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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

Fall 2014

MLA 8011     Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies: Celebrity Culture

Gabriel Wettach

Wednesdays, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.


N.B.: MLA 8011 is required for, and limited to (with rare exception), all newly matriculated Master of Liberal Arts students.

This course is designed to serve as an introduction to interdisciplinary studies in the MLA program and will focus on celebrities and media stardom as a particular facet of American culture. Through course readings and occasional screenings we will trace out the key concepts and debates within the discipline of celebrity studies in order to interrogate the presence and impact celebrity figures have on the American landscape. In particular, we will examine the shift from the “star” (a product of a bygone studio system who could only emerge from film) to the “celebrity” (a famous person who can emerge from within any number of media) in order to gain a critical understanding of the shifting definitions of fame and notoriety and to work through the complicated and complicating ways in which celebrities mediate cultural forms of knowledge and participate in intersecting questions of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and class. The course texts are intended to provide course members with the fundamentals of celebrity culture and a theoretical framework for analyzing the ways in which celebrity figures reflect, shape, and subvert cultural values. This first half of the course focuses on particular strategies of reading and interpretation and emphasizes critical and analytical thinking, discussion, and writing about celebrity as a critical dimension of popular culture.

The second half of the semester will lay the groundwork for your final seminar paper. It will be necessary to work on a number of research and writing assignments, to present and explain your research at various stages, to read and critique the work of your peers, and to receive feedback and integrate it into your final paper. All of the assignments in this half of the semester should help you to further reflect on your ideas as well as to continue developing the research and writing skills necessary for the successful completion of a sound, graduate level seminar paper. Course members will work together to help one another to probe ideas, shape points of interest, and draft (and finalize) your seminar paper.

Gabriel Wettach (Ph.D., Purdue University; Theory and Cultural Studies). In addition to teaching in the MLA program, Dr. Wettach is also currently the Advising Coordinator of Undergraduate English at Temple University. His primary research and teaching interests are in film and television studies and cultural criticism. Courses taught include: Television Studies, Stars and Stardom, Celebrity Culture.


MLA 8110 Topics in the Arts and American Culture: Talk About Pop Music

Michael Szekely

ARRANGED-Blended Online course with on-campus activities


Tentative schedule for 4 classroom meetings: 9/4, 10/2, 11/6, 12/5 (all Thursdays, 6-8:30pm)

“Get up...
Get down...

Radio, video
Boogie with a suitcase
You’re livin' in a disco
Forget about the rat race
Let's do the milkshake, sellin' like a hotcake
Try some buy some fee-fi-fo-fum…”

This course will explore the artistic, cultural, historical, industrial, philosophical, political, and technological (did I leave something out?) attributes of popular music.  In doing so, we might first need to grapple with our sense of what exactly we mean by “popular.”  In music, for instance, is “popular” the same as “pop”?  If not, what’s the difference?  And why does that difference matter?  In a broader sense, we will also explore the role of theory in the context of popular music (e.g. as part of what in academia is called “popular music studies”), not to mention in the context of music in general.  That is, what are some of the possibilities and limitations of theorizing something like music, which is, at once, so ubiquitous and yet so context-specific?  Gendered musics.  Sexualized musics.  Cultural musics.  Technological musics.  Commercial musics.  Sports music.  Generational musics.  Could there ever be a “music in itself”?  Should we just leave folks to their stereos, iPods, and downloads?  Do these technological advances contribute to a privatization of music for our own autonomous listening pleasure, or are they paving the way toward a further democratization of music?  Can/should popular music also be transformative in the socio-political sphere?

Michael Szekely (Ph.D., Temple University; Philosophy). 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 Philosophy in Music Education, and is currently writing a book on poststructuralism and music. Dr. Szekely is also a practicing musician and composer, with particular interests in collective improvisation and popular music.


MLA 8150 Topics in Gender Studies: Audre Lorde: The Life and Work of a Silence Breaker

Aishah Simmons

Main Campus

Tuesdays, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

"We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.” - Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

Audre Lorde, the self-defined “Black Lesbian Feminist Mother Warrior Poet,” published ten volumes of poetry and five works of prose, including Zami: A New Spelling of My Name; The Cancer Journals, A Burst of Light, Sister Outsider, Our Dead Behind Us, From a Land Where Other People Live, Cables to Rage, Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, and The Marvelous Arithmetics Of Distance. She is recognized as one of the most important radical Black feminists of the past half century by Drs. Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, and the late Rudolph P. Byrd in their edited volume I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde.

This interdisciplinary course will explore the indelible impact that Audre Lorde, the award-winning, prolific, Caribbean-American feminist, lesbian, poet, writer, librarian, and consistently engaged activist had on multiple movements including but not limited to African-American Civil Rights movement, international feminism and women’s rights movements, international LGBT rights, publishing, breast cancer, the anti-apartheid movement, the Afro-German movement, and global human rights in general. Her courageous and ground breaking work directly and indirectly ignited and inspired countless individuals throughout this world to dedicate their lives to make this world a more humane place for all of its inhabitants. During her 58-year life span, she very literally “transformed her own silence into language and international activism.”  We will read, listen (through youtube and other mediums) to, and analyze her poetry and prose. Additionally, we will read the words of and view the films by some of the many whose lives she directly impacted.  Through this examination, we will learn how and why Audre Lorde became one of the preeminent “Silence Breakers,” around the issues of race, gender, sexuality, class, and spirituality in the United States and internationally.

Aishah Shahidah Simmons is an award-winning filmmaker, television and radio producer, writer, and international lecturer. Her internationally acclaimed short videos Silence…Broken (1993), which is dedicated to the memory of Audre Lorde, and In My Father’s House (1996), explore the issues of race, gender, homophobia, rape, and misogyny. Ms. Simmons is the producer, writer, and director of the Ford Foundation-funded, internationally acclaimed, award-winning film NO! The Rape Documentary. NO! explores the international atrocity of heterosexual rape and other forms of sexual assault through the first person testimonies, scholarship, spirituality, activism and cultural work of African-Americans. Subtitled in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, NO! also explores how rape is used as a weapon of homophobia.Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple says, “If the Black community in the Americas and in the world would save itself it must complete the work this film [NO!] begins.” Ms. Simmons’s writings on gender-based violence, queer identity, spirituality, cinematic activism, and intersectionality are featured on blogs and in several anthologies and journals in the United States and internationally. Her cultural work and activism are featured in anthologies, periodicals, and blogs including, but not limited to Ms., ColorLines, The Root, Forbes, Crisis, Alternet, Racialicious, Left of Black, The Philadelphia Weekly, In These Times, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She has also appeared on local and national radio and television networks including National Public Radio, Black Entertainment Television, and Pacifica Radio Network. Ms. Simmons is a proud member of the editorial collective of The Feminist Wire. She has screened her work, lectured extensively, taught classes, and facilitated workshops and dialogues at colleges and universities, film festivals, rape crisis centers, juvenile correctional facilities, conferences, and government sponsored events throughout the United States, across South Africa, England, Canada, France, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, and India.


MLA 8180 Ways of Seeing: The Anthropology of Mass Media (cross-list ANTH 5438)

Damien Stankiewicz

Main Campus

Thursdays, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Dr. Damien Stankiewicz’s (Ph.D., New York University; Anthropology) research explores mass media, and producers of mass media, as means by which to better understand contemporary debates about, and re-imaginings of, national, trans-national, and cosmopolitan identities. He is interested in how media professionals working in globalizing contexts go about negotiating and representing various kinds of trans-border and trans-cultural identities and perspectives.


MLA 9082     Independent Study

See "Independent Study" on this website for more information about this option.


MLA 9995     Master’s Project

Reserved for qualifying paper/thesis 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)