The New School for Social Research

Departments

Liberal Studies

  • IMG - Liberal Studies

    MA in Liberal Studies

    A Self-Directed Interdisciplinary Master's Program

    The world at large and our everyday lives lie in the grip of powerful ideas and forms of expression. How can we achieve an understanding of our world, and ourselves, that empowers us to act? How can we not only understand the core issues of our time but also express ourselves meaningfully on them and, if necessary, change them? 

    The MA in Liberal Studies offers practical writing tools and guided in-depth study to tackle these questions head-on, in an interdisciplinary community of fellow scholars who share the values of rigorous critical inquiry and the craft of writerly expression. 

    Core Courses: At the heart of the program are two core courses. One dives into a major theme in the governing ideas of our times, guiding you through important readings, terms, and issues. Our current theme for this course is "Eros and Civilization." In this course, you can learn how major thinkers have tackled the concepts of love, desire, sex, and gender and how these relate to ideas about the good life, duty, community, and society. 

    Our second core course is the Master's Critical Writing Seminar. Here students work on the craft of nonfiction writing and criticism, in both its scholarly and literary forms, building their strengths in expressing ideas with clarity and force. Students often use this course to write the required MA thesis, exploring a topic of their choice in depth, producing a substantive and polished work of prose.  

    Focus Areas

    Liberal Studies combines the New School’s tradition of critical and socially engaged inquiry with an interdisciplinary approach to problems in culture. Here are some of the areas in which we have concentrations of expertise and offer elective courses.

    Critical Media Theory: In these courses, we ask fundamental questions about how evolving media forms and technologies shape our worlds and ourselves. We look for concepts that can guide our actions in a world seemingly dedicated to constant innovation but also prone to reinforcing old forms of power and new forms of inequality.

    Criticism in Literature and Arts: In courses on criticism, students are taught to engage with artworks and texts, not just as passive mirrors for social realities but in such a way that criticism becomes a source of new realities and novel understandings of the world.

    Aesthetics: We see artworks and practices as fundamental way in which human beings make sense of the world, of one another, and of the claims of nature. In courses on aesthetics, which take advantage of our New York City location, we treat artworks as essential to understanding our most basic and pressing questions — from political crises to environmental catastrophes. 

    Gender: We are living through one of the most profound shifts in human history: the breakdown of a gender-based division of labor and the ongoing collapse of gender-based social roles in our most basic institutions. Our courses on gender critically engage with this immense shift, drawing on resources in historical studies, philosophy, feminism and gender theory, and political theory.

    Design Your Own Course Of Study

    The core courses ground students in the history of ideas and in the practice of sustained writing, as well as providing intellectual community. But from there, Liberal Studies students can branch out, taking advantage of the rich offerings and distinguished critical thinkers of The New School. You will work with both a faculty advisor and a student advisor to create a program tailored to your individual needs and ambitions. The New School offers a rich selection of courses with world-class faculty who can extend your command of critical theory, the history of ideas, aesthetics, media theory, and many other fields. Courses are available in both the daytime and the evening to fit into even the busiest schedule.

    Career Paths

    Students emerge from the program with a strong grasp of the ideas that shape our times and the ability and discipline to write in a sustained and persuasive manner. This puts graduates in a strong position for applying to PhD programs across a range of fields or for further education in professional fields such as the law. Alternatively, some students choose to enter or advance their careers in nonfiction writing, journalism, research, filmmaking, activism, and nonprofit administration. 

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