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        The New School for Social Research
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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
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        New York, NY 10003

        Paul Kottman

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        Jeff Feld

        Student Advisor
        Silvana Alvarez Basto

        Liberal Studies Student Handbook


    • 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. Spring 2021 courses include:

      • Posthuman Eros, GLIB 5023
        Dominic Pettman, Professor of Media and New Humanities

        We tend to think of erotic desire as one of the most important elements that make us human. However, writers, artists, scientists, and thinkers have all challenged - or at least complicated - this assumption. This course explores the possibility that love (or "eros," to use one of Freud's key terms) is an essentially technological phenomenon. As such, we consider different theories of love that emphasize automaticity, algorithm, code, contract, instrumentality, connectivity, and so on. After glossing the traditional models of love, skewed by the masculinist imaginary, we shall explore new iterations of intimacy in the digital age, which reject or refine the established protocols of love. To what extent, we ask, does eros also belong to the world of machines and/or animals. As such, students should complete this course with a very different view of not only love, but also “technology.” Readings will likely include Plato, Ovid, Anne Carson, Charles Fourier, Sigmund Freud, Georges Bataille, Wilhelm Reich, Shulamith Firestone, Michel Foucault, Jean Baudrillard, Alphonso Lingis, Anna-Marie Jagose, Lauren Berlant, and others.

      • Sad Planets, GLIB 5152
        Dominic Pettman, Professor of Media and New Humanities, and Eugene Thacker, Professor of Media Studies

        In this course, we will explore the relationship between environment, estrangement, and pathos in philosophical, cultural, and aesthetic terms. Starting with questions of cosmic scale – what Friedrich Nietzsche once termed “humanity’s place in the universe” – we will turn to novels, poems, and films that respond to existential alienation, entropic decline, imminent catastrophe, and the sense of a general melancholia pervading the natural world. We will touch upon a wide range of traditions, from the wilderness poetry of ancient China to contemporary “cli-fi,” from the desert hermits of ancient Egypt to fin-de-siècle decadence, from Romanticism’s poetics of nature to modern “weird fiction.” Along the way we will address topics such as the threat of extinction, “ecological grief,” “collapsology,” and other affects associated with the Anthropocene. Readings will likely include fiction by Kōbō Abe, J.G. Ballard, Aase Berg, Algernon Blackwood, Rachel Carson, Liu Cixin, Camille Flammerion, Anna Kavan, Izumi Kyōka, Stanislaw Lem, Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson, Vladimir Sorokin, and others.

      • The Life of the Mind, GLIB 5208
        Inessa Medzhibovskaya, Associate Professor of Liberal Studies and Literary Studies

        This course seeks to meet the needs of those who are interested in thinking about thinking as a trans-disciplinary intellectual task and a methodological approach of choice. We begin with the ancient Greek notion of nous and move on to investigate key concepts developed in the historical course of study of reasoning, apprehending, and rationality (e.g. “productive imagination”), considering the divisions imposed on the topic by professional disciplines examined side by side with contemporary studies about the mind of artificial reality (e.g., the “liquid” mind and the “absent” mind). The course will involve a critical rereading of selections from premodern and modern thinkers, including Kant, Hegel, Husserl, Wittgenstein, Sartre, Adorno, Horkheimer, Arendt, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze, Kristeva, and Dennett, among others, along with discussion of provocative examples from fiction (e.g. Nabokov), film (e.g., Terrence Malick), theater (e.g., Beckett), and visual and acoustic media—to consider the pros and cons of thinking for oneself, of making judgments in disconnection and isolation vis-à-vis thinking conventionally and algorithmically while living as we are in an age of total distraction and conceptual disempowerment.

      • American Dialectics: Art in New York After 1945, GLIB 5281
        Jed Perl, Part-time Assistant Professor

        Since the end of World War II, art in New York has been animated by five powerful dialectical conflicts: between the artist and the public; abstraction and representation; romanticism and empiricism; spontaneity and reflection; nihilism and tradition. Nearly all of these conflicts originated in the earlier history of European modernism, and in “American Dialectics” we will see how Old World ideas achieved a new weight, thrust, velocity, and impact as they were reshaped amid the exuberant forces of New York, the melting pot city. In a course that will range from Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Joan Mitchell to Andy Warhol, Lee Bontecou, and Donald Judd, we will see how a variety of dialectical ways of thinking—ranging from Hegelian idealism to Kierkegaard’s Either/Or to Hans Hofmann’s Push/Pull—helped shape the artist’s evolving sense of self and society in the rush-hour city of the postwar years. Readings will focus on writings by artists, critics, and other movers and shakers of the period, including Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, Peggy Guggenheim, Barnett Newman, Edwin Denby, Anni Albers, Grace Hartigan, Susan Sontag, Morton Feldman, and John Cage. Our exploration of overarching historical and theoretical forces will be grounded in close analysis of primary sources both visual and verbal. Where possible, classroom sessions will be supplemented by visits to galleries, museums, and relevant New York City landmarks. This exploration of developments in the visual arts in the decades after World War II will leave students with the theoretical and analytical tools needed to locate and interpret particular artistic developments within a broader social and historical context.

      • Gender and its Discontents, GLIB 5406
        McKenzie Wark, Professor of Culture and Media

        This is the required core course for the university-wide graduate certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies and it is open to all the graduate students who are interested in sexuality and gender studies. Our starting point is the acknowledgement that sex- and gender-based modes of social organization are pervasive and, further, that their prominence and persistence are reflected in sex- and gender-conscious research across the humanities, the arts, the social sciences, design, and studies dedicated to social policies and innovative strategies for social intervention. We will expand on this starting point through both an in-depth survey of influential theoretical approaches to sex and gender such as Marxist feminism, theories of sexual difference, queer studies, and postcolonial and decolonial feminism, and by paying attention to the significance of different approaches. Topics to be explored include, but are not limited to: equality and rights, exploitation and division of labor, the construction of gender, performativity, gender images, narrative and identity. 

      • Odysseys, GLIB 5833
        Melissa Monroe, Part-time Assistant Professor

        Homer’s Odyssey is among the most important foundational texts of Western literature. A work that has become the paradigm for the heroic voyage, it has a vast tonal and thematic range, addressing exile, homecoming, fidelity, honor, deception, the characteristics of a civilized society, and the relations between men and women, parents and children, and individuals and their social groups. Countless subsequent authors have used elements of Homer’s epic as starting points; in fact, the story has become the basis for an ongoing conversation among writers, who revisit its characters and tropes as part of the never-ending effort to define the role of literature in helping us understand our lives. In this course, we look at the Odyssey itself and some of the works of poetry, fiction and drama it has inspired. We spend the first month reading the Odyssey, then devote four sessions to Joyce’s Ulysses. After that, we turn to other authors who have taken the Odyssey as a point of departure, including Derek Walcott, Louis Aragon, Jean Giraudoux, and Margaret Atwood, and consider how each author uses elements of the original epic for his or her own purposes, in order to explore some of Homer’s major themes for audiences living in a world very distant from that of the ancient Greeks. We also consider the cumulative effect of this tradition of reimagining: how each new version explicitly or implicitly comments on previous versions, creating a metafictional narrative that becomes part of the story itself.

      • The Body: Aesthetics, Culture and Politics in the 20th Century, GLIB 5841
        Terri Gordon, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature

        “You do not realize how the headlines that make daily history affect the muscles of the human body,” the dancer Martha Graham once noted. This course examines the relationship between politics, social tensions, and cultural values and muscles, movement and skin, a relationship that has made the body one of the most visible signs of twentieth-century culture. We study deployments of the body in Europe and the United States, covering the historical and contemporary avant-garde; body culture and life reform movements; war and propaganda; and cabaret, dance, and performance art. How can we “read” the body? How do representations of the body reflect and support prevalent notions of race, gender, and nation? In what ways do images of the body critique and subvert cultural norms? We study literature, history, art and cultural documents, including articles in the press and political manifestoes. Fictional works by Hawthorne, Kafka, and Audre Lorde; art works by Frida Kahlo, Cindy Sherman, and Orlan; theoretical texts by Butler, Freud, Foucault, Sontag, and others. We also spend class time viewing painting, photography and performance art.

      • Romancing Violence, GLIB 6051
        Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Liberal Studies

        Far from receding with the rise of liberal democracies worldwide, violence appears to be enjoying a spectacular rebound, from the wave of revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East to dramatic acts of individual terror in Norway. In this course we explore classical theoretical propositions concerning the role of violence in bringing about social and political change , from Marx, through Weber, Lenin, Gramsci, Arendt, and Benjamin, to more recent thinkers like Foucault, Derrida, Zizek, and Michnik. We will look at different types of political violence and their specific instances, and revisit Arendt’s well-known distinction between the justifiability and the legitimacy of violence. Conscious of the traditional forms of political violence -’ wars, revolutions, and armed struggle movements, we will pay attention to the forms and consequences of structural violence, but also examine the forms of cultural and symbolic violence, such as language that routinely serves to legitimize violence. Mindful of Foucault’s work on the body as the key subject of power we will explore the continuities between social regulation of bodies and intimate relationships, and expressions of violence in the public sphere. We will look at the body as the quintessential marker of boundaries, from those of nation-states and communities, to the range of violent political acts that escape the public gaze. While our approach will be primarily historical and comparative, we will also use phenomenological perspectives to explore ideas and practices generated in different parts of the world.

      • Master's Seminar in Critical and Creative Writing, GLIB 6301
        Melissa Monroe, Part-time Assistant Professor

        An intensive workshop for students working on major writing projects such as an M.A. thesis, a piece of long-form journalism, or an integrated writing portfolio for professional use. The course is organized as an ongoing process of peer review supervised by the faculty. The aim is to create a collective setting that can help students improve their own writing and hone their critical skills though constructive engagement with others’ work.
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