MLAS Course Roster


Fall 2012 Courses


MLAS 260 01

Society, Power, and the Individual

Instructor:  Professor Charles Scott
Location: Furman Hall, 109
Days and Time: Tuesdays, 6:30- 9:00 p.m.
First class: August 28, 2012

Course Description:
In this course we will thematize four interconnected areas of human relations:  First, in what ways might the habits, customs, and rituals in the history of a community unconsciously influence people’s present day habits, customs, and rituals?  What is the significance of such influence for understanding our individuality?  Second, how might we understand the influence of communities in the formation of the individuals who live in them? Third, how do various types of power, knowledge, and truth interplay in democratic societies?  Fourth, what are some options for assessing the ways people in very different communities within the United States should live in connection with each other.   The four authors we will read approach these issues in different ways.

We will read works by John Dewey (“The Great Community”), Michel Foucault (“The Subject and Power” and a lecture on power and knowledge), Wendy C. Hamblet (The Sacred Monstrous: A Reflection on Violence in Human Communities), and Gloria Anzaldúa (Borderlands: La Frontera: The New Mestiza).  Most of the material for the course will be provided without cost.  The two short books noted above are available in inexpensive paperbacks.

Classes will be conducted in a seminar style that is highly interactive.

This course is an option for those students following the MLAS Certificate in Ethics.

Course Instructor:
Charles Scott is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emeritus and Research Professor of Philosophy. He continues to teach undergraduate and graduate courses at Vanderbilt. He was the founding director of The Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities and of The Vanderbilt University Center of Ethics. He served as Chair of the Philosophy Department for 11 years. His most recent books include The Lives of Things, The Time of Memory, and Living With Indifference.

Syllabus: MLAS 260 01 Syllabus.pdf PDF





MLAS 340 04


Instructor: Professor Edward Friedman
Location: Furman Hall, 132
Days and Time: Thursdays, 6:30-9:00p.m.

First class: August 30, 2012

Course Description:
Each student in the MLAS Capstone Course will develop a project in conjunction with an advisor and a committee comprised of Dean Martin Rapisarda and the course instructor, Edward Friedman. Class sessions will be devoted to background materials and information, updates, and shared readings and discussion. There will not be a formal class session every week, so that students will have the opportunity to read, to conduct research, to write, and to consult with their advisors and the instructor. Students also will be able to take advantage of the services provided by the Writing Studio at Vanderbilt, directed by Dr. Jennifer Holt. At the end of the semester, students will give presentations on their projects, and the course will be “capped” by individual defenses—heavy on dialogue, light on grilling—with the advisor and committee. The class members are expected to attend the six required sessions, to stay in close touch with their advisor and the instructor, and to create a work plan that will allow for successful and timely completion of the project.


  • June Casagrande, It was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences. (2010)
  • Steven Carter, Famous Writers School, a Novel (2006)

Course Instructor:
Edward Friedman is Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Spanish, Professor of Comparative Literature, and director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. His primary field of research is early modern Spanish literature, but his work also covers contemporary narrative and drama. In the MLAS program, he has taught “Don Quixote and the Development of the Novel” (2006, 2008, 2011) and “Mirrors on the Stage: U.S. Drama, U.S. Culture (2012).





MLAS 270 11

Visions of Amazonia

Instructor: Professor Marshall Eakin
Location: Benson 200
Days and Time: Tuesdays, 6:30-9:00p.m.

First class: August 28, 2012

Course Description:
For nearly 500 years writers have been captivated, awed, and overwhelmed by the luxuriant environment of the Amazon River Valley.  Covering more than two million square miles and reaching into nine South American nations, Amazonia encompasses the largest river system and rainforest in the world.  This course will examine how writers and filmmakers have reacted to and portrayed this exceptional region.  In particular, we will focus on the contrasting visions of the Amazon as a tropical paradise and a green hell.  We will learn about the history of the region while reading classic descriptions of Amazonia beginning with the accounts of the first Europeans to navigate the length of the Amazon in the sixteenth century.  Most of the sources come from the twentieth century.

This course is an option for those students following the MLAS Certificate in History.

Course Instructor:
Marshall C. Eakin is Professor of History at Vanderbilt University.  A native Texan, he received his B.A. in history and anthropology from the University of Kansas in 1975, and his M.A. in Latin American history in 1977.  He did his doctoral work in Latin American history at UCLA completing his Ph.D. in 1981.  Eakin taught at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles for two years before coming to Vanderbilt in 1983.  He served as Executive Director of the Brazilian Studies Association from 2004-2011.

A historian of Latin America, Eakin specializes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Brazilian history.  His major publications have concentrated on economic and business history, industrialization, and the processes of nationalism and nation-building—primarily in the twentieth century.

He has co-edited four books and is the author of four more: British Enterprise in Brazil:  The St. John d’el Rey Mining Company and the Morro Velho Gold Mine, 1830-1960 (Duke, 1989), Brazil: The Once and Future Country (St. Martin’s, 1997), Tropical Capitalism: The Industrialization of Belo Horizonte, Brazil (Palgrave, 2001), and The History of Latin America:  Collision of Cultures (Palgrave, 2007).  Eakin has also created two video courses with Great Courses:  Conquest of the Americas and The Americas in a Revolutionary Era.  Recently he completed a free, on-line video course, Brazil for Beginners [].

He has been awarded grants from Fulbright-Hays, the Tinker Foundation, the American Historical Association, the Corporation for National Service, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Professor Eakin has won numerous teaching and advising awards: Professor of the Year, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching/CASE Tennessee (1999); Alumni Education Award from the Vanderbilt Alumni Association (1999); Chair of Teaching Excellence (1998-2001); Ernest A. Jones Advising Award (1996); Chancellor's Cup ["for the greatest contribution to student-faculty relationships in the recent past"] (1994); Madison Sarratt Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (1994); Jeffrey W. Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (1991).

Syllabus: MLAS 270.2012.pdf PDF





MLAS 260 99

Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop

Instructor: Professor  Lorraine Lopez    
Location: Furman 109
Days and Time: Mondays, 6:30-9:00p.m.

First Class: August 27, 2012

Course Description:
This is a graduate workshop in fiction writing with an emphasis on narrative craft.  As such, the workshop undertakes more advanced consideration of elements of fiction for members that are already familiar with basic techniques of characterization, scene and narrative structure, and development of story.  The function of this workshop is to help writers develop fiction they are actively engaged in creating—published work and work that has been turned in for other workshops may not be submitted for workshop.  Though workshop submissions will primarily be short stories, the literary focus of this particular workshop will be on the novella and the short novel, and as such, participants will read, present, discuss, and critique published fiction by various authors, including Julie Otsuka, Denis Johnson, Justin Torres, Debra Spark, and Lorrie Moore.  Additionally, workshop members will read articles on craft by Charles Baxter and Debra Spark as well as attend literary events presented in the Visiting Writers’ Series at Vanderbilt University.

This course is an option for those students following the MLAS Certificate in Creative Writing.

Course Instructor:
Lorraine M. López is an associate editor of the Afro-Hispanic Review and an associate professor of English teaching in the M.F.A. program in Creative Writing at Vanderbilt University.  Lorraine M. López is the author of five books of fiction and editor of two essay collections.  Her short story collection, Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories was a Finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Prize.  Her short story collection, Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories won the inaugural Miguel Marmól prize for fiction.  Her second book, Call Me Henri was awarded the Paterson Prize for Young Adult Literature, and her novel, The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters was a Borders/Las Comadres Selection for the month of November in 2008.  López’s short story collection, Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories was a Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Prize in Fiction in 2010 and winner of the Texas League of Writers Award for Outstanding Book of Fiction.  She has also edited a collection of essays titled An Angle of Vision: Women Writers on Their Poor or Working-Class Roots, which was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2009.  Her recent publications include a novel, The Realm of Hungry Spirits and a collection of essays, The Other Latin@: Writing against a Singular Identity, coedited with Blas Falconer.  Finally, López has coedited, with Margaret Crumpton Winter, a collection of critical essays titled “Rituals of Movement in the Writings of Judith Ortiz Cofer” that will be released in 2012 from Caribbean Studies Press.

Syllabus: MLAS Advanced Fiction Syllabus.pdf PDF





MLAS 270 16

The United States and the Viet Nam War

Instructor: Professor Thomas Schwartz
Location: Benson Hall, 200
Days and Time:  Wednesday, 6:00-8:30p.m.

First class: August 29, 2012

Course Description:
“From its very beginning the Vietnam War divided Americans.” So writes the historian Gary Hess in a recent history of the war. This course will examine America's involvement with Vietnam, an involvement which began with a limited commitment to the French war effort in the late 1940s and escalated into a full-scale American war in 1965, and ended in the fall of Saigon in April 1975.  Readings will focus on the reasons for the growing American involvement, the question of military strategy, and the Vietnamese response to intervention. The course will also consider such questions as the role of the media, the impact of the antiwar movement, and the war's overall effect on American society. Finally, we will consider the defeat of the American effort in Vietnam, its consequences and legacies, and the many and varied ways in which the Vietnam experience influenced and affected America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This course is an option for those students following the MLAS Certificate in History.

Course Instructor:
Thomas Alan Schwartz is a historian of the foreign relations of the United States, with related interests in Modern European history and the history of international relations.   He is the author of America’s Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany (Harvard, 1991), which was translated into German, Die Atlantik Brücke (Ullstein, 1992).  The book examined the “dual containment” policy of the United States in Germany, a policy which sought to integrate Germany into the West while using her resources and strength to contain the Soviet Union.   This book received the Stuart Bernath Book Prize of the Society of American Foreign Relations, and the Harry S. Truman Book Award, given by the Truman Presidential Library.  He is also the author of Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam (Harvard, 2003), which examined the Johnson Administration’s policy toward Europe and assessed the impact of the war in Vietnam on its other foreign policy objectives.  He is the co-editor with Matthias Schulz of The Strained Alliance: U.S.-European Relations from Nixon to Carter, (Cambridge University Press, 2009). He is currently working on two books: a biography of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, tentatively entitled, Henry Kissinger and the Dilemmas of American Power, and The Long Twilight Struggle: A Concise History of the Cold War.

Syllabus: MLAS 270.reading.list2012.pdf PDF