Liberal Studies Seminars

Each year, Duke GLS offers a wide array of Liberal Studies (LS) Seminars developed exclusively for its students, including the GLS core course.  Students in the program also can take graduate courses (500-level and higher) from across campus.  For further details about course grades and requirements, see the RegistrationDegree Requirements or Academic Policies pages.  

Instructor:
Deborah T. Gold
LS 780-89
Summer 2019
Mondays, 6:00-9:00 PM - Begins May 15-Ends July 22* (no class on May 27)
Location TBA
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The purpose of this course is to examine the final two stages of life—old age and death—using a  biopsychosocial perspective.  We will study the social, emotional, and biomedical changes during these stages and try to better understand the American desire to live as long as possible while delaying death. Although we will examine real-life data on these topics, the focus of the course is to see how these biopsychosocial phenomena are represented in fiction, with emphasis on their presence in novels and popular film.  The course is divided into several subsections.  These will include “Theories of Aging and Death,” “Gender in Aging and Death,” “Physical and Cognitive Decline in Aging” and “Extending Life by Preventing Death.”

 

We will document real-life issues of aging and death through an examination of the age structures of developed and developing nations, focusing on the meaning of an aging population for the future of the U.S.  As most deaths in the US occur in older people, it is important to link these two phenomena on both a theoretical and pragmatic bases.  Keeping the themes of aging and death as constants over the semester, we will examine issues of retirement, relationships and love in late life and among the dying, off-time death, and modern medical intervention with dying patients. We will also discuss institutional differences (i.e., between nursing homes for aging and hospice for dying) and what twenty-first century America must do to prepare for the soon-to-be old and dying baby boomers.  Students will each write a final research paper on a topic discussed during the class.

 

*Monday classes in the summer semester will begin on Wednesday, May 15, to accommodate the May 27 Memorial Day holiday.

About Deborah T. Gold
Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences; Sociology, Psychology & Neuroscience

Deborah T. Gold is Professor of Medical Sociology in the Departments of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Sociology, and Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University Medical Center, where she is also a Senior Fellow of the Duke Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Professor Gold received her B.A. in English and Latin from the University of Illinois, her M.Ed. in Reading from National Louis University, and her Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University. Her primary research interests are in the psychological and social consequences of chronic disease in the elderly.  She has done seminal research on osteoporosis and its impact on quality of life.  She has also studied the psychosocial impact of breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, syncope, head and neck cancer, Paget’s disease of bone, and dementia in older adults. Her current research examines compliance and persistence with medications for older adults with chronic illnesses.

Instructor:
Martin Eisner
LS 770-83
Summer 2019
Wednesdays, 6:00-9:00 pm - Begins May 29-Ends July 31
Location TBA
*NEW COURSE*
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If “fame is a form, perhaps the worst form, of incomprehension” (Borges), there may be no more famous author than Machiavelli. His name continues to be invoked for both praise and blame by a diverse public that includes management consultants, relationship experts, psychologists, and Alexander Hamilton biographers. Investigating the development of Machiavelli’s thought as it emerges in conversation with contemporary and classical texts, this course addresses questions that have lasted for over 500 years: is he a republican or an apologist for tyrants, a realist or an idealist, Renaissance humanist or modern theorist? We will pay particular attention to how his reading of literary works, such as Ovid, Dante, and Boccaccio, shaped his political thinking in The Prince, Discourses on Livy, and The Art of War. We will also explore his remarkable dramatic and literary works, such as the Mandragola and Golden Ass, for what they reveal about Machiavelli’s distinctive ideas about power, deception, language, and representation. A major concern throughout will be the fame of Machiavelli’s ideas in later thinkers such as the American Federalists, Nietzsche, Gramsci, and Arendt, and the misunderstanding of his thought in fascism and modern conspiracy theories. Just as Machiavelli searched history for answers to his own political situation, our guiding question cannot help but be “What would Machiavelli do?” 

About Martin Eisner
Romance Studies

Martin Eisner is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at Duke University and Director of Graduate Studies for both the Department of Romance Studies and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He specializes in medieval Italian literature, particularly the works of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, as well as the history of the book and media.

Instructor:
Susan Thorne
LS 780-88
Fall 2019
Mondays, 6:30 - 9:00 pm
Classroom Building 242 (East Campus)
Begins August 26 - Ends November 25 (no class on October 7)
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The enduring power of Charles Dickens’ representation of urban crime was on regular display in the critical response to The Wire (HBO 2002-2007), which is regarded by many as still the “greatest television series of all time.” The series is a graphic representation of the horrendous violence generated by the war on drugs in Baltimore, Maryland, the “murder capital” of the United States.  It is difficult to imagine a world further removed from the Victorian nostalgia of the Dickens presented in Masterpiece Theatre much less Hollywood productions of Oliver Twist, the novel to which the series is most often compared.  Critics on both shores of the Atlantic have referred to The Wire as “Dickens for the 21st Century.”    “If Charles Dickens were alive today, he would watch The Wire, unless, that is, he was already writing for it.”  This course embraces the comparative invitation issued in such reviews.  It juxtaposes these two tales about crime as well as the very different cities in which each is set: early Victorian London and present day Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to these comparisons, we will also try to account for Dickens’ enduring relevance, the longevity of Dickensian ways of seeing crime, childhood, and the city.  Why—and how—does Dickens continue to matter? 

 

Requirements

 

Informed participation in class discussions (30%)

 

Students are expected to view The Wire in its entirety (5 seasons, about 50 episodes) outside of class, while reading Dickens’s Oliver Twist, in addition to the interdisciplinary assortment of scholarly works and investigative journalism accessible via the class website.

 

Students will submit weekly paragraph to page reactions to each week’s reading assignments on discussion board forums (required but not graded)

 

Group project (30%) 

Research paper (40%)

About Susan Thorne
History

Susan Thorne, Associate Professor of History, teaches courses on the social history of Britain and the British Empire, and on the history of European expansion more generally. She is currently working on Charles Dickens’ influence on Anglo American “ways of seeing” the children of the urban poor.  The Dickensian Affect:  Reckonings with Reform in Early Victorian Southwark (in progress) juxtaposes Dickens’s representation of criminal poverty and urban childhood in his most popular novel, Oliver Twist (1837-8) to archival accounts generated by the poor law’s reform during the 1830s and hungry ‘40s. 

Instructor:
Robert Healy
LS 760-33
Spring 2019
Mondays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Carr 242
Begins *January 9 - Ends April 15 (no class on January 21 and March 11)
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The Arctic and the Amazon are only recently explored, mapped, and affected by the economic, social, and ecological forces associated with modernity.  They have many things in common, including an often inaccurate treatment in popular literature and films, sensitive environments disproportionately affected by global change, recent penetration of even the most remote regions by highways and seaways; new interest by outside economic actors in resource development, and small groups of indigenous people trying to obtain decision-making authority and protect traditional cultures and people/land relationships.

 

The course will interrogate how several disciplines deal with the past, present, and future of these important mega-regions, including history, literature, anthropology, political economy and economics, ecology and conservative biology, and public policy studies.

 

  1. Heroic exploration narratives—not that long ago—Theodore Roosevelt in River of Doubt; Arctic exploration narratives of Fritjob Nansen, accounts of the Franklin expedition, George DeLong’s Jeanette expedition and others;
  2. Literary works with a strong sense of place.  For example, David Gramm’s The Lost City of Z or Kim Leine’s Prophets of the Eternal Fjord (18th century Greenland);
  3. Relatively small numbers of scattered indigenous groups that are struggling for sovereignty over land and resources and to hold on to traditional ways of life;
  1. historical encounters between indigenous people and Europeans; Canadian Film Board film Pangnirtung; exploitation of rubber tappers;
  2. groups exhibiting agency rather than victimhood (Kayapo and Xingu; Choci Mendes and rubber tappers; Arctic Native Claims Settlement Act; Matthew Coon Come and the James Bay Cree); links with national and international environmental groups;

4.    Potential for mineral development (oil and gas, metals); water and dams in Amazonia; agriculture and forest plantations; fisheries in Arctic seas and Amazonian rivers;

5.    Biodiversity—extremely high in Amazonia; extremely low in Arctic.  Concentration of nutrients (in vegetation in Amazon) in waters and under the ice in Arctic.  Emblematic life forms—the polar bear and the jaguar;

6.    Multiple nations involved—six in Amazon basin; six in Arctic.  Scores of subnational governments and stakeholders;

7.    Historically colonial relationship to outside authority—core and periphery; decolonialization;

8.    Relation of local groups to national and international NGOs in seeking to confirm or protect management and use rights;

9.    Role of tourism/ecotourism as both a threat to the environment and a possible income source for local people;

10.  Designation and management of protected areas; type of areas and implementation experience;

11.       Present and future impacts of climate change—warming and ice melt in Arctic; drought and fire in Amazon; impacts on local people; impacts on world climate system; policy alternatives.

About Robert Healy
Nicholas School of the Environment

Bob Healy is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Policy in the Nicholas School and of Public Policy Studies in the Terry Sanford School. Before coming to Duke in 1986, he was a researcher with The Urban Institute, Resources for the Future and The Conservation Foundation/World Wildlife Fund in Washington, D.C. He has written ten books, mainly on issues of land use, environmental management and economic development. The latest are Knowledge and Environmental Policy (MIT 2011) and Environmental Policy in North America (Toronto 2013). Locally, he has long been involved with efforts to protect the New Hope Creek watershed. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Instructor:
Frank Lentricchia
LS 770-97
Spring 2019
Tuesdays, 6:30-9:00 pm (Note: time is slightly later than other LS courses)
GLS Conference Room
Begins January 15 - Ends April 6 (no class on March 12)
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This is a class about how modernist artists represent the inner life of their characters.  It is a class on the techniques—often radical—deployed to display hidden subjectivity even as these artists put before us an available public world.  The representation of subjectivity was a central feature of the Romantic poets of the early nineteenth century.  Thus, modernism may be viewed as an extension via techniques not before seen of Romantic preoccupations. We will be reading across literary genres—drama (Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard), fiction (Hemingway’s Nick Adams short stories and Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying), poetry (Wallace Stevens), and the avant-garde film-maker Michelangelo Antonioni's L’Avventura and Blowup.  As time allows, James Joyce’s short story, The Dead.

 

Requirements:  4 short essays; faithful and prompt attendance.  No final exam.

About Frank Lentricchia
Literature

Frank Lentricchia, a novelist and literary critic, is the Katharine Everett Gilbert Professor Emeritus of Literature.  He received his Ph.D. from Duke in 1966 and has taught at UCLA, UC-Irvine and Rice University.  He has taught poetry, film, literature, and fiction courses.

Instructor:
M. Kathy Rudy
LS 780-03
Fall 2018
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 PM
White 106
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*New Course*

In ancient times, midwives traditionally worked with families from ‘womb to tomb,’ bringing in new life and laying out the dead. They saw living and dying as opposing aspects of the same cycle. The two were of equal importance, as two passages through the same door: one coming in, the other going out. Midwives were as intimately involved in every manifestation of death as they were in those of life. Midwives traditionally supported and taught the dying, and cradled the corpse as well as the infant, each to its own particular new life.--Carol Leonard

We often think of birth and death as “natural” events that take place outside of any politics or ideology.  This class argues that the processes of birth and death are managed by several competing institutions, and that most of the practices overlook what have been thought of as traditionally women’s roles.  These institutions—science, medicine, and religion—do not intend to usurp women’s work; they are simply fulfilling their mandate: goals of progress, cleanliness, and modernity, inadvertently (?) hide the power of these institutions from public view.  Thus, at the beginning of the 21st century, we know very little about what actually happens during these two important life events, birth and death.

Nowhere is this dilemma more salient than in the questions of birth and maternal-infant health.  Despite the fact that prenatal care and birth are well covered by public and private funds, the United States ranks among the lowest of industrialized nations in terms of mother/child health.  Lack of adequate prenatal care, coupled with overuse of medical interventions, have doubled the rate of maternal death over the last 20 years.  In the face of these problems, many health care professionals are turning to a midwifery model of care in order to try to reduce maternal death and increase infant health. The first section of the course covers the changes in birth practices over the last sixty years.  Once we moved to a hospital setting, it became much harder for birth practitioners to view birth as something “normal.”  In this section we will review the many reasons why this is the case.  We will also investigate the question of whether or not the medical model should dominate or even influence the birth process.  Many midwives believe that medicine has developed important interventions to help birth along; these interventions, they argue, should be “at the ready” and used whenever things even look like they could potentially go wrong.  Midwives in this tradition are called Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM); they are trained nurses who specialize in birth.  Conversely, Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) do not require a nursing degree and do not follow a medical model for the birthing process.  Helping a woman give birth, they argue, is a matter of offering comfort, support, massage, food, entertainment, time.  A woman’s body knows how to give birth, these midwives suggest, and they are present to support this process, not control it.  CPM’s are illegal in 23 states, including North Carolina.  CPM’s caught performing a homebirth in any of these 23 states are prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license.

            The second issue investigated in this class is the event of death.  100 years ago the vast majority of Americans died at home surrounded by family and loved ones.  Today, the vast majority of Americans die alone in a hospital, surrounded by machines.  Moreover, a gap between when a person dies and when the family thinks they are dead can become very wide; i.e., the definition of death is not always clear.  Meanwhile, “hospice” (which was founded in England a century ago by midwife Cicely Saunders), is a practice that tries to close this gap; once a person is within six months of dying, hospice advocates discontinue all treatments, giving palliative care (pain relief), along with a midwifery model of support.  Each dying person has a team that works with them to make sure they are comfortable and have everything they need.  Hospice has many problems, though.  Its rules vary from state to state and, because it is composed mostly of volunteers, it varies even within a state.  It is often difficult to determine when a person is six months from death, so in many cases, hospice enters too late.  The midwifery model even extends beyond death to the care of the body.  How is a corpse dealt with and who gets to decide that?  Family?  Religious leaders?  Lawmakers?  Land developers? 

            No one is discrediting the great advantages medicine has brought to our world, even or especially at birth and death.  What this class is arguing for is a conversation that tries to recover some of the best practices of earlier or more female centered models of care. “Interpreting Bodies” revisits the discourse of midwifery, which argues that the processes of birth and death are not illnesses that need to be cured, but rather are normal and natural events in the course of a life.  Instead of using drugs and technology to manage these events, midwifery seeks the path of “being with” the patient through these changes, and only using drugs or technology to assist a natural transition.  What is this process of “being with” and how does it differ from the ways we are treated in medical settings today? 

Evaluation

Paper 1: Explain why hospital births are standard care in America.  Is the material around midwifery persuasive to you and if it is, why is it still thought of as outmoded and old-fashioned.  If you support hospital births, explain why they are thought of as best practice, and for whom.  5–10 pages 30%

Paper 2: What assumptions are circulating in medical and religious language that block the idea of a good death?  Or using two sources from outside class, explain why green deaths may or (may not) become the wave of the future 5–10 pages 40%

The remaining 30% will be based on your attendance, participation, and general presence toward course material.

Please, no electronic devices in this class.

Book List

Section One: Midwives of Birth

Ladies Hands, Lion’s Heart, Carol Leonard

Cut it Out, Theresa Morris

Section Two: Midwives of Death

Being Mortal, Atul Gawande

Greening Death,  Suzanne Kelly

About M. Kathy Rudy
Women's Studies
Instructor:
Martin Miller
LS 780-12
Fall 2018
Wednesdays, 6:15-8:45 PM
Carr 242
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*New Course*

In this seminar, we will investigate the history of nonviolence in the modern world by focusing on two thematic approaches.

In the first part of the course, we will focus on individual Americans who have historically made significant contributions to the theory and practice of nonviolent solutions to national and international conflicts. Some, like Martin Luther King, will be familiar, but most, such as Gene Sharp, Dorothy Day and A. J. Muste, in all likelihood will not be. Later in the semester, we will study individuals from other countries who have formulated concepts for nonviolent conflict-resolution, including well-known luminaries such as Mohandas Gandhi, Lech Walesa, and Nelson Mandela.

Following this exploration, we shall immerse ourselves in case studies of peaceful resolutions of seemingly intractable conflicts during the twentieth century as alternatives to traditional tactics of warfare and counter-terrorism. Included among the examples to be studied are (1) the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European subordinate states between 1989 and 1991; (2) the end of British rule in India in 1948; (3) the transition from the apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1990s; (4) the plebiscite that ended the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile in 1988; (5) the Good Friday Accords ending decades of violence in Ireland in 1998; (6) and the successful nonviolent strategies of the American civil rights movement during the 1960s. Not all efforts at nonviolent solutions succeed. One prominent example are the agreements known as the Oslo Accords agreed to in the 1990s by Israeli and Palestinian delegations to end a conflict that continues into the present.            

Requirements:

In lieu of formal exams, you will be graded on the basis of the quality of several response papers, voluntary oral participation in our discussions of the assigned material, and a research paper due at the close of the semester. The first response paper will count for 15% of your grade, the second 25%, and the term paper 50%, leaving 10% for participation.

Assigned Books: (tentative)

Ackerman, Peter. A Force More Powerful: A Century of Non-Violent Conflict

Chernus, Ira. American Nonviolence: The History of an Idea

Schell, Jonathan. The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People

About Martin Miller
History

Martin Miller received his Ph.D. in Russian history at the University of Chicago and has taught at Stanford University and the New School for Social Research. He has been a member of the History Department at Duke for many years. Dr. Miller has conducted archival research in Russia and Western Europe, and has received numerous grants, among which are the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the National Council on Russian and Eastern European Studies, and the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).

Instructor:
Amy Laura Hall
LS 770-98
Summer 2019
Tuesdays, 6:00-9:00 PM - Begins May 21-Ends July 23
GLS Conference Room
*NEW COURSE*
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In an August, 2018 interview, artist Boots Riley noted: “In the World of Film, We’ve Edited out All Rebellion” (the title of the interview, in Jacobin). In 1991, Anita Addison, an executive producer and director, explained in the Los Angeles Times: “There are plenty of men directors who are working today simply because they give good meeting” . . . “The industry right now does not accommodate the style of women.” In this seminar, we will read closely films created by African-American artists as acts of creative resistance to the intertwined forces of capitalism, racism, and sexism in the U.S. We will attend in particular to ways that artists acknowledge and bend the daily realities of fear and domination in workplaces, schools, and neighborhoods, as well as create openings for alternative futures. Films will include Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash), The Gifted (Audrey King Lewis), An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (Terence Nance), Bamboozled (Spike Lee), Get Out (Jordan Peele), and Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley), among others to be determined. Television episodes and music videos will include work by Millicent Shelton, Debbie Allen, Sha-Rock, MC Lyte, Prince, Public Enemy, Mos Def, Daniel Glover, Chris Rock, Common, Aaron McGruder, Erykah Badu, and Janelle Monae. Assignments will include close-reading papers (due each session) and regular participation. Regular participation involves listening and attending to the words of other students as well as speaking words of your own.

About Amy Laura Hall
Divinity School

Amy Laura Hall is in her twentieth year of teaching at Duke University. She has published extensively in scholarly journals and with academic presses.

Instructor:
Thomas Brothers
LS 770-05
Spring 2019
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Mary Duke Biddle 069
Begins January 15 - Ends April 16 (no class on March 12)
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This course explores musical experience according to three different dimensions: first, music as a social phenomenon, second as an emotional one, and finally as transcendental (aka ineffable, spiritual, sublime, holy). Examples are drawn from African-American music in New Orleans, popular music, jazz, Bach and Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and the Romantics, sacred music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, John Coltrane, and Gospel.

 

Each of us already has a sense of music as a social phenomenon.  We like a certain kind of music, in part, is because it helps define our peer group, social class, and self-identity as a rebellious person, a conformist, and so on.  All music is socially conceived, but some kinds of music invest heavily in this project.  Many genres of African-American music, for example, are designed to bring people together in a participatory way.  The inquiry extends to the use of music as a way to energize ideologies.

 

Most people are also aware of their own emotional experience of music, but it is possible to go further.  We have been taught how to articulate emotions in socialized ways, and this can be observed musically. Musical gestures correspond with feelings. This section of the course includes readings on emotions, neuroscience and music. 

 

It is challenging to talk about music as a transcendental phenomenon, but that does not invalidate the experience.  For the nineteenth-century Romantics, music was the queen of the arts because of its ability to transport listeners into ethereal realms.  African-American churches rely on music to do the same thing as they try to connect with the Holy Spirit.  We may separate the themes of social, emotional and transcendental for analytical purposes, but in the end they are closely connected. This is demonstrated by another African-American example: the participatory music-making of nineteenth-century slaves was primarily social at the same time that it was intensely emotional and also transcendental, the latter indicated by the name of the great body of music that emerged—the Spirituals.

About Thomas Brothers
Music

Thomas Brothers is Professor of Music.  He joined the faculty at Duke in 1991 after completing his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley.  He has published three books on Louis Armstrong, most recently Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism (W.W. Norton, 2014).  In addition to African American music, Professor Brothers also teaches music of the medieval and renaissance periods.  Currently he is writing a book on The Beatles.

Instructor:
Martin Miller
LS 780-15
Fall 2019
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Classroom Building 241 (East Campus)
Begins August 27 - Ends November 26 (no class on October 8)
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This course will focus on the extraordinary cultural developments which emerged in Russia during the period when the country evolved from an Imperial autocracy to a socialist empire. The great divide were the revolutions of 1917, which together ended the Romanov monarchy and brought to power a radical Bolshevik party intent on constructing a utopian transformation of society. In the years prior to the First World War during the reign of Nicholas II, Russia experienced a paradoxical set of currents dominated by political decline and cultural awakening. The upsurge in innovations in literature, painting, photography, dance and the cinema that dominated the Silver Age before the revolution maintained some degree of continuity in the early years of the post-revolutionary society of the Soviet Union. Under the banner of socialist construction, new forms of artistic endeavor and experimentation were encouraged and funded by the new regime. Yet, by the end of the 1920s, the ruling communist regime established a doctrinal consensus that led to the abolition of all other political parties at home and the creation of a global confrontation abroad that would later be named the Cold War.

           

We will analyze these contradictory forces, which were so influential during the transition period from tsars to commissars in Russia. Using both print sources as well as examples of the exciting art forms of the era, we shall seek to answer a number of problems which emerged in this historical time frame, including the important question of how culture and politics interact with one another in two entirely different governmental systems.

 

Readings:

Edward Acton, Russia

Steven Marks, How Russia Shaped the Modern World

Selections from the literature, plastic arts and cinema of the time period will be made available,

 

Requirements:

There will be several short response papers in which students will analyze the artistic forms under study in their historical context, and a longer essay due at the end of the term which will permit research in greater depth on any aspect of Russian culture.

 

About Martin Miller
History

Martin Miller received his Ph.D. in Russian history at the University of Chicago and has taught at Stanford University and the New School for Social Research. He has been a member of the History Department at Duke for many years. Dr. Miller has conducted archival research in Russia and Western Europe, and has received numerous grants, among which are the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the National Council on Russian and Eastern European Studies, and the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).

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