MLAS Course Roster


Fall 2013 Courses

MLAS 260 07

The Music Of The Infidels

Instructor:  Professor Michael Slayton
Location: Blair School of Music,  Room TBD
Days and Time: Mondays, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.
First Class:  Monday, August 26, 2013

“To some extent I happily don't know what I'm doing. I
feel that it's an artist's responsibility to trust that.”

–David Byrne

Course Overview/Objectives:

How does music affect us as listeners? How are musical “standards” created? How do the unorthodox become orthodox? To what degree are composers and artists obligated to move us forward, to “push buttons”?  What constitutes “going too far?”

These are the types of questions raised, explicitly or inexplicitly,  by concert-goers, educators, music critics, and composers. Perhaps more than any other medium, music has been expected to hold to certain standards of “beauty” or “sensibility,” often at the expense of progressive thought. Alex Ross writes:

“For decades, critics, historians and even neuroscientists have been pondering the question of why so-called modern music seems to perplex the average listener. After all, adventurous artists in other fields have met with a very different reception. The highest-priced painting in history is Jackson Pollock's swirlingly abstract No 5, 1948, which sold in 2006 for $140m. Tycoons and emirs covet avant garde architects. James Joyce's Ulysses inspires worldwide drinking parties every 16 June. Once, these cultural untouchables were dismissed as charlatans - merchants of the "emperor's new clothes," to employ a phrase that remains commonplace among unappreciative concertgoers. …The same conceit was trotted out in 1946 by a commentator who perceived no difference between a Picasso and a child's drawing.  … These days, you would draw puzzled stares if you announced at a dinner party that Pollock is a crock. But if you said the same of John Cage, you might get no argument.”

This course, then, will venture into the world of the “infidels,” those composers and artists who challenged the world around them to think about music in new ways, to listen with unorthodox ears. Much can be learned from their approaches to what music actually is, and what it could be.

Required Materials

A Portfolio Folder for this class, which should be maintained in good order.


As this class is a seminar format, your grade will be determined primarily by attendance and participation in class discussions. There will be few written assignments to be handed in but several class presentations (both group and individual) and discussions of the music we are studying. The percentage breakdown is therefore as follows:



Class Presentations (2@10% each)


Response Papers [2@5% ea.]


Final Project


Student presentations will focus on topics of compositional style analysis. Students will research various composers/pieces and offer their findings to the rest of the class in
20 - minute presentations.

“Response papers” will be in response to specific listening exercises. Students will be asked to discuss not only their individual reactions to what they hear, but also how the given works may have impacted listeners at the time of the premiere performance— and most importantly, how those pieces have affected the way composers,
performers, and audience members think about music and how it is created.

For the final exam project, students will have several choices; these will be discussed at a later date.

The University’s Honor System receives my full support. This includes all assignments, exams, and projects.

Students with disabilities who need accommodations should see me during the first two weeks of the semester so that we can discuss appropriate arrangements.

Tentative Schedule (This is subject to change):

UNIT 1: The ‘Reactionary’ Climate of the Early 20th Century

  • Debussy, Satie and Les Six
  • Expressionism and the rise of the atonalists

UNIT 2: An Overstatement of Fact

  • The Second Viennese School – an overview
  • John Cage
    • Cunningham, Duchamp, Dadaism, Zen Philosophy, etc.
    • Chance Operations
    • Indeterminacy

UNIT 3: The March of the Infidels - successors of Cage and other innovators:

  • Harry Partch
  • Morton Feldman
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen
  • Conlon Nancarrow
  • Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Earle Brown
  • Charles Ives
  • Alvin Lucier
  • Robert Ashley
  • Meredith Monk

UNIT 4: “And thus Cush begat Nimrod”: The Rise of Minimalism

  • La Monte Young
  • Terry Riley
  • Steve Reich
  • Philip Glass
  • John Adams
  • Louis Andriessen
  • Michael Nyman
  • The “Holy Mininmalists”
    • Arvo Pärt
    • Henryk Gorecki
    • John Taverner

UNIT 5: Performance Art and “Art/Pop”

  • Laurie Andersen
  • David Byrne
  • DEVO
  • Public Enemy
  • David Bowie
  • Iggy Pop
  • Annie Lennox
  • Brian Eno
  • Beck

Michael Slayton is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Music Composition and Theory at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. He has composed works in a cross-section of musical genres, with specific emphasis on chamber music. His continuing dedication to the value of artistic exchange has afforded him opportunity to write for distinguished performers all over the world, and his music, published by ACA, Inc. (BMI), is regularly programmed in the U.S. and abroad. Slayton is author/editor-in-chief of Women of Influence in Contemporary Music (Scarecrow Press, 2011), a book detailing the lives and music of several of America’s notable women in composition. A member of the American Composer’s Alliance, Society of Composers, Inc., the College Music Society, Connecticut Composers, Inc., and Broadcast Music, Inc., Slayton continues to be an active participant in the national and international music community.


MLAS 260 06

Human Nature, Power, Punishment

Instructor:  Professor Charles Scott
Location: Furman Hall (room TBD)
Days and Time: Tuesdays, 6-8:30
First Class:  Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This course is part of the MLAS Certificate in Ethics series. Enrollment priority will be given to those continuing students in the ethics certificate program, with others allowed into the course contingent upon available space.

Course Description:
Do we human beings form something like a family of individuals who are basically the same?  A family with members who have the same nature?   Do all people long for certain kinds of freedom? Or are people naturally mean- even cruel- as they struggle to gain ascendency over other people?  Do people deeply prefer to exercise power over others rather than to cultivate freedom? Would they rather punish than reform and educate those who violate a society's laws and norms?

These are questions we will engage in this course.

We will begin with a selection from Thomas Hobbs' Leviathan in which he finds that all people are naturally competitive and strive for self-satisfaction and domination. People, he contends, are naturally inclined toward war and conflict. Hence, enormous governing power is necessary to make possible a reasonable social order.

Sections in Abraham Maslow’s Toward a Psychology of Being present an extremely different approach  to human nature  and its fulfillment. He emphasizes the fundamental needs in human beings that must be satisfied for people to be "fully functioning." Fully functioning people are not inclined, he says, to destructive violence and are inclined to non-possessive love.

A selection from John Dewey's Human Nature and Conduct will allow us to consider his influential claim that people create their nature as they form their cultures and environments. Constructive power, he argues, develops by means of education, social transformation, and institutional guidance in "healthy" societies.

We will then read selections from Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.  It is an account of the formation of prisons in Western societies.  It is also a study of various types of punishing power that will allow us to ask whether we want to affirm the kind of punishment that is found in the formation of many prison systems.

The course will come to full circle with the aid of selections from David Garland's The Culture of Control and his discussion of crime and social order in contemporary society.  Does an implicit ideal of human nature operate in the policies, procedures, and institutions that maintain social order in the United States? Most of the material for the course will be provided without cost.

The class will be conducted in a seminar style that is highly interactive. Three essays (three to five double spaced pages) will be required.

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.


MLAS 290 07

Sex, Censorship and the Desiring Body in the Writings of D. H. Lawrence (Core Seminar)

Instructor:  Professor Robert Barsky
Location: Buttrick Hall
Days and Time: Wednesdays, 6:30-9:00
First Class:  Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This Core Seminar is required of all newly admitted MLAS students. The Core Seminar should be taken as one of a new MLAS student's initial courses and the Capstone Seminar as one of the final courses in the program. Other MLAS students may enroll in this course contingent upon sufficient space.

Course Description:
This course will discuss D.H. Lawrence’s magnificent corpus of novels, short stories and poetry with reference to the overlap between our minds and our bodies. Lawrence’s interest in the ‘whole human body’ and his rejection of a purely metaphysical relationship to the world, -- including his sometimes-scandalous efforts to portray the sexual yearnings of the body in all of its cycles of desire and survival, -- are fascinating and timely. And because any exploration of Lawrence brings us necessarily into the courtroom, we will have occasion to consider how Lawrence was viewed by the Press and the censors, who almost unanimously condemned his overly-graphic descriptions of bodies, culminating with the famous trial against him for his great masterpiece, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Anyone who loves fiction, or is interested in law, morality, censorship, will find this material exciting and provocative. And to add a research dimension that goes beyond primary texts, interested students will also be invited to explore some of the sources of Lawrence’s imagery and themes, from realms including psychoanalysis, anarchism, Eastern philosophy and the counter-culture with which he engaged via a community on a mountain in Switzerland called “Monte Verità”.


This course offers an overview of the works by two seminal individuals, who happen to have been sometimes-contemporaries, and who both contributed, in very different but overlapping ways, to our understanding of how the body can be represented in language. This course will provide students with an opportunity to get to know their work in some detail, and to go off in one of the multiple directions suggested in the reading of one set of works through the other. The objective of this course, therefore, is on the one hand to provide an overview, and on the other to offer an occasion to mine, very deeply, complex and exciting work that at its essence is ultimately very personal.



D. H. Lawrence, The Fox, The Captain's Doll, Ladybird. These three novellas explore human relationships and the devastating results of war. In The Fox, a predator targets two young women living on a small farm during the First World War. The Captain's Doll explores the complex relationship between a German countess and a married Scottish soldier in occupied Germany. In The Ladybird, a wounded prisoner of war has a disturbing influence on the Englishwoman who visits him in the hospital.

D. H. Lawrence, Collected Poems. This collection includes all the poems from the incomplete "Collected Poems" of 1929 and from the separate smaller volumes issued during Lawrence's lifetime; uncollected poems; an appendix of juvenilia and another containing variants and early drafts; and all Lawrence's critical introductions to his poems. It also includes full textual and explanatory notes.

D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover. Perhaps the most famous of Lawrence's novels, the 1928 Lady Chatterley's Lover is no longer distinguished for the once-shockingly explicit treatment of its subject matter--the adulterous affair between a sexually unfulfilled upper-class married woman and the game keeper who works for the estate owned by her wheel-chaired husband. Now that we're used to reading about sex, and seeing it in the movies, it's apparent that the novel is memorable for better reasons: namely, that Lawrence was a masterful and lyrical writer, whose story takes us bodily into the world of its characters.


  1. Introduction
    A description of the course, with a general introduction to Lawrence and to the Milieus of Monte Verità
  2. D. H. Lawrence and Monte Verità
    We will discuss some of the earliest works of D. H. Lawrence, including the famous short story “Odor of Chrysanthemums”, in order to establish a benchmark of his work, and to assess some of his early literary tendencies.
  3. Monte Verità, History and Legacy
    Beginning with the assumption that encountering the individuals and ideas associated with Monte Verità was a profound event in his life, we’ll look into the specific ways in which Monte Verità could have, or did, affect him, and his worldview.
  4. Dialogue and Situatedness and Lawrence
    An overview and discussion of Lawrence's novella "The Captain's Doll" as regards ideas of dialogue, and “situatedness”.
  5. Chronotopes in literature
    D.H. Lawence's "The Fox" as the basis for a discussion of how time and space coincide in the fictional text.
  6. "Lady Bird"
    A reading of D.H. Lawrence's "Lady Bird" through the lens of Bakhtin's essays on "discourse in the novel" and "the chronotope."
  7. Lady Chatterley's Lover
    An introduction to "Lady Chatterley", from the first third of the novel.
  8. "Author and Hero", Lawrence as Lady Chatterley
    An overview of relations between the author and his novel, and a first step towards considering its implications for Lady Chatterley.
  9. Lady Chatterley's Lover, and the depiction of sexual pleasure
    The beginning of the affair, and Lawrence's depiction of sexual relations, from the second third of the novel.
  10. Censoring Lawrence
    A description of the censorship trial(s) undertaken to suppress Lawrence's writings, with reference to actual Court documents and hearings.
  11. Trials and Tribulations in the Literary World
    An introduction and overview of famous literary trials, by way of comparison to that of Lawrence; examples include proceedings against Marquis de Sade, Henry Miller, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, and Allen Ginsberg, 
  12. The Poetry of D.H. Lawrence
    Bakhtin is very critical of poetic discourse, and yet Lawrence was a great poet and novelist; is there continued pertinence to the contrast between monologic and dialogic discourse?
  13. "The Ideas" in Lawrence's writings
    The Ideas that run through Lawrence's poetry and prose, in light of work you’ve uncovered pertaining to Monte Verità. We’ll herein have occasion as well to discuss other works of Lawrence that echo or challenge ideas we’ve developed to date, most notably his other major novels.
  14. Conclusions

Course Instructor:

Robert Barsky is the author of six books relating to fiction, law, the history of ideas and language, including a trilogy of books about radical American communities in the United States that emphasizes connections between politics and the study of language. The founder of 3 journals including  AmeriQuests (, Barsky lectures widely, and has had recent visiting appointments at the Yale Haskins Laboratory, the Free University of Amsterdam Law School, and the Institute for Advanced Studies, at the Toulouse School of Economics. He is the Faculty Director of the Vanderbilt W. T. Bandy Center, Faculty Head of House for West House, the Founding Director of Quebec and Canadian Studies, and the Director of the Literature and Law Seminar, at the Robert Penn Warren Center.


MLAS 260 08

The Literary Status, Conventions, and Cultural Significance of the Detective Novel

Instructor:  Professor Michael Kreyling
Location: Buttrick Hall
Days and Time: Mondays, 6:30-9:00
First Class:  Monday, August 26, 2013

Course Description:
What to call it? Crime novel? Detective fiction? Police procedural? Decisions have to be made, and so I’ve decided to exclude spy and espionage “thrillers” (e.g. Le Carré and Ludlum), true crime non-fiction, and historical time-travelling of the genre (e.g. Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose). I’m sticking with (mostly) British, American, and European, 20th and 21st century writers who conceived their work in a series.

For each weekly meeting (see the tentative schedule below) I have suggested a single text, usually the debut novel in the author’s series. Some of you might have read all or several of the other titles in the particular series. That is all to the good, and will constructively inform the class discussion. But re-read or refresh your grasp of the title that is officially the focus of the meeting.

Many readers in the detective genre are addicts and consequently have read dozens or hundreds of titles. I want to take advantage of this range and depth, without leaving readers new to the series in the dark. For most of the semester, we’ll all read the same thing. For the last three meetings, however, I’ve suggested a range of titles from which to choose at least one. These meetings are arranged around topics rather than single authors, and reach outward to areas of discussion we can’t get to with single titles.

Just what are the conventions of the genre? How many ways can they be re-shuffled? Where is the line (if there is one) between crime fiction and literature, between detective novel and the “literary novel”? Are there “origins”? If so, what are they and how much about them is it useful for us to know?

Is the crime novel “just” a page-turner, a vacation read, a lesser genre? Or does the genre as a totality, or individual novels within it title by title, do significant cultural work? That is, introduce the reading public to cultural issues defining the public consciousness of the present: for example, the interiority of the African American consciousness and community (as does Walter Mosley in his Easy Rawlins series), to the empowerment and agency of women (amply illustrated by Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, or Sara Paretsky), to certain forms of xenophobia and cultural appropriation (Biggers and Charlie Chan).

These are just some of the many topic areas the course will investigate. The reading list, as you all well know, could be huge. But, since we are limited to fourteen meetings, I have to make some decisions. Many of the possible titles are available locally and via on-line sellers.

As you can probably conclude from the syllabus, I have in mind a historical (the continuity of and breaks in the evolution of the genre) and a critical approach to the genre (the meaning of “good-bye” to the writers we study: Chandler’s The Long Good-bye, Ross Macdonald’s The Goodbye Look, John D. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-by). To meet the graduate level expectations of the course, you’ll be asked to write: a) for each meeting a 1-1½ page summary of your thoughts on the reading assigned for that evening; these will serve as prompts to discussion and as ongoing records of your personal response to the material, out of which you will produce: b) a 20-page graduate-style essay on a topic/author of your choice.

Your grade will be based on the final essay (70%); the weekly pages (20%); and participation (10%). “Participation” will be formalized by presentation to the class of your final work at a session or sessions TBD.

You may want to express your understanding of and engagement with the material by writing a substantial piece of your own crime novel. I am open to your submitting all or part of a fiction manuscript for course credit – provided it has been substantially completed for and during this course, and provided you discuss with me in a quasi-oral exam the ways you see your work inside or outside your predecessors in the genre.

Tentative reading schedule:

Week 1: Edgar Allan Poe, “”The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) and “The Purloined Letter” (1844).
Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet (1887), “A Scandal in Bohemia” (1891),  “Silver Blaze” (1892), “The Speckled Band” (1892).

Week 2: Dorothy Sayers, The Nine Tailors (1934).

Week 3: Hardboiled American. Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon (1930).

Week 4: More hardboiled. Raymond Chandler, The Long Good-bye (1953).

Week 5: Soft hardboiled. Ross Macdonald, The Goodbye Look (1969).

Week 6: John D. MacDonald, The Deep Blue Good-by (1964).

Week 7: Gender rebalance: Sue Grafton, A is for Alibi (1982).

Week 8: Sara Paretsky, Indemnity Only (1982).

Week 9: Janet Evanovitch, One For the Money (1994).

Week 10:  L. A. in black and white. Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990).

Week 11: Michael Connelly, The Concrete Blonde (1994).

Week 12: Detective Tourism: Italy. Donna Leon, Death at La Fenice (1992), Michael Dibdin, Ratking (1988).

Week 13: Nordic Noir. Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, The Laughing Policeman (1968/1971), Jo Nesbo, The Bat (1997/2012), Henning Mankell, Firewall (1998/2002), Steig Larsson, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2005/2008).

Week 14: Cultural Theft and Retrieval. Earl Derr Biggers, The House Without a Key (1925), debut of Charlie Chan; Henry Chang, Red Jade (2010).

Course Instructor:

I knocked. A muffled voice behind the door; I guessed it was OK to enter. There he was, a computer screen reflecting in his glasses. Nearsighted, I guessed. About six feet tall, on the edge of overweight. Aren’t we all, I thought. Buzz cut hair – thinks he’s Bruce Willis. Probably older. Graying beard, could be trimmed a little more neatly. Shelves of books on southern writers and southern literary criticism made the office feel closed-in. I’d heard something about him being a specialist in Southern Lit. “What’s the deal with crime fiction?” I thought. Then I saw it, open on his desk, turned so I could read it: The Novels of Ross Macdonald. I’d heard something about Macdonald – not the guy with colors in his titles, but the other Macdonald, the Macdonald rinsed in Freud. Guy with a PhD in English, dissertation on Coleridge. OK, I said to myself: this guy behind the desk reads crime fiction for the way it connects to The Big Picture, part of the story of “LITERATURE.” “Well,” I told myself, “I can handle this.”

“Before you get comfortable,” the first words out of his mouth, “two hundred a day, plus expenses. Bonus if you get results.”

Michael Kreyling (


MLAS 340 06

Capstone Workshop

Instructor:  Professor Cecelia Tichi
Location: Buttrick
Days and Time: Tuesdays, 6:30-9:00
First Class:  Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Course Description:
The aim of this class is to help each student develop a capstone project that will be read and orally examined by a committee of three including Professor Cecelia Tichi, Martin Rapisarda and a chosen expert in the field.  To this end a good deal of time will be left for independent research, consultation with experts and writing.  At the beginning we will consider some writings that exemplify different ways of getting at a problem.

Course Instructor:
Cecelia Tichi is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. She received her M.A. from Johns Hopkins University and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis in 1968. Before coming to Vanderbilt in 1987, she taught at Boston University. At Vanderbilt, she teaches classes in nineteenth and twentieth century American literature, focusing on aspects of culture from consumerism and social critique to country music.

She is the author of six scholarly books as well as the editor of several others, including Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky-Tonk Bars (1998). Her books include Shifting Gears: Technology, Literature, Culture in Modernist America (1987) and Electronic Heart: Creating an American Television Culture (1991). Her most recent book, Exposes and Excess: Muckraking in America 1900 / 2000 was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2003. Her articles on a variety of topics and authors have appeared in journals such as American Literature, American Literary History, and The Boston Review. She is also the author of three novels: Jealous Heart (1997), Cryin’ Time (1998), and Fall to Pieces (2000).