The GLS Core Course

The Self In The World (LS750) 

How do people make sense of themselves, their experience and their place in the world of others? What new insights can we gain on those identities and meanings through the disciplinary methods of history, the sciences, the arts or the humanities? How are those concepts influenced by values and contexts -- such as family, region, religion, class, race or gender -- that we inherit from our culture?

In this introductory GLS course, students read an interdisciplinary range of historical and contemporary texts in order to discuss aspects of the modern Western self. This process involves exploring concepts such as autonomy, authenticity, recognition, perspective, subjectivity and objectivity.  It also involves thinking seriously about the self in relation to others, and the ways that we project our notions of selfhood and otherness into the world.

This course is required of all entering MALS degree students.  It is a Liberal Studies seminar designed to equip students for graduate-level study in an interdisciplinary environment.  The course is both a methods course (addressing important issues in academic reading, writing and critical analysis across disciplines) and a course exploring issues and ideas central to contemporary academic discussion.  

Each year, this course takes a slightly different focus. Past versions of the course have included:

  • The Located Self: Discovering One’s Place in the World focuses on the lived experience of place. How do our natural and built environments shape our identities and relationships with others? How are our ideas of self and others written into the cultural landscape -- or rewritten imaginatively?

  • The Embodied Self: Flesh, Soul & Mind  focuses on how human identity is grounded in our sensory experience of the material world. What is the relationship between body, brain and mind? How do age and ability affect our identities and experiences? What hopes or fears are reflected in our fascination with robotics and alien bodies?

  • To the Ends of the Earth: Encountering the Cultural Other focuses on the Western self in its encounter with others. How do Western notions of identity change during the course of European travel and expansion? How has globalization affected our understanding of selfhood and otherness?

Future versions might focus on the psyche, racial identity or homo economicus.

This is a seminar which depends on active, informed discussion.  The work of this class is informed by the perspectives of various academic disciplines, and includes the participation of guest faculty.  Our goal is to explore how scholars think, read and write, with particular attention to: 1) the critical analysis so vital to graduate level work; and 2) the reading and writing skills necessary for interdisciplinary study.