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Master of Liberal Arts Program
811 Anderson Hall
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA 19122
215-204-1644 (phone)
215-204-9611 (fax)

Jayne K. Drake
Director, MLA Program
215-204-7743 (phone)

Michael Szekely
Assistant Director, MLA Program
215-204-6704 (phone)

Stephanie Morawski
215-204-1644 (phone)

Course Offerings

MLA courses are usually offered in small seminar settings (7 to 12 students) which provide opportunities for lively engagement and exchange of ideas among the students and the professor.   As with most graduate courses, students may be expected to give oral presentations and to submit written assignments, often including a substantial end-of-term paper.

Most MLA courses are usually offered during the evening at Temple University’s Center City campus at 1515 Market Street, very close to City Hall. A typical course meets once a week, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m.  Some online or "blended" courses, with variable meeting times, may also be offered.

In addition, a number of other graduate courses in the College of Liberal Arts and across the University are offered on Main Campus, typically during the day or early evening. The MLA program also offers "cross-listed" courses with other academic departments.

Registering for courses:

For general information regarding registration, please go to: http://www.temple.edu/registrar/students/registration/info.asp

NON-DEGREE SEEKING students interested in registering for MLA courses need to first contact the Office of Continuing Studies (see especially "Graduate Students" section).

NEWLY ADMITTED DEGREE SEEKING will be registered by the MLA program during the first semester of enrollment (to include, barring any complications, MLA 8011 Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies).

After the first semester of enrollment, all CONTINUING DEGREE SEEKING students should be able to register on their own via Self-Service Banner in TUportal.

General questions or concerns? Contact Dr. Michael Szekely, Assistant Director/Advisor, at mszekely@temple.edu


Master of Liberal Arts courses

Spring 2015

MLA 8120 Topics in Cultural Studies: Cooking, Consuming, and Culture Jamming (Everyday Life Studies)

Michael Szekely

Tuesdays, 6-8:30


What do aspects associated with everyday life (and what does that mean, by the way?) have to do with theory? In what ways do we—as individuals or groups—knowingly or unknowingly, comply with or resist the forces of dominant/mainstream social practices? Are we just sheep, buying and consuming—imagining that we are crafting some identity based on the kind of soda we buy? Or might some of our habits of consumption be, if not revolutionary in the traditional sense (and what does that mean?), perhaps nevertheless less passive than we are often led to believe?

Through encounters with works such as Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life, the tactical media and “identity deconstruction” campaigns of the “Yes Men,” and the practice of “culture jamming” associated with publications like Adbusters, as well as other theorists, practitioners, and hybridizers, we will explore issues at the intersection of theory and practice, production and consumption, identity and difference, tactics and strategies, as well as discourses and practices of resistance.

Dr. Szekely's primary research and teaching interests are in Cultural and Critical Theory, Aesthetics (especially the philosophy of music), and Contemporary Continental Philosophy, with more particular interests in French poststructuralism (especially Gilles Deleuze and Roland Barthes) and the Frankfurt School (especially Walter Benjamin). He has published articles in such journals as Jazz Perspectives, Social Semiotics, Textual Practice, Rhizomes, Contemporary Aesthetics, Popular Music and Society, and the Oxford Handbook on Music Education Philosophy, and is currently writing a book on Barthes and music. Dr. Szekely is also a practicing musician and composer, with particular interests in collective improvisation and popular music.


MLA 8180: Ways of Seeing: Race, Gender, Ethnicity and Communication

Gayle Smith

Thursdays, 6-8:30


In today's politically charged atmosphere, we need to talk about issues concerning race, gender, and ethnicity. But what are we really talking about when we talk about race and gender? Justice Sotomayor once wrote: "Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce the most crippling of thoughts: 'I do not belong here.'"

Whether it is the issue of race, gender, or ethnicity, what is it about the way we communicate that prohibits a meaningful exchange about these sensitive issues, which cause many of us to feel as if we are outsiders?

Is there a value to bearing witness? Do iconic images help us to overcome prejudice? Or do they rather cement them on our psyches? Amma Asante spoke about politics, race, history and art being brought together by a painting of Dido Belle. What can art teach us about these subjects? All of these subjects overlap. Are these issues any different today than in the seminal Zong case in Britain that brought the abolition of slavery to the fore?

Who defines us?

These are some of the issues we will tackle in this course.

Ms Smith’s teaching interests in the MLA program include cultural studies, theater, film, literature, and the arts. She also teaches English and Public Speaking at the Community College of Philadelphia. In addition to being a Philadelphia Barrymore judge and a practicing attorney, Ms Smith is the published author of two non-fiction books, What Every Woman Should Know About Divorce and Custody (Perigee 2007) and Divorce and Money: Everything You Need to Know (Perigee 2004), essays, and op-ed pieces on such subjects as Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett, C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham, and Braque and Picasso, which have appeared in such periodicals as The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on television stations and radio shows (including the local NPR show “Voices in the Family” with Dan Gottlieb) around the nation in promotion of her books. Ms Smith has always been passionate about and enjoys teaching.


MLA 8220 Topics in Urban Studies: Beer and Brewery Culture in Philadelphia (cross-listed AMST 4097)

Ken Finkel

Mondays, 5:30-8                                   


In this in-depth, research-oriented course, we’ll explore the history and culture of Philadelphia using beer and breweries as a lens to better understand people and place from colonial times to the present. By focusing on issues including immigration, ethnicity, innovation, industry, architecture, advertising, transportation, food culture, neighborhoods, leisure, celebration and business, we’ll come to a deeper understanding of trends in growth, identity and change in American urban life and culture.

Kenneth Finkel has held various positions in Philadelphia’s cultural community: Curator of Prints and Photographs at the Library Company of Philadelphia, Program Officer at the William Penn Foundation and most recently Executive Director of Arts & Culture Service at WHYY. Publications include seven books and catalogues on 19th-century photography, graphics, and architecture with a focus on Philadelphia as a center of innovation. In addition to his first book, Nineteenth-Century Photography in Philadelphia, his other published worked include the early 19-th century sketchbooks of Joshua Rowley Watson and the Pennsylvania Railroad photographs of William H. Rau. Finkel revived the almanac in editions of the Philadelphia Almanac and Citizens’ Manual for 1994 and 1995. He has served on the Board of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.


MLA 9082     Independent Study

Students who wish to enroll for Independent Study must submit a proposal written under the direction of a faculty member who will supervise the student's work. This proposal must be submitted the semester before the Independent Study is to take place. The proposal should describe the project, indicating: a) works to be read, b) frequency of student-instructor meetings, c) student writing to be produced, and d) means of student evaluation. See “Independent Study” on the MLA website.


MLA 9995     Master’s Project

Reserved for qualifying paper research; consult with the MLA Advisor.


MLA Course Inventory


MLA 8011 Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies

This course introduces students to interdisciplinary graduate studies and to cultural analysis by looking at the kinds of questions that can best be answered through an interdisciplinary approach and with various available methodologies. Taking American culture as its primary focus, students read texts in areas such as Visual Culture, American Studies, Women's Studies, and the Arts and Society. Topics include, for example: cultural representations of gender and sexualities, and of race and "whiteness"; the social construction of space and place; technology and its construction of identity; boundaries of culture and consumption (high, low, middlebrow); museums and cultural memory.

MLA 8110 Topics in the Arts and American Culture

This course explores the relationship between the arts and American culture, with an emphasis on how music, literature, and visual arts have reflected social, political, and intellectual concerns. The levels of art, from high to middlebrow to popular, will also be considered, with attention to the cross influences from one to the other, and the question of audience.

MLA 8120 Topics in Cultural Studies

This course examines topics relating to popular culture, media, and advertising, with an emphasis on how cultural representations reflect social and political interests. The approach embraces various competing disciplines (e.g., literature, anthropology, philosophy) at the intersection of aesthetics and politics.

MLA 8130 Topics in Visual Culture

An exploration of photography, film, television, and other visual media, in terms of the ways they interpret the world. Some of the issues considered will be: What are the elements of the visual? How are race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality represented in the media? How do visual media interact with one another?

MLA 8140 Topics in Performance Studies

Performance Studies encompasses dance, theater, and mixed media theatrical presentations, from street theater to happenings to public ritual. The course targets specific topics ranging from historical studies to the contemporary.

MLA 8150 Topics in Gender Studies

The changing constructions of gender are the subject of this course which will explore such topics as representations of masculinity; feminist theory and the academy; the sexual revolution; society and homosexuality.

MLA 8160 Topics in Environmental Studies

This course explores a wide range of environmental issues and the various factors that define those issues, encompassing physical, economic, political, demographic, and ethical considerations.  Possible topics include groundwater contamination, suburban sprawl, river basin management, environmental justice, and the greening of abandoned urban spaces.  It may also include an examination of the cultural meaning of the environment and its representation in art and literature.

MLA 8171 Intellectual Heritage, MLA

This course may focus on a number of diverse topics depending on the instructor:  e.g., the Greek foundations of modern thought; the religious texts that provide an important underpinning for Western Civilization; the Enlightenment commitment to reason, science, and the essential goodness and individuality of man; Romanticism and its emphasis on feelings and the imagination; great thinkers of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty first centuries.

MLA 8180 Ways of Seeing

Our educational system tends to neglect the visual world, despite our growing dependence on pictorial and visual information. Using methods from anthropology, psychology, communications theory, and art history, this course will explore nonverbal communication, the built environment, photography, film, and television as culturally conditioned symbolic systems.

MLA 8190 Modernism

Modernism was not a single movement but a multiplicity of cultural changes involving issues of perception, identity, memory, culture, and the nature of modernity itself.  This course explores the terrain of culture and the arts (e.g., film, art, literature, Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism) within the context of historical and technological change.

MLA 8210 Topics in Political Culture

Public policy has often emerged out of a combination of legal struggle, political negotiation, private wealth, and public interest groups. This course focuses on American political culture, including such topics as civil rights, the conservative right vs. the left, government by plutocracy, national health care, the rights of the poor, and the fate of the middle class.

MLA 8220 Topics in Urban Studies

This course explores the way cities have been formed and continue to be formed in relation to parks and neighborhoods, suburbs, and regions. The emphasis is on the way urban culture is shaped through the design of space, architectural form, and through urban planning.

MLA 8230 Topics in International Studies

After World War II, with the independence of formerly colonial nations, a new world of independent nation states evolved, torn between the pressures of ethnic culture, global communications, and international economies. This course explores issues of cultural identity and cultural conflict, as they surface in literature and film, in global tourism, in efforts at global cooperation and global competition.

MLA 8250 Topics in Science, Technology, and Culture

The impact of science and technology on culture has been pervasive and can be measured in terms of social life and habits, the environment, the arts, and politics. Emphasizing the last hundred years, this course examines some of the more significant changes in science and technology, from the automobile to computers, and explores the ways the individual and society have been redefined.

MLA 9082 Independent Study

Students who wish to enroll for Independent Study must submit a proposal written under the direction of a faculty member who will supervise the student's work. This proposal must be submitted the semester before the Independent Study is to take place. The proposal should describe the project, indicate a) works to be read, b) frequency of student-instructor meetings, c) student writing to be produced, and d) means of student evaluation.

MLA 9995 Master's Project

Reserved for qualifying paper research; consult with the MLA Advisor.



"The greatest value of the MLA program is the opportunity it grants you to explore.  The core curriculum will provide a soft introduction to the rigors of graduate study, allow you time and space to try on different methodological clothing, and ultimately allow you to discuss complex material in a way only the classroom setting can provide.  This investment in intellectual diversity is an asset..."

Patrick Grossi, former MLA student (current Ph.D. candidate in History)