Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
The Master of Arts is awarded for the completion of 30 credits and a written master's thesis. There are two required courses, GLIB 5101, Modernity and Its Discontents, normally taken in the first semester of study, and GLIB 5301, Proseminar in Intellectual and Cultural History, taken after the student has an approved thesis topic. The remaining 24 credits are electives.
Each student is assigned a faculty advisor upon entering the program. The advisor helps the student clarify research interests and take advantage of educational resources available at The New School. Each student works in close consultation with a faculty advisor to design a program of study that meets her or his intellectual needs.
The Liberal Studies Curriculum
Outside of the two required courses, students can choose from a wide range of course offerings created to promote interdisciplinary study and an independent approach to learning.
Students can take any course offered by the Committee on Liberal Studies that they consider appropriate to their scholarly needs. The Committee has particularly strong expertise in four areas of study:
- Literature, the Arts, and Aesthetics
Liberal Studies faculty includes scholars and critics with expertise in literature, theater, cinema, media, dance, visual art, performance, and the avant-garde. Courses are also offered in aesthetic theory and its history. Some courses offer specialized learning in a particular form, while others take an integrated approach to aesthetic movements.
- Intellectual History and Modern Thought
Courses in this group enable students to develop competence and facility with the ideas that shape our history and our times. Some courses emphasize the historical background to our present intellectual universe; other courses look more closely at the thought of the modern period.
- Criticism and Publishing
The means by which thought and art are communicated with publics is constantly changing. Courses in this area address the history of means of communication as well as their current and emerging forms. These courses offer not only practical instruction in current cultural media but a context within which to understand the shifting terrain of media forms.
- Media and Culture
The slow eclipse of traditional print and broadcast media forms raises questions about the nature of media in general and its influence on culture, politics, and daily life. Courses in this area cover both the classics of media theory and pressing questions in contemporary media and culture.
Students can combine courses from any of the four areas or take courses in just one. Students are also encouraged to explore with their faculty advisors courses offered by other departments of The New School for Social Research.
GLIB 5101 Modernity and Its Discontents
This core required course equips all Liberal Studies students with a thorough grounding in the intellectual life of our times and its history. The method is a close study of a sequence of carefully selected major texts, guided by a faculty member who is a recognized authority in this field of study. Completion of Modernity and Its Discontents provides students with the resources to orient themselves in the field and helps them choose elective courses that map out a path of independent inquiry.
GLIB 5301 Proseminar in Intellectual History and Cultural Studies
In this intensive writing workshop, students who have an approved thesis topic come together with their peers and an experienced faculty leader to discuss one another's work in progress, learn how to provide constructive criticism, and develop an appreciation for inquiry as a collaborative process. The faculty leader offers professional advice on the process of self-editing and revising. The goal is for the developing scholar to sharpen his or her research strategies, work out ideas and arguments, and produce a piece of polished writing that will appeal a wide audience of educated readers.
The MA Thesis
A master's thesis is more than a piece of original academic writing. It is as an exercise in the production of knowledge and a rite of passage into the community of scholars. In the case of the Liberal Studies graduate program, these traditional goals are approached through the interdisciplinary methods and theoretical perspectives of the program.
Students are invited to explore and critically discuss a text or set of texts, period or contemporary, in a way that sheds fresh light on the subject and transcends established disciplinary boundaries. Writing the master's thesis gives the student a significant body of work that forms a foundation for further research and writing, including a doctoral dissertation if the student goes on to seek the PhD degree. In some cases, students work on a first draft of a work for publication.
What do our students write about? Almost anything. Consider some recent thesis titles:
- Exploring Single Women in Sex and the City and Beyond
- The Aura of the Brand: Nike and Postmodern Capitalism
- Ruins and Memories: Walter Benjamin's Readings of Marcel Proust
- The Pinochet Case, Universal Jurisdiction, and State Sovereignty
- Greed, God, and Gifts: Philanthropic Foundations and Their Role in American Society
- Franz Kafka and Hannah Arendt's Image of Totalitarianism
- Futurism, Fascism, and Henri Bergson's Philosophy of Time
- The Concept of Self-Government in Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln
- Jewish Identity Today: Israel and the Issue of Intermarriage
- Constructing Taste: Forecasting Services and the Sociology of Fashion
- Allegories of Laughter in Baudelaire, Freud, Bataille, and Kundera
- Biblical Imagery in Nietzsche's Zarathustra
- Tap Dancing and Hip-Hop: Two Urban Art Forms
- Anticommunism in Action: The American Jewish Committee Reacts to the Rosenberg Execution
- Arthur Danto's Interpretation of Andy Warhol
- The Body Politic in Walt Whitman's Poetry
- The American Legion and the Origins of the G.I. Bill
- Richard Rorty's Concept of the Self
Using Liberal Studies Work to Meet PhD Program Prerequisites
Liberal Studies students who expect to apply to a doctoral program at The New School for Social Research in philosophy, politics, sociology, or anthropology can prepare by selecting appropriate courses in those departments as electives. In most cases, they work with their faculty advisors in Liberal Studies to develop a coordinated program with the faculty of Philosophy, Politics, Sociology, or Anthropology.
Students must receive grades of 3.0 or better for all courses taken to meet the 30-credit requirement for the master's degree.
The MA in Liberal Studies program is designed to be completed in two years of full-time study, including the writing of the master's thesis. A full-time course of study is not required, however. Students who need to study part-time can negotiate a timetable for completion in consultation with their faculty advisors. The program must be completed within five years.
After completing 18 course credits, students are required to submit a one-page preliminary thesis proposal to the chair of the Committee on Liberal Studies, along with the name of a faculty member who has agreed to supervise the thesis. Once this proposal has been accepted, responsibility for overseeing the student's course of study shifts to the thesis supervisor. At this point, students often take an independent study course, guided by their thesis supervisor, to facilitate their initial research and writing.
After completing 27 course credits, students are required to submit a five-page précis of their thesis in progress and must take the Proseminar writing workshop described above if they have not already done so.
The successful MA thesis is a piece of original work of at least 40 and not more than 75 pages. It is expected to present either new research, a fresh interpretation, or both based on primary sources. A successful thesis demonstrates both analytic rigor and intellectual passion. Although the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies is a terminal degree, students who are thinking about earning a PhD are urged to regard their master's thesis as a work that could be developed into a dissertation.
For more information, consult the Committee on Liberal Studies Student Handbook.
Please note: Students are advised to refer to the current applicable program catalog to view degree completion requirements and confirm their progress in satisfying those requirements with their advisors.