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Current Roster

Fall 2018

MLAS 6300: Middle East Politics

Instructor: Prof. Katherine Blue Carroll

Location:Commons 363

Days and Time: Thurs., 6pm-8:30pm

Dates: Classes start Thursday, 8/30/2018 and end Thursday, 12/6/2018

This course briefly covers the history of the Middle East-North Africa region and then moves quickly to current issues including democratization, political violence and protest, economic development, war, and the role of culture in politics. We will cover several countries in depth (Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia) and pause to address events as they develop during the semester. Students will be graded on participation, a report on the current state of political and civic freedom in a country of their choice, and a presentation based on some aspect of that paper.

Katherine Blue Carroll came to Vanderbilt University in 2001 as the Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Science. Since 2006 she has been a full-time non-tenure track assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, where she directs the undergraduate program in public policy studies and teaches courses on Terrorism, Political Islam, Middle East Politics, and The War in Iraq. From January 2008 through April 2009 she worked as a social scientist on a Human Terrain Team in Baghdad, Iraq. Human Terrain Teams were developed to provide expert social and political advice to brigade commanders and soldiers on the ground in war zones. Since returning from Iraq she has worked on various aspects Iraqi culture and politics, as well as on the interaction of the American military with Iraqi society. She also works as a consultant for Decisive Analytics Corporation, a defense contractor, and has given several invited talks on her experience in Iraq and on Arab culture and politics to military audiences.


MLAS 6100: Life Writing/Writing Life: The Art of Autobiography

Instructor: Prof. Kate Daniels

Location: Benson Hall 200

Days and Time: Wed., 6pm-8:30pm

Dates: Classes start Wednesday, 8/29/2018 and end Wednesday, 12/5/2018

This class combines the study of autobiographical writing as a literary genre with the production of original creative nonfiction writing (aka personal memoir). In other words, it is both a literature seminar and a creative writing workshop.

Autobiography can be understood best as a hybrid mode of literary expression, combining nonfiction (the “true” or “real” account of a writer’s life or experience) and fiction (the imaginative creation of a “story” that serves as a vehicle to explain the writer’s life to readers). For that reason, it has always been a somewhat slippery genre. To get an idea of some of the challenges of writing autobiographically, we will begin our work together by taking a look at some early examples. Our readings will be primarily in the form of excerpts from longer works and extended essays (provided via links or pdf’s), but we will also read two, contemporary book-length autobiographies.

By combining the study of autobiography’s literary origins with the technical study of its specialized craft issues, our goal will be twofold:

  • to acquire an understanding of the historical emergence of and enduring interest in life writing, and
  • to provide a variety of practical models for imagining and writing one’s own autobiography.


Our readings will focus on three rich veins of expression in the English language autobiographical tradition: 

  • Self-improvement
  • Cathartic transformation of trauma (with particular emphasis on the experience of illness)
  • Spiritual conversion

Throughout the semester, students will keep a journal or diary, and write a series of “unmailed letters” to important “characters” in their autobiographies. These exercises – though they may seem frivolous – are designed to demonstrate the close connections between personal writing (not designed for audiences) and writing for publication which necessitates disclosure of personal information and details, thus compromising, if not cancelling out, the author’s right to privacy. This is the fault line of autobiographical writing: the meeting place of the opposed urges to withhold (private), or to disclose (public). Investigating this both as a psychological concern and as a craft issue is as essential to understanding the nature of autobiography, as it is to writing one’s own life story. (Note: The journal and letters will not be handed in, or graded, so they remain personal and private. However, students will be expected to report on their use in conference with me, to utilize excerpts from both in the final project, and address their usefulness (or not) in a brief process essay, accompanying the autobiography.)

Kate Daniels is Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Vanderbilt, and the recipient of the Harvie Branscomb Distinguished Professor Award for 2017-18. She is the author of five volumes of poetry, with a new collection, In the Months of My Son’s Recovery, due out in spring 2019. A former Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry, a Bunting Fellow at Harvard, and a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has particular interests in the fertile intersections of autobiographical writing with psychoanalysis, religious faith, Southern identity, and women’s and gender studies.


MLAS 6700: Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Art and Politics (Core Course)

Instructor: Prof. Leonard Folgarait

Location: Cohen 308

Days and Time: Mon., 6pm-8:30pm

Dates: Classes start Monday, 8/27/2018 and classes end Monday, 12/3/2018

This course will investigate the rich and complex relationship between art and politics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Examples will be drawn from the art of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the aftermath of both World Wars, the Cold War, and more general social issues such as censorship and civil rights. Political contexts will range from far left to far right to feminism. The media to be studied will include painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, and cinema.

The course will ask how, when and why did art become political. What are the implications and responsibilities of political art? Is there any art that is not political?

Students are responsible for completing reading assignments and being prepared for discussion of these readings in class. A research project will be presented first as a 15-minute, in-class, illustrated lecture, and as a 10 page research paper due the last session of the course. There are no quizzes or exams. The main purpose of this class is to take seriously the political content and behavior of the visual arts and to understand their profound role in our political culture.



List of Topics

Art of the Mexican Revolution

Art of the Russian Revolution

Degenerate Art, art banned by Nazi Germany

MAUS, graphic novel  (available at Bookstore)

Paths of Glory (movie)

Alien (movie)

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Guerilla Girls, and grassroots and street art, graffiti, etc.

Leonard Folgarait is Distinguished Professor of History of Art at Vanderbilt University, where he has served as Chair of the Department of History of Art. His areas of teaching and research are the modern art of Latin America, with a specialization in the twentieth-century art of Mexico, and modern European and American art and architecture.  Special interests are: the relationship of art to politics, early cubism, surrealism, performance art, film, photography, and historiography.

He has published three books on modern Mexican art and one on Pablo Picasso, plus edited or co-edited three anthologies, and his articles have appeared in journals such as Oxford Art Journal, Arts Magazine, Art History, Works and Days, and Quintana.


MLAS 6100: Music, Art, and Disability

Instructor: Prof. Stan Link

Location: Blair School of Music 2175

Days and Time: Mon., 6pm-9pm

Dates: Classes start Monday, 8/27/2018 and classes end Monday, 12/3/2018

This course explores the ways in which various forms of disability have influenced and enriched the arts, including music, visual art, film, and literature. By way of contemporary disability theory we will examine representations of disability and the works of artists with disabilities. We will also consider the ways in which works themselves can be thought of as embodied as a means of forming interpretive strategies that create and enlarge the meanings of those works.

Stan Link is the Associate Professor of the Composition, Philosophy and Analysis of Music at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, where he teaches music theory and private composition lessons. He also has a passion for interdisciplinary courses that use music as a hub for exploring larger issues of race, gender, sexuality, social class, violence, philosophy, technology, and nature. His previous offering for the MLAS program have included Listening to Film along with Music in Contemporary Fiction.