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:
M. Kathy Rudy
LS 770-49
Summer 2018
Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 pm
GLS Conference Room
Begins May 23 - Ends August 1
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*New Course*

The goal of this class is to survey different approaches to ethical thinking in relation to non-human animals and their dilemmas.  In the world named but not captured by the term “animal rights,” philosophical, ethical, and legal theories once sanctioned for use only in relation to humans are now being applied to animals with a varying array of outcomes and conclusions.  This course will examine different strategies of animal advocacy as they are manifested in Kantianism, contract based theories, utilitarianism, welfarism.  The animal advocacy movement is filled with activists, philosophers, political theorists, feminists, lawyers, and representatives of many different intellectual traditions who disagree about the status of animals, about whether or not we should eat them or wear them or hunt them or train them for entertainment or keep them in our homes.  We’ll investigate these conflicts throughout this class by looking at the narratives of particular kinds of animals.  While certain forms of public rhetoric may promote an idea that animal advocacy is a seamless, all-or-nothing, rights-based, vegan agenda, this class presumes there are many acceptable positions in relation to non-human animals.  While what happens to animals beyond the scope of our vision—at the factory farm, the slaughterhouse, the dog pound, the circus, or the research lab—may indeed be unethical, this class presumes that there are many different ways to formulate moral solutions.  Class discussion will focus on novels and memoirs to open our thinking on ethical frameworks for animals.

Booklist:

Pack of Two

Making Rounds with Oscar

Cat Wars

Eating Animals

Love at Goon Park

Evaluation:

Attendance and participation 25%

3-5 page opinion piece about each book and the problems that surround the subject 50%

Expanding ONE paper to 10 pages for final paper 25%

About M. Kathy Rudy
Women's Studies
Instructor:
Deborah T. Gold
LS 780-30
Summer 2018
Mondays, 6:00 - 9:00 pm
Perkins LINK 070 (Seminar 4)
Begins *May 16 - Ends July 23 (*Monday classes start on Wed., May 15)
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The purpose of this course is to describe and analyze the adult life course from the transition to adulthood and continuing through old age and death.  The course is divided into three sections. 

Section One includes 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.  Section Two reviews social, psychological, and social psychological aspects of the human life course from the transition to adulthood through middle age.  In particular, it identifies the developmental challenges of young adulthood (finding one’s identity, establishing an intimate relationship), and middle age (developing generativity) as well as the social adaptation of each (finding a job and getting married in young adulthood; caring for parents and reaching occupational summits in middle age).  Section Three concentrates on late life, again viewing changes from social (retirement, widowhood) and psychological (ego integrity, wisdom, life review) perspectives.

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 770-96
Summer 2018
Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 pm
Location TBA
Begins June 5 - Ends August 7
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*New Course*

Readers are always surprised by the modernity of Boccaccio’s stores of desire, deception, and delight: how can a fourteenth-century work speak so clearly to twenty-first century readers, especially on the topic of gender? This course investigates this question by exploring both Boccaccio’s narrative masterpiece, the Decameron, and his other works, including the first collection of women’s lives, On Famous Women. Examining critical debates about Boccaccio’s proto-feminism and the apparent misogyny of the Corbaccio, we will scrutinize how Boccaccio uses literature to create a new space for women and their wit as well as other models of desire. Our attention will focus on the Decameron, but we will also examine the distraught lover that narrates Europe’s first psychological novel, the Elegy of Madonna Fiammetta; the many nymphs that populate both the Ameto and the Nymphs of Fiesole; the lives of mythological and real women recounted in his Genealogies of the Gentile Gods and On Famous Women; and his manipulation of misogynistic discourse in the Corbaccio. Far from being a work of the past, Boccaccio suggests radical new paths forward.

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:
Frank Lentricchia
LS 770-93
Spring 2018
Wednesdays, 6:30 - 9:00 PM
GLS Conference Room
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*New Course*

The Italian films we’ll view and discuss may be films you’ve never seen or perhaps even heard of. Ready for adventure? Nevertheless, they are among the most powerful and influential films ever made. They cover a revolutionary period of “neo-realism” from the late 40s through the late 60s, beginning with documentary-like revelations of lower class struggles (De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves) which present lives determined and undermined by harsh economic conditions, to films which move to highly imaginative explorations of subjective interiors (Fellini’s 8 1/2) and cultural and psychological terrain inaccessible to strictly realist techniques.

Typically, talk and writing about film tends to proceed as if film and literary narratives are indistinguishable. Plot, story, character, and dialogue are the subjects of such so-called film commentary without reference to the fact that its unique, non-literary medium is what makes film what it is. Film, to put it bluntly, is not literary fiction. Consequently, in this course we will focus on how the actual visual image is crafted to shape and reveal the film-maker’s intention to tell stories that cannot be told by strictly literary means.  The film-makers we’ll study:  DeSica, Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti, Germi.

Several short essays required, along with faithful attendance.

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:
Abdul Sattar Shakhly
LS 770-94
Spring 2018
Mondays, 6:15 - 8:45 PM
GLS Conference Room
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*New Course*

This course explores and examines the tradition of mysticism in literature of world, British, and American writers. The objective is to introduce students to numerous genres and literary works that manifest a deep religious attitude or experience as a way of life and cross-cultural phenomenon. The course will focus on selected works of Dante, Milton, Blake, Wordsworth, and American Transcendentalists and their predecessors in Muslim Spain, such as Ibn Arabi, Abu Al Ala’a Al Ma’arri, and Rumi among other Sufi poets.

Close readings of texts will reveal the recurrent theme: “the direct, intuitional experience of God through unifying love”.

About Abdul Sattar Shakhly
Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Instructor:
R. Larry Todd
LS 770-95
Spring 2018
Wednesdays, 6:15 - 8:45 PM
Mary Duke Biddle 104
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*New Course*

The long arc of Western music has traced a rich history from the Middle Ages to the present marked by recurring cycles of tradition and innovation, consolidation, and renewal.  Discovering Music offers an introduction to this history by focusing on selected works for listening and discussion, ranging from an anonymous chant of the fifth century to a violin concerto by the Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina from our own century.  Beginning with a review of the basic elements of Western music (pitch, rhythm, texture, dynamics, and timbre), the course will proceed chronologically from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, and twentieth-century modernism and post-modernism, tracing how Western music evolved as it became increasingly complex and emancipated.  Along the way, we will consider many of the principal composers who, each in their own way, contributed to this history, why their music is significant, and how to listen to it.  Among these composers, to mention a few, are Hildegard of Bingen,  Machaut, Josquin, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, J. S. Bach, G. F. Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Fanny Hensel, Chopin, Wagner, Brahms, Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, Amy Beach, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartók, Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and Leonard Bernstein.

The principal text for the course is my Discovering Music, recently released from Oxford University Press, and available in print and e-book forms.  Discovering Music includes an online platform (OUP Dashboard) with streaming audio and interactive listening maps for the music under discussion, supplemental videos by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Peabody Conservatory of Music, as well as several short vignette-like videos recorded at Duke on several related topics, and other supporting materials.  Assignments will include regular listening and discussion, and a term paper, to be presented in condensed form to the class at the end of the semester.  A primary goal of the course is to enhance how students relate intellectually and emotionally with music, whether from the canon of Western classical music or beyond.

About R. Larry Todd
Music
Instructor:
Susan Thorne
LS 780-88
Spring 2018
Thursdays, 6:15 - 8:45 PM
GLS Conference Room
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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

GLS Advisory Committee Term: 2019-2022

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:
Martin Miller
LS 780-34
Fall 2017
Wednesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Carr 241
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The purpose of this course is to explore the historical roots of modern political violence. Contrary to popular belief, terrorism is not a recent phenomenon traceable to extremist factions or pathological individuals. It has, in fact, been an integral part of the policies of many governments and societies around the globe for centuries. Terrorist organizations can be found in ancient Israel, twelfth century Islam, and fourteenth century India. Theories of achieving a more just society through the tactical use of violence abound in Western Europe long before the French revolution among both authorities in power and insurgents who desire it. In the nineteenth century, however, modern terrorism emerged out of these earlier traditions and coalesced into the structure and ideology with which we are familiar today.

The course will proceed chronologically. We shall first read portions of the ancient and medieval discussions of "tyrannicide," and analyze the earliest insurgent groups dedicated to terrorism. The core of the course will focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with the emphasis on trends in Western Europe, Russia and America. Distinctions will be made throughout between state terrorism and insurgent movements dedicated to the use of violence. The course will conclude with an analysis of the American terrorist organizations of the 1960s and of the subsequent rise of Islamic jihadi violence.

Readings will include both primary sources and historical analyses mainly in the period between the French Revolution and 9/11.  Students will also view a number of documentary films, including the secretly produced “Underground” (1974) in which members of the radical Weather Underground seek to examine and explain their terrorist acts.  There will be two papers, one at midterm and on at term’s end.

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).

LS 770-92
Fall 2017
Tuesdays, 6:15-8:45 pm
Perkins Rubenstein 150
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*New Course*

This course will examine how images have been intentionally composed, collected, and deployed to serve as catalysts for social and political change.  Using Duke’s Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library students will view, handle, and analyze examples of images and printed matter from the late 18th century to today, that have served to advocate for and document underrepresented communities, political causes, cultural movements, traditions, and personal experiences. We will also explore open source archives, as well as works by contemporary artists and documentarians who mediate publically available images and archival material.  Students will gain practical experience to effectively locate, retrieve, handle, document and analyze primary source materials to support their individual research interests. This knowledge will then be applied to produce original written interpretations in response to collection material and visual explorations of present day conditions.  Our emphasis will be on the construction and dissemination of images as democratic tools for activism.

Requirements & Evaluation

Course participants will write short weekly responses to assigned readings, contribute to and lead class discussions, write and present an original analysis of archival material, and compose a creative project that will serve to advocate for a cause of their choosing.  Course will require visits to the Rubenstein Library Reading Room for independent research outside of class. Reading Room hours are typically Monday – Thursday 9-8, Friday 9-5, Saturday 1-5 but are subject to change.  Class participation and assignments will be weighted equally when determining final grades; more than one unexcused absence will negatively impact your final grade.

Required Books (Subject to Change)

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, Selections from A People’s Art History of the United States by Nicholas Lampert, Selections from Seeing Power: Art & Activism in the 21st Century by Nato Thompson + Short Essays distributed as PDF’s.

Instructor:
Deborah T. Gold
LS 780-57
Summer 2017
Mondays, 6:00-9:00 pm - Begins WED., May 17; Ends Mon., July 24
TBD
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The purpose of this course is to better understand the processes of aging and dying from both social science and humanities perspectives.  Because both aging and dying are culturally bound, they have a profound influence on the expression of societies’ feelings.  We will take a multidisciplinary perspective, combining social and behavioral science information (using a biopsychosocial approach) and the way in which American society has manifested its anxiety over aging and death in its arts as well as sciences.

The course will include an overview of the biomedical aspects of aging and dying, the social and psychological impact of these components of life, as well as the clinical outcomes of aging and dying in an aging society.  In addition, film (and possibly literature and poetry) will serve as the lens through which we can see the impact of aging and dying on the arts.

Requirements include weekly response papers about the readings, a midterm and a final research paper.

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.

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