MALS Courses The Essay (Required Course) One of the most open and provocative of prose forms, the essay derives its name from the French word essai, to attempt. In this course, writing will be considered as a tool for inquiry, and students will read and write from the broad range of forms that comprise the critical and personal essay. The course will focus on critical essays based in research/analysis and cultural/literary criticism, as well as personal essay forms including the meditation and the persuasive essay. We will study structure and organization, research and citation methods, and aspects of style and voice appropriate for a scholarly, literary, or general audience. Readings will include classic and contemporary essays as well as selections from periodicals such as American Scholar, Harpers, and Orion. Public Intellectual Practicum (Required Course) People who share or synthesize academic knowledge with the general public are often referred to as public intellectuals. Al Gore, Carl Sagan, Edward Said, Susan Sontag, Henry Louis Gates, and Camille Paglia are some examples of such thinkers, people who can communicate complex concepts and explore real-world issues for a non-specialist audience and do so with the nuanced understanding that such issues deserve. The public intellectual often explores diverse fields of inquiry, seeking to draw connections and conclusions that allow for a multifaceted knowledge of the topic. Students in the practicum will choose a subject to investigate, apply interdisciplinary research methods and then create a public presentation of their work for a specific audience. Creative Process (Required Course) A conscious working relationship with the creative process can enable the seeds of ideas we carry forward to reach fruition. This course is structured as an investigation. Each student will work to identify the elements of “right practice” for a productive, individual approach to the creative process. We'll listen to and read the testimonies of writers, visual artists and musicians, mathematicians and scientists, philosophers and thinkers and examine them for patterns and collective wisdom. We'll consider theories and models for the workings of the creative process across disciplines. In addition, each student will observe the workings of his/her own process through a series of exercises and creative projects. Good Evil and Personal Responsibility: Historical, Philosophical and Psychiatric Perspectives This course presents an interdisciplinary overview and comparison of various models of individual responsibility. We begin with an overview of the theological frameworks of good and evil posed by biblical and Buddhist perspectives. We also analyze key ethical formulations by philosophers including Kant, Nietzsche, and Buber. The contributions of twentieth century psychiatry will be examined by way of Freud and Robert Jay Lifton. The issues posed by violence and war will be considered through the writings of Gandhi and others. Real to Reel: The Elements of the Nonfiction Film While large budget feature films continue to dominate the world of American entertainment, the small scale documentary film endures. Once the terrain of a few trained professionals, new technologies have made the documentary landscape more and more egalitarian, with an ever-increasing diversity of filmmakers, subjects and styles. This course will explore the American documentary film from its birth at the turn of the 20th century to the present. From the historical to the contemporary and from Robert Flaherty to Michael Moore, we will consider the methods and context in which these films were produced, and the effects that technology and invention have had on them. We will discuss the interview process, interpretation, and objectivity as well as the use of the camera, research editing, audio and lighting. Twelve Great Spiritual Texts of the Twentieth Century Given the great yearning in our time for spiritual depth and reach, and given the locus in the first years of a new millennium, it is a pertinent time to look back at texts that have shaped the twentieth century. Harold Bloom suggests that when you read a classic work for the first time you encounter “an uncanny startlement” that stays with you for a long time. Authors may include Martin Buber, William James, Annie Dillard, Shunryu Suzuki, Simone Weil, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, John Irving, Soren Kierkegaard, G. K. Chesterton, and others. Apocalypses Do you have your terrorist attack safety room ready? Do you worry about new diseases, nuclear war, environmental catastrophe, asteroid strikes? How about crop circles, the biblical Revelation, aliens? Dirty bombs, anthrax, small pox? Global warming? Are you ready for it all to end? Maybe not? Well, some folks are ready for the world to end, or at least they're getting ready, and they are telling stories, spreading the word, imagining the world's final denouement—and what comes after. Others use these stories as a call to action. And writers use the end of all-of-it as a setting to explore issues of human meaning. In this class, we will explore both literal and metaphoric catastrophe in texts from believers, theorists, and writers. Our sources will include Annie Dillard, Umberto Eco, Stanislaw Lem, Daniel Quinn, Ken Wilber, Jean Baudrillard and his followers, a host of websites, and some films. Inspired by the Visual Writers throughout history and across national and cultural borders have been inspired by the work of visual artists. Writers responding with passion, erudition, grand leaps of imagination, and scholarship to works of visual art is our focus in this class. We consider still lifes, self-portraits, sculptures, paintings, murals, collage, installations, quilts and more as we explore and experiment with writing strategies that help us connect the written word to the world of visual art. Authors studied may include Charlie Simic, Sandra McPherson, Elizabeth Alexander, William Blake, John Berger, Mark Strand, Joyce Carol Oates, Guy Davenport, Frank O'Hara, Agnes Martin, Romare Bearden, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Marianne Wiggins, Patrick Trevor-Roper, Bruno Schulz, John Mack, Cecile Goding, Susan Stewart, W.J.T. Mitchell, Siri Hustvedt, Eleni Sikelianos, Lawrence Weschler, and others. All members of the class keep artist notebooks, have the option to submit work each week, write two brief essays about visual artists and writers whose work challenges them to new seeing and new thinking, and create and present a final project incorporating visual and literary ideas and visions. Sensation and Ballyhoo in Contemporary Creative Nonfiction This course considers the causes celebres of contemporary literary nonfiction. Where do we stand, as readers and writers, amidst media crossfire over notorious books by James Frey and Augusten Burroughs? How do these hot potatoes compare—in form, content, and impact—to more complex, less-discussed debates on books by Lauren Slater, Rigoberta Menchu, or Binjamin Wilkomirski? Do books benefiting from mainstream ballyhoo stand up artistically against less-interrogated works exploring volatile subjects such as race, immigration, and gender identity? This class will explore literary memoirs on bestseller lists, issue-focused nonfiction used as college community texts, reportage bearing witness to personal or political trauma, hybrid works with links to mediums not commonly considered literary, popular histories melding research and novelistic storytelling, and books that have changed popular conceptions of the personal essay. The Arts and Innovation: Crossing Barriers Artists have traditionally been leaders in innovation by calling into question basic assumptions and working against the current. Our central goal is to systematically examine advanced thinking in the arts in order to inspire students toward innovation in other areas of human experience. Using such sources as ARTSTOR for images, recordings, videos, films, and readings in modern art and music, we explore outstanding innovators in the arts from mid-20th century to the present and the thinking and social contexts that gave them permission. One of the defining purposes is to demonstrate that a successful innovation or advance can result in a chain reaction that has broad societal implications. Iranian Culture in Translation This class will provide an introduction to modern Iranian culture through the eyes of Iranian writers, filmmakers, musicians, and poets. Core texts will include novels, memoirs, short stories, classic and modern poetry. Films and documentaries will cover a range of genres and topics which illustrate the complexity of Iranian society. Materials will provide a foundation to explore changes in the social and economic lives of modern Iranians and assignments will encourage a cross-cultural comparison with American society. Landscape and Memory This class is built around Simon Schama’s monumental work, Landscape and Memory. Together we read across genre lines: scholarly texts, novels, poems and essays. Texts may include A Very Long Engagement, Japrisot; The Colors of Nature, edited by Savoy and Deming; The World at Large, McMichael; I Lock The Door Upon Myself, Oates; books and articles by William Langewiesche, Elizabeth Kolbert, Joshua Hammer, Matthew Power, Peter Rogers, Lynne Cox, David Brooks, Kathleen Cambor, Kathryn Davis, , Julia Blackburn, Cornelia Dean, and Barry Lopez. We pursue the balancing act between landscapes and LANDSCAPE, between land and water, land and memory, water and memory. We think about urban, suburban, exurban and rural land and water held or repressed in memory. We consider landscape and memory, art and nature, what visions and ideas we have in common, which are held individually. Vocation and Money Work and money are great byways where many forces meet: needs, values, beliefs, dreams, fears. They are crucibles out of which we shape our lives, meet financial necessity, channel our gifts, and contribute to our communities. If we want our occupation and vocation to overlap, and money to be our servant, not our master, we must listen for wisdom again and again across the life span. In this course we explore the ideas of vocation, occupation, the soul in the workplace, as well as attitudes about leading, earning, spending, saving, giving, and what is truly enough. Texts will include: Crossing the Unknown Sea, David Whyte; Callings, Greg Levvoy; Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich; The History of Money, Jack Weatherford; Your Money or Your Life, Robin and Dominguez; How Remarkable Women Lead, Barsh, Cranston and Lewis; The Gift, Lewis Hyde; and various poems and articles. Spies, Lies, and the Art of Fiction Spy stories of one sort or another probably date back to the beginnings of civilization. In more recent times, the phenomenon of espionage is usually associated with World War II and the Cold War which followed. Familiar authors include John LeCarre, Robert Littell and Ian Fleming, but an investigation of 20th century espionage-based fiction will result in less familiar names as well. The questions which center this course are about relationships between espionage broadly considered—stealing secrets, intelligence, counter-intelligence, etc.— and the creation and enjoyment of fiction, including film. How are entertainment and realism balanced in spy stories? Are there parallels between the actual business of espionage and various structures and devices found in literature? Critics call attention to the voyeuristic qualities of literature— is there something more going on than just “watching?” Why do some literary genres lend themselves more than others to particular kinds of plots and themes? To what extent is spy fiction a gender-(in)(ex)clusive genre? What do spy stories say about our times? Ourselves? History as Story This class will explore contemporary writing that uses historical records to recreate vivid and compelling poetry, fiction, theater, and memoir. We'll identify documents and historical attitudes revealed in the works, which we'll then test against various authors' shaping and emphasis that uncover hidden peculiarities, half-spoken conflicts, as contemporary works emerge from past language, artifacts, behavior, styles, and attitudes. We'll also consider how instances of fictional misrepresentation confused historical and literary records, i.e. early dime novels after the Dakota Conflict of 1862 compared with Scott Momaday's account of oral histories from his Plains Indian family. We'll read a newly published translation of a Holocaust novel by Adler, written in German right after the war and we'll compare it Joy Kogawa's novel Obasan which recaptures Japanese immigrants' life in Canada before, during and after World War II. Other subjects will include 19th century exploration in the Arctic and the Amazon; incest and cannibalism; the rise of the Moguls and Popular Culture at the turn of the 20th century; periods of political, medical, and racial turmoil in the U.S and Canada. We'll study the Great Migration of blacks and the culture they brought north, via August Wilson's play Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and cast a sideways glance at a ”creative” biography via Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot. Field trips to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and to the Minnesota Historical Society.