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MLS Courses Offered in 2024-25

Graduate Seminars: Academic Year 2024-25

Graduate Seminar, Fall 2024

MLS 510 Darwin's Controversial Legacy and Current Influence
Mondays, 7:00-9:50 pm
September 9, 2024 – Dec 9, 2024

The Darwinian legacy continues to influence much of our current thought, across diverse fields of inquiry. The importance of the work of Charles Darwin, whether acknowledged or unrecognized, is as strong — and controversial — today as it has ever been. While a significant portion of the U.S. public may continue to reject evolution, believing to some extent that humans have always existed in their current form, the scientific community not only accepts Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, but entire research programs have been built around it, ranging from evolutionary biology itself to genetics, medicine, psychology, sociology, anthropology, geology, and philosophy. This seminar examines Darwin's text, On the Origin of Species, as well as selections from several of his other books. David Quammen’s The Reluctant Mr. Darwin and several essays by Stephen Jay Gould inform discussion, while John Dewey’s “The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy” is a touchstone for the course. These foundational readings serve to shape our analysis of the ongoing debate surrounding Darwinian concepts, not only regarding issues of creationism and intelligent design, but ongoing controversies related to Darwin's theories within the current disciplines of biology, philosophy, psychology, and sociology.

This class will be taught by Glenn Adelson, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Curator of the Elizabeth Teter Lunn Herbarium, joined by faculty colleagues from other disciplines to teach select classes.

Graduate Seminar, Spring 2025

MLS 572 Higher Education in the U.S.:  Goals and Outcomes, Current Challenges, and Sustainability 
Mondays, 7-9:50pm
January 13- April 28, 2025

This course examines the worth of a college education in the U.S.—for the society, the economy, and the individual.  The seminar, with a focus on comparisons between liberal arts, universities, and community college models, draws from the work of philosophers and recent higher education research to consider the fundamental values and ethics that drive expectations for the college experience.  Economic analysis addresses outcomes associated with public investment in colleges and universities and concerns about economic stability of current models.  Public policy expert opinions provide insight as to why U.S. confidence in its colleges and universities is low and why employers may report disappointment in the skills of college graduates.  The contributions of historians, artists, humanists, and social and physical scientists illuminate the idea that U.S. colleges and universities are often considered the best in the world at generating creativity and innovation. This course engages in a current assessment of undergraduate education—its structures, challenges, and contributions.  Considering higher education's complexities, students in this course generate ideas for reform to existing higher education models to enhance outcomes and future sustainability or necessary evolution of this historic enterprise. 

This class will be taught by Dawn Abt-Perkins, Professor of Education, joined by faculty colleagues from other disciplines to teach select classes.

Previous Graduate Seminars

Graduate Seminar, Fall 2023

MLS 514 Public Policy and the Environment

This seminar assesses how governments seek to manage the natural environment. Such assessment includes consideration of the history of environmental regulation, alternative conceptions of the relationship between humankind and the natural world, and the policy tradeoffs between environmental preservation and other goals such as economic growth. This course focuses specifically on the policy challenges caused by climate change – a series of disruptive trends that many scientists consider the existential crisis of our time. In so doing, the seminar analyzes how governments and their citizens have responded to three central issues related to climate change:  its causes, consequences, and possible solutions. 

Taught by W. Rand Smith, (Professor of Politics, Emeritus) joined by faculty colleagues from other disciplines to teach select classes.

Graduate Seminar, Spring 2024

MLS 548 Romanticism: Self and Society
The Romantic era (ca. 1780-1830) was a period of revolutionary change in politics, literature, music, and the visual arts. This seminar examines the evolving relation of self and society through five transformational decades of modern European history. Discussions will focus on the works of a number of major figures, including Blake, Burke, Schiller, Wordsworth, Keats, Schubert, and Mary Shelley.

Taught by Robert Archambeau, (Professor of English) joined by faculty colleagues from other disciplines to teach select classes.

Graduate Seminar, Spring 2023

MLS 546 Religion: An Interdisciplinary Approach
Religion has been a cultural universal in the past and remains a constant in our current societies.  Some of the questions that this cross-disciplinary seminar explores are as follows:  What is religion? How does it interact with other facets of our psychological, sociological, and cultural life?  What was its role in different societies? What is its future?  We shall look at religion from the perspectives of theologians, philosophers, psychologists, and social scientist, and literature and the arts.

Professor Ahmad Sadri (Sociology), joined by faculty colleagues from other disciplines to teach select classes.

Graduate Seminar, Fall 2022

MLS 524: Ways of Knowing
We know many different things, but we also know in many different ways. The poet and the biologist know nature in distinctive manners. What is the basis for scientific knowledge? How can we know the past? What kinds of knowledge are the province of literature and the arts? The seminar will explore several of the ways in which we know, concentrating on science, literature, philosophy, and the arts.

Professor Siobhan Moroney (Politics), joined by faculty colleagues from other disciplines in teaching select classes. 

Graduate Seminar, Spring 2022

MLS 556 Existentialism and Its Discontents (taught remotely)
Existentialism was one of the most popular philosophical trends in the twentieth century, attracting philosophers and artists who sought to wrestle with the most personal and ultimate questions of meaning in the face of rising rationalism and scientific positivism. In part, Existentialism was rooted in the view that philosophy should be a way of life, practical and engaged, rather than mere abstract theorizing by elite intellectuals. Consequently, some of the deepest expressions of this philosophy have been in popular literature and film, which will be the focus of our seminar. This course will explore the artistic and ideological roots of the Existentialist movement in the 19th century with writers like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky. It will examine the explosion of Existentialist thinking in the 20th century, especially in France through the literature of Sartre, De Beauvoir, and Camus. And, finally, it will consider more recent critiques of Existentialism from the vantage of philosopher-novelists like Iris Murdoch. Emphasis will be on the artistic expressions of Existentialism, particularly the novel as a form of philosophical exploration. Other Existentialist artists and philosophers to be considered may include De Unamuno, Bergman, Frankl, and Buber.

Professor Carla Arnell (English),  joined by faculty colleagues from other disciplines to teach select classes.