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Featured MLA Courses

MLA students have the rare opportunity to develop their own concentration in the liberal arts from courses across the university. You may choose courses on the MLA Roster and on other SAS rosters from among the wide variety of graduate courses starting at the 400-level. For the full roster of courses visit the Penn Registrar’s web site pages including the Course timetable, the Penn Course Register and department, program and graduate group web sites.

Featured Courses for Summer 2013

ARTH 525 941
MLA Proseminar: Violence in Ancient Mediterranean Art
Ann L. Kuttner
Tuesday 5:30pm-8:30pm
Thursday 5:30pm-8:30pm

This course looks at Greco-Roman fascination with representing humans and beasts driven to the edge by inflicted physical and psychological pain, in all arts enjoyed privately and publicly, religiously and politically--and as entertainment.  What were the roots of that obsession? We'll start by contrasting neighbor cultures. How  has this phenomenon been a fateful legacy to much of the post-antique "West"?  Our class probes ancient responses that were as often  alien as they were similar to modern reactions to the painful image; and we'll often use ancient literature to help explore that response culture.

PSCI 598 942
MLA Proseminar: International Development
Rudra Sil
Tuesday 5:00pm-8:00pm
Thursday 5:00pm-8:00pm

This proseminar addresses the idea and practice of “development” writ large. It will examine the evolution of concepts and theories related to “development," identifying shifts in thinking from the late 19th century through the present age of "globalization." It will consider the relationships and disjunctures between political developmenton the one hand, and economic and social development on the other. The latter half of the course will address specific debates over alternative visions and experiences of development, with linkages to the processes of democratization, nation-building, and globalization. The seminar will conclude with a look at the “view from below" in discourses of development, considering the perspectives of marginalized groups such as workers, women, and peasant communities.

Featured Courses for Fall 2013

AFST 524 640
MLA Proseminar: Mandela: History, Biography, Film
Rita Barnard
Wednesday 5:30pm-8:10pm

This interdisciplinary seminar will investigate the life of Nelson Rolihlalha Mandela and the way in which this life has been represented. We will study Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, relevant historical contexts, and several films, both documentaries and feature films (like Invictus and Endgame). The course will also investigate the politics of apartheid, the history of the ANC and other resistance movements, the experiences of political prisoners, the transition to democracy, and, in order to assess Mandela’s legacy, the state of the “new” South Africa, now 20 years old. Each week’s seminar will be topic-driven, to include recent scholarly debates around on Mandela and tradition, Mandela and the modern colonial city, Mandela and law, Mandela and the armed struggle, Mandela and prison, Mandela and nation building, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the politics of gender, family, and sexuality (including the AIDS epidemic). This course will be of interest not only to students with an interest in Mandela as a great man, but in the nature of colonial oppression, liberation struggles, human rights, and genres of historical representation (autobiography, biography, documentaries and biopics, for instance) and contemporary cultures of celebrity.

ARTH 551 640
Topics in Early Modern Theory: From La Maniera to Modernism
Christopher Pastore
Wednesday 6:00pm-8:40pm

This seminar will examine the relationship between bravura brushstrokes, idiosyncratic style, artistic identity, and the rise of formalism in the modern era. Taking cues from the collection of the Barnes Foundation and Albert Barnes’ theories, we will begin in the Renaissance and consider the distinct styles developed by masters and their students in the 16th Century and move forward into a study of formalism and the work of Cezanne and the Post-Impressionists. Burgeoning Renaissance art theory and artist’s responses to the rhetoric surrounding increasingly divergent aesthetics and uses of media will help us come to grips with early modern artists such as Tintoretto and El Greco. Ground-breaking theorists such as Lodovico Dolce and Gian Paolo Lomazzo as well as other authors including Pietro Aretino and Giorgio Vasari reveal an awareness of increasing tension in debates about art and artifice. We will read their works among others and then contrast their positions with dramatically different formal concerns raised by Roger Fry and Barnes himself. As did both Fry and Barnes, the seminar will then discuss Renaissance artists in comparison to Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works collected and hung with these “old masters” in the galleries of the Barnes Foundation as opposed to their normal segregation by period and region in other museums. In the process, students will ask questions about changing theoretical approaches to art and visual studies, the power of the collector and patron, and the way that modern artists found inspiration for innovation in the works of previous centuries.

ENGL 490 640
Topics in the Novel: Growing Up in Fiction
Deborah Burnham
Wednesday 6:00pm-8:40pm

Many classic novels ask the question “How should we live?”  The novels in this course ask “How do we grow up?”  We’ll begin with two classic novels that show young women making choices and finding that they are not allowed much choice:  Austen’s Persuasion and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. We’ll continue with a massive but marvelous novel, Middlemarch whose heroine’s growth is defined by her search to do the right thing. We will not rush through; we’ll take our time and appreciate its intricate structures and passionate intelligence. We’ll then move to the twentieth century to read novels that explore questions of obedience, loyalty, identity, control, duty, passion, sex, education – a very, very familiar list.  But each of these marvelous books shows a unique side of these questions. The reading will include: Ella Leffland’s Rumors of Peace, which explores the effect of World War II on a very young girl. Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea which proposes a story for Bertha Mason, Jane Eyre’s “madwoman in the attic”. Jeanette Winterson’s  Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit,  which shows a young woman coming of age in a strict Christian community. Pearl Abraham’s The Romance Reader, which shows a young girl growing up in a strict Hasidic community. Marilynn Robinson’s Housekeeping, which asks us to think about the various forms of duty and family loyalty. With each text, we’ll read one significant piece of theoretical writing that will provide a specific framework for discussion and, in the end, will give us a significant slice of feminist literary theory. Because many of these books are long, the weekly writing assignments will be short:  half-page questions designed to encourage discussion.  There will be a longer final paper, based on a very focused research question. This paper will be developed over the course of the semester, with help from the library’s research staff. 

View all MLA courses for Fall 2013


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