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Possible Electives


This list is just a partial sample of courses; to view full course offerings, please visit the websites for the doctoral, master’s, and certificate programs at the Graduate Center. Please also visit the MALS website to view the Spring 2020 course schedule.
Please note that courses included in this list are subject to change; please contact the program or faculty members involved for additional details.

IDS 81680 -- Psychological Dis-ease Swelling in Contentious Times: Contributors, sustainers, and resisters
Wednesdays, 9:30 – 11:30 am, Room 3309, Profs. Michelle Fine ( and Desiree Byrd (

The lived experience of mental health in the US, and in NYC in particular, reveals systemic inequities that result in disparate levels of navigational burden for cultural minorities and other marginalized citizens living with mental illness.  This introductory graduate course shifts the framework of pathological analysis from age old psychological theories to applied sociopolitical realities that will critically interrogate literatures on anxiety, paranoia, immigration, trauma, crime, violence and mental health and deconstructs how psychopathology varies by race/ethnicity, immigration status, income level, religion, sexuality and gender. As this course traverses through mood, anxiety and thought disorders, students will read, critique and create interdisciplinary “documents” and performances at the intersection of research, law, policy and analysis to connect individual level “mental health” concerns with the sociopolitical realities of modern day NYC. Working in interdisciplinary groups, students will select an “angle” for critical analysis, blending scholarly reviews, popular media and participant observation/interviews with respect to a range of issues, including the racialized criminalization of mental health and police violence against women of color suffering from mental illness. This course will also involve lectures from/visits with activists as well as organizers involved with interpersonal violence, mass incarceration, addiction communities, immigration justice groups, and community leaders who have cultivated unique interventions at the grass roots level to counter the impact of mental health disparities within varied neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. Our analysis will move between pain and resistance; individual and structural enactments of dis-ease; prevention; and healing.
HIST 70330 -- The Trajanic Moment in Roman Literature
Wednesdays, 4:15 - 6:15 pm, Room 3308, Prof. Joel Allen (
This history course looks at the Roman Principate in its transition from the reign of Domitian to that of Trajan (roughly 80-120 CE), a momentous period that saw shifts in the nature and exercise of political power, the negotiation of empire, and attitudes toward ethnicity and identity, three themes that will form the emphases of our readings. 
Proceeding chronologically, we’ll begin with an exploration of the intellectual climate of Domitianic Rome.  Some areas of inquiry include the use of memory of the Roman past among both poets and prose authors of the late Flavian period—Silius Italicus, Frontinus, Quintilian—as well as changes in the nature of public life in the city and the emperor’s role therein, as evident in Martial and Statius.  To the extent possible, we’ll seek to recover perspectives on and of the provinces, especially the Greek East (Josephus, perhaps), an area that will have more evidence as we move into the Trajanic empire with the texts of Dio Chrysostom, Plutarch, and Favorinus.  Tacitus will be an obvious reference point in both chronological “halves” of the course, leading into the commentaries of his later contemporaries (the letters and Panegyricus of Pliny the Younger, the biographies of Suetonius, and the satirical poems of Juvenal) on politics, ethnicity, and what it means to be “Roman”.  All texts will be read in English translation (though knowledge of Greek and Latin would of course enrich the student’s experience!).

UED 75100 -- Cultural Praxis: Designing Research Methods in Partnership with Teachers, Children and other Field-Based Researchers
Thursdays, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Room 3307, 3 credits, Prof. Beth Ferholt (
This course will support students as they develop their own means of collaborating with traditionally excluded knowledge, knowers and means of knowing to develop new research methods. Students will be invited to join existing studies in which young children, artists and teachers work with researchers to design aesthetic, play-based research methods that are theoretically informed by the work of L. S. Vygotsky, a scholar of resistance, play and art; or to design similarly situated, ethical, historical methods within their own ongoing or new research projects.  We will explore the work of researchers in a variety of fields who have engaged methods of research from outside the academy, such as methods of trance, art and play, to make phenomena that may have previously appeared to be outside the purview of scientific study, available for study in their full, dynamic complexity.  This work can be situated in the following areas, amongst others: ethnographic film (Jean Rouch), preschool practice (Monica Nilsson), developmental psychology (Anna Stetsenko), creativity in early childhood (Vea Vecchi), performance studies (Dwight Conquergood), Native Science (Douglas Medin and Megan Bang) and anthropology (Edith Turner).  The foci of the class will include challenging the divide between method and object in conventional social sciences, as well bridging barriers between professions and generations in research design.
UED 75200 -- Troubling “Normal” in Education and Culture: Examining Disability through a Social Justice Perspective
Mondays, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Room 3310A, 3 credits, Prof. Jan Valle (
Throughout history and across cultures, people with disabilities have been understood through a deficit-based perspective—lacking in ability, incomplete, less than fully human. At worst, people with disabilities have been banished, hidden, segregated, and even killed; at best, they have been expected to be cured, fixed, remediated, or restored to an approximation of culturally determined “normalcy.” Thus, central to this course will be an interrogation of the construct of “normal”: When, where, and why did “normal” emerge as a construct? How has “normal” morphed and shifted over time and why? What is the process by which “normal” is enforced within society? Such questions lead to an examination of the role  “normal” plays in the structure of public schooling—particularly in regard to the institution of special education and its reliance on scientific, medicalized, psychological understandings of disability. Special education’s master narrative of disability will be (re)considered through the work of scholars in disability studies (DS) and disability studies in education (DSE) who critique limiting and oppressive conceptualizations of disability within special education practice. Moreover, this course explores “life writings” by people with disabilities that situate disability within a sociological context that acknowledges the intersectional influence of race, class, gender, and culture upon the disability experience. Through the lens of a social model of disability, we will analyze long-standing educational problems such as overrepresentation of children of color in special education, resistance to inclusive education, the achievement gap, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the “color blind’ stance of decontextualized educational research. In sum, this course requires a deep dive into the examination of disability as an issue of social justice.
UED 75200 -- Shaping the City: Schools and the Racial Geography of New York
Mondays, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Room 3307, 3 credits, Prof. Judith Kafka (
Schools don't just reflect their communities; they help to shape them. This course will explore the dynamic relationship between New York City schools and the spatial, social, racial, economic and political development of the city. We will examine how decisions about school siting, enrollment, and governance created and affirmed neighborhood development, as well as how policies and practices related to housing, voting, and policing (among other government functions) impacted school communities.  Assigned readings draw on an interdisciplinary body of literature and utilize a variety of research methodologies -- including historical, geospatial, political, and sociological means of analysis.  Students will have the opportunity to investigate a particular school and/or neighborhood of interest to them.

PSC 72210/HIST 74600/WSCP 81000 – Race, Gender, Violence & American Political Development, Political Thought & Historical Traditions
Thursdays, 11:45 am – 1:45 pm, Room 3309, 3 credits, Profs. Ruth O’Brien ( and David Waldstreicher (
This course explores persistent binaries that have arguably structured political thought and practice in the United States. On the one hand, the U.S. has been imagined as a place where people can rise through merit and opportunity, unconstrained by the oppressions of the past and of other places. Geographic mobility – settlement, migration, immigration – is mapped on to social mobility in the accepted meaning of the phrase “American Dream.” Yet U.S. history is marked by war and violence, to such a striking extent that scholars and pundits have periodically diagnosed the culture as peculiarly, even uniquely violent. Given the recent resurgence of angry and martial rhetoric at the center of national politics, how might we understand the relationship between the revolutionary or Enlightenment dreams of progress on the one hand, and the recurrent dread or nightmare of decline and oppression, as shaping facts of specifically political traditions? To what extent, in what ways, are exceptionalist understandings of U.S. political traditions a problem or a solution? Do accounts that stress race, gender, historical or systemic violence, or the confluence of these, provide a necessary or sufficient theory or counternarrative of political development? Do frameworks developed in European politics, in critical theory, postcolonial thought, or in domestic vernaculars comprehend the dream/dread in the past and present? What kinds of analytical scholarship and storytelling have been adequate to the task?

French 87000 -- On Passions, Emotions, Affects: in Theory, History, Texts
Tuesdays, 4:15 - 6:15 pm, Room 3212, 3 credits, Prof. Domna C. Stanton (
How are passions and emotions different from affects? How do bodies perform passions, sensibility, feelings, emotions and affects? What do affects do and how do they do it? How are they shaped by their contexts?  What is the meaning and significance of the “affective turn”?  Does it mark a rejection of the idea(l) of rational self-control? How is this turn connected to studies of women (and the feminine) and to work on gender and racial embodiments and sexualities?

This course will be structured around three areas: first, theories of affect and in tandem, a study of the cultural politics and ethics of specific affects, including anger, disgust, shame, compassion and happiness. Which emotions mobilize spectators/readers into collectives/communities. Are passions both a source and an obstacle to struggles for freedom and justice? How do they include and exclude? Among the theorists: Ahmed, Artaud, Berlant, Clough,  Cvetkovich, Deleuze and Guattari, Ghandi, M. Hardt, A. Lorde, Massumi, Scheer, Sedgwick, Stewart, M. Warner.

Second, we will grapple with the treatment of passions and emotions through history, especially in philosophy: from Aristotle and Cicero, Descartes, Pascal, Lebrun, Spinoza, and Kant to Darwin, W. James, Freud, Klein, and R. Williams.

And third, in conjunction with this philosophical and historical work, we will read texts (verbal, visual and musical) to see how they inscribe emotional content and how they generate affective responses from readers even when their semantics and narratives do not depict strong emotions. Is feeling as a response to cultural forms different from a human emotion? We will consider the cultural politics of emotion in the work of  Margerie of Kempe, Montaigne,  Gentileschi (Portraits of Judith) , Racine (Phedre),  Goethe (Sorrows of Young Werther), Wagner (“Leibestod”) , H. Jacobs (Life of a Slave Girl), H. James (Beast in the Jungle),  Woolf  (Mrs. Dalloway) , A. Nin (“Incest” Diary),  Lanzman ( Shoah),  Beckett (Happy Days), C. Churchill  (Far Away) , Irigaray (“When our Lips Speak Together”), Morrison (Beloved),  Darwish (Poems),  Labaki ( Capernaum), Moore (Watchman, 2019).

The syllabus will be uploaded onto Blackboard by the beginning of the spring semester; all course materials will be on blackboard, except for one or two complete texts which will be indicated on the syllabus.

Work for the course: Whether the course is taken for 2, 3, or 4 credits, all students will be responsible for doing the assigned texts closely and for engaging consistently in class discussion.

  • a Students who take the course for 2 credits will present in class a reading of one primary text, which will also be submitted in writing (c 5-7 pp); these students will also take the final exam.    
  • b Students who take the course for 3 credits, will do all of the above, but instead of the 5-7 page paper, they will do a 10-13-page paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor. They will also submit a thesis statement, a bibliography, an outline and the introduction (the schedule will be indicated on the syllabus).
  •  c Students who take the course for 4 credits will do all of the above, but instead of a 10-13 page paper, they will do a 20-25-page paper on a topic they select, after consultation with the instructor. They will also submit a thesis statement, a bibliography, an outline, and an introduction (the schedule will be indicated on the syllabus).

Please contact Domna Stanton with any questions ( 

BAM 70300 -- Approaches to Life-Writing
Mondays, 6:30-8:30 pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Annalyn Swan (
Ever since Plutarch brought Alexander the Great blazingly to life in his seminal Lives (2nd century CE), people have loved to read—and write—biographies. Approaches to Life Writing will be an exploration of the art and craft of the genre. What do great biographies have in common—and how do they differ? How are scenes set, facts organized, context provided? How novelistic can a biography be? And is there, finally, such a thing as “truth” in biography or autobiography, or a “definitive” account?  From biography as gossipy inside edition (Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson), to biography as irreverent debunking (Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians), to contemporary biography and memoir, we will explore the many ways a writer can tease out the “figure under the carpet,” as Leon Edel, the great biographer of Henry James, put it.
For those who wish to do so, this is also a course about practicing the art ourselves. For the final paper, in lieu of a more conventional essay, students will have the opportunity to write an autobiographical chapter, or else research and write a chapter of a biography. 

BAM 70400 -- Ethical Problems in Biography and Memoir 
Thursdays, 6:30-8:30 pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Prof. Sarah Covington (
This course will explore the ethical problems that attend life writing or other forms such as oral history, studying how practitioners have dealt with these matters. Utilizing texts which may include case studies, students will discuss and write about such issues as truth and falsehood; withholding or exposing information; respecting the confidentiality or privacy of others; or writing about marginal or vulnerable populations. Students will also be exposed to the other ethics-related issues, such as plagiarism, libel, copyright infringement, the requirements of the Institutional Review Board, fair-use quotation and the consent of vulnerable subjects.

HIST 78400 -- Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Corporations, Health and Democracy, 1900 to the Present: Modern Capitalism and the Fate of Health 
Tuesdays, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Profs. Gerald Markowitz ( and Nicholas Freudenberg (   
NOTE: Classes Held at THE SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, 55 West 125th St.
How does 21st century capitalism influence health? How has its impact on health changed since 1900? To answer these questions, this course engages students with historical, epidemiological and sociological evidence on the impact of corporations on population health. It reviews how changes in capitalism influenced patterns of health and disease in the United States and how globalization, financialization, technological changes and neoliberalism changed how capitalism and corporations shaped living conditions. Through interdisciplinary investigations of selected products and practices, students will analyze the changing pathways and mechanisms by which corporate practices influence the well-being of consumers , workers and the environment in the United States and globally. It will also consider the roles of governance, democracy, academics, health professionals, civil society and social movements in efforts to control harmful practices. Among the topics to be studied are the changing roles of food, pharmaceutical, health care, automobile and chemical industries on the health of workers, consumers, communities and planetary well-being. Students write a case study of a specific industry or product. Masters and doctoral students will have different assignments for this class. The class is open to doctoral students in public health, history, sociology, psychology, geography, political science and related disciplines and Masters students in public health, liberal studies, or related programs.

FSCP 81000 -- Antonioni and Fellini 
Thursdays, 4:15pm-8:15pm, Room 3416, 3 Credits, Prof. Giancarlo Lombardi (
This course will juxtapose the rich and complex film production of two Italian auteurs, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. While Fellini and Antonioni’s films differ in style, narrative preference, and political orientation, they evidence a common self-reflexive concern for the relationship of cinematic images, sounds, and stories. Neorealism will serve as a starting point for an analysis of Fellini’s postmodern negotiation of autobiographical surrealism as well as Antonioni’s peculiar reframing of cinematic modernism.  This course will analyze Antonioni and Fellini’s most important films, placing their work in (film) historical contexts, and theorizing their interest in the aesthetics of cinematic representation and the politics of storytelling. Students will be asked to watch 2 movies a week, one in class and one at home, so that by the end of the course they will be familiar with the majority of these filmmakers’ work.  Films to be screened include:  Story of a Love Affair (Antonioni, 1950), La Signora Senza Camelie (Antonioni, 1953), The Vanquished (Antonioni, 1953), Love in the City (Antonioni/Fellini, 1953), Le Amiche (Antonioni, 1955), Il Grido (Antonioni, 1957), L’Avventura (Antonioni, 1960), La Notte (Antonioni, 1961), L’Eclisse (Antonioni, 1962), Red Desert (Antonioni, 1964), Blowup (Antonioni, 1966), Zabriskie Point (Antonioni, 1970), The Passenger (Antonioni, 1975), Beyond the Clouds (Antonioni, 1995), Eros (Antonioni, 2004), The White Sheik (Fellini, 1952), I Vitelloni (Fellini, 1953), La Strada (Fellini, 1954), Il Bidone (Fellini, 1955), Nights of Cabiria (Fellini, 1957), La Dolce Vita (Fellini, 1960), 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963), Juliet of the Spirits (Fellini, 1965), Satyricon (Fellini, 1969), Roma (Fellini, 1972), Amarcord (Fellini, 1973), Orchestra Rehearsal (Fellini, 1978), And the Ship Sails On (Fellini, 1983), Ginger and Fred (Fellini, 1986). The course will be conducted in English and all films will be screened with English subtitles.

PSYC 80103 – Children and Youth in Groups
Wednesdays, 4:15- 6:15 PM, Room 3310B, 3 Credits, Prof. Roger Hart (

This seminar offers a critical review of theory and research on how children and youth, through 18 years of age, participate with one another and with adults in groups.  It addresses the different ways that adults organize children and children self-organize, paying attention to the structure of groups, the balance of power between adults and children and patterns of inclusion and exclusion. Weekly readings cover a wide range of different types of setting, including pre-school playgroups, schools and classrooms, neighborhood play settings, clubs, sports teams, membership organizations and digital social networks of peers. Attention will also be given to accounts of the group organization of children with special needs and of children living in exceptional circumstances such as youth in detention or living on the street. The seminar will address the emergence of rights-based children's groups through the global movement for children's rights and the growth of youth justice groups in the USA. The seminar will close with a discussion of children as political actors and the current growth in the USA and elsewhere of child and youth engagements in major issues such as racial discrimination and climate change. Students will select a distinct setting or group for the focus of their work throughout the course and produce a paper describing what they have learned from a review of research, personal reflection and observation.

CL 87000 - Arabian Nights
Wednesdays, 2:00pm-4:00 PM, Room 6494, 2 or 4 credits, Prof. Anna Akasoy (
*MALS Students should make sure to register for 4-credits of this course. Registering for 2-credits will not count towards the MALS degree.*

This course offers an introduction to the history and literary features of the example of the Arabian Nights as well as to its literary and visual adaptations. For the purposes of this course, the Arabian Nights will be treated as an open corpus which continues to expand and transform in a variety of cultural contexts and formats. We will be reading stories from the Arabian Nights in different English translations and discuss a variety of academic publications, but also take into consideration modern artistic interpretations, including examples from literature, the visual arts, film and theater. These comparative exercises will shed light on the continuing appeal of the Arabian Nights and assist us in contextualizing specific developments of the Nights within their respective historical environments. We will begin by tracking the development of the text and its visual adaptations, beginning with the earliest stories and compilations in India and Persia, continuing with the first Arabic compilation in Iraq and expansions in Syria in the medieval period, proceeding with the introduction to western Europe by way of Gatland’s early eighteenth-century French translation, and concluding with the Arabian Nights as a global phenomenon. We will discuss the institutional, intellectual and cultural circumstances which allowed for this transmission as well as account for different interpretations and adaptations. After exploring formal elements of the Arabian Nights (such as the story within a story, the significance of poetry, the classification as fairy tales, and the element of performance and story-telling), we will focus on major themes in the Arabian Nights and their adaptations in modern literature (morality, religion, magic, and power). We will discuss the appeal of the character of Shahrazad, paying attention to psychoanalytical and feminist interpretations and conclude with a discussion of the Arabian Nights in film and on stage and the impact of different media on the manner the stories are told.