuel Beckett.
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