MLAS Course Roster

Spring 2013 Courses

MLAS 270 39

The Historical Faces of Jesus

Instructor: Professor Joel Harrington
Location: Benson 200
Days and Time: Mondays, 7:00-9:30 p.m.
First class: Monday, January 14

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 seminar will focus on depictions of Jesus of Nazareth from his own time to the present. The cultural materials the seminar will examine include popular and scholarly accounts of who Jesus is or was as well as hymns, paintings, and films. Some of the major phenomena to be studied include: contested and competing notions of Jesus’ identity and significance, the relationship between images of Jesus and religious beliefs, and the influence of varying cultural contexts in shaping all of these.

Course Instructor:
Joel Harrington is a historian of Europe, specializing in the Reformation and early modern Germany, with research interests in various aspects of social history. His most recent book is The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, forthcoming in March, 2013).

Harrington has been awarded fellowships from--among others--the Fulbright-Hayes Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the American Philosophical Society. He has lectured widely in North America and Europe and he has resided as a visiting fellow at the American Academy in Berlin, Herzog August Bibliothek (Wolfenbüttel), Institut für Geschichte der Medizin (Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg), and Clare College (Cambridge).



MLAS 260 02

Idealists and “Savage Realists”: The American Novel of the Early Twentieth Century

Instructor: Cecelia Tichi
Location: Buttrick Hall 310
Days and Time:  Tuesdays, 6-8:30
First class: Tuesday, January 15

Course Description:
Emerging from the post-Civil War decades of the Gilded Age, American novelists had scores to settle and scores to keep. Male and female, these writers renounced the sentimentalism of the past in favor of sharp-focused engagement in vibrant, turbulent contemporary issues—of class, gender, urbanism, immigration, the industrial system. Major novelists of the new twentieth century include Edith Wharton, Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, Kate Chopin, Frank Norris and others. The seminar will focus on one novel weekly and will emphasize guided discussion along with individual presentations (and archival motions picture footage when applicable). Literary critics’ interpretations of the novels will inform our discussions, as will a weekly 1-2 pp. response paper from each member of the seminar. At one (possibly two) sessions, we will host an eminent visiting scholar of the novels under discussion. Each participant will be required to investigate a special topic of his or her choosing and to prepare an essay for submission late in the term. Time will be set aside for this work and advisory assistance available.

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).

Syllabus: MLAS260.02 2013.pdf PDF




MLAS 260 04

Representations of Women, Images of the Nation. The Case of Spanish Cinema (1975-2000)

Instructor: Professor Dr. Andres Zamora>
Location: Buttrick 101
Days and Time: Tuesdays, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
First class: Tuesday, January 15

Course Description:
One of the most outstanding features of the Spanish national cinema in the last quarter of the 20th century, basically since Francisco Franco’s death, was the overwhelming abundance and importance of women’s stories, or more precisely, stories about women written, directed, and told compulsively by men (Pedro Almodóvar, Alejandro Amenábar, Fernando Trueba, Carlos Saura, Víctor Erice, etc). This course is an exploration of this cinematographic obsession with the feminine subject, object, gender, genre, and sex. Some of the main characters in this myriad cinematic stories on women are the mother, the housewife, the girl, the lover, the angel, the monster, the hooker, the daughter, the researcher, the witch, the killer, the sister, and the porn-star. Among the intentions, functions, or consequences of all theses images of the feminine, the course pays special attention to their role in the depictions of, discussions on, and proposals for national identity throughout the last years of the dictatorship, the transition to democracy, and the consolidation of the new political system in Spain. In fact, the course might work as a case study on the topic of the importance of film in national identity building, placing a special emphasis on the use of women’s images towards that end. The course will be organized around two parallel axes: chronology (the historical evolution of the filmic representation of women against the political, social, and cultural developments in Spain) and thematics (the different articulations of women as images of the nation throughout this period).

We will see fourteen movies, the first one in class and the rest outside of class. The movies will be available to students on the web page: Virtual Cinema of the Center for Second Language Studies. Each class will be dedicated to the analysis and discussion of one film. For each movie I will also assign a set of readings--articles, reviews, book excerpts, etc.—which will be posted on OAK. There will be ten short weekly writing assignments and two five-page essays as well. Class discussions constitute one of the most important components of the seminar.

Course Instructor:
Professor Zamora’s research falls into five overlapping areas of interest: the poetics of the narrative genre in the Spanish nineteenth and twentieth-century novel; the rhetoric of ideological discourses in Spain from the eighteenth century to the present; the tropological use of the body, particularly through sex and scatology; the cultural trade between Spain and Latin America as a major element in the construction of their respective identities; and the trends, patterns and evolution of Spanish Cinema. He has published numerous articles on those topics and the book El doble silencio del eunuco. Poéticas sexuales de la novela realista según Clarín (1999). He is currently working in three book projects, one on Spanish ideological fictions, a second on post-national constructions of Spain through film, and another on the hidden and neglected centrality of excrement in Spanish and Western culture. In 2001 he received the Jeffrey Nordhaus Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in the College of Arts and Sciences



MLAS 260 72

Setting the Stage: Design for the Theatre

Instructor: Professor Phillip Franck
Location: Neely 203
Days and Time: Thursdays, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
First class: Thursday, January 17

Course Description:
The audience files into the theatre. Before them they see the stage, filled with objects that define the space and its character. The space is illuminated with color and patterns, and music and sound effects fill out the environment luring the audience into the theatrical world before them. As the house lights fade, the stage lights brighten and the actors come on the stage: the play begins. These stage design elements and the actors work hand in hand to create the play’s world and make the playwright’s story come to life.

Scenic design literally sets the stage. Scenery delineates the theatrical space and its boundaries and populates the space with objects that create the play’s environment for its inhabitants. According to the cliché, costumes make the man (or woman). In the theatre, costumes communicate the characters’ class, their personality, even their state of mind. Lighting illuminates, but more than that, it elucidates. Light may suggest reality through patterned light through a window or it may reinforce a mood with direction and color. Sound fills the space with effects and music that support the mood and expand the theatrical space. Taken as a whole, design can, in concert with performers, elicit potent emotional responses in an audience.

In this course, we will explore the nature of theatrical design and how design functions in the context of the play text. We will discuss the elements and principles of stage design and explore the process through which designers make their choices. There will be several projects over the course of the semester that will allow you to make choices of your own for scenes or situations. Because it’s important to see design choices in context, the class will attend several productions on campus and around Nashville. For each of these, you will write a brief critique of the design elements and their appropriateness to the play and its production. By the end of the term, you will be a more informed theatergoer, able to evaluate design choices and their impact on productions.

Course Instructor:
Phillip Franck is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre where he teaches scenic, lighting, and audio design. He designs for most productions in the VUTheatre season, including this year’s productions of Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Good Person of Setzuan, and Wit.

Professor Franck also works extensively as a professional lighting designer with companies including Tennessee Repertory Theatre (Clybourne Park, Little Shop of Horrors, God of Carnage), Arkansas Repertory Theatre (White Christmas), American Stage Theatre Company (2.5 Minute Ride, A Steady Rain), Little Theatre of the Rockies (One More for My Baby), and Vanderbilt Opera Theatre (Marriage of Figaro, Cosi Fan Tutte).

His work can be seen at



MLAS 340 05

Capstone Workshop

Instructor: Professor Edward Friedman
Location: Furman Hall 132
Days and Time: Wednesdays, 6:30-9:00p.m.
First class: Wednesday, January 16

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).

Toward the end of a MLAS Student's experience in the program, often the last course in the student’s plan of study, the student will enroll in the required Capstone Workshop, designed to encourage the integration and synthesis of course work in the program. Enrollment in this course is limited to 10 students, with priority given to those students enrolling in their ninth or tenth course in the program. The students who intend to take the Capstone this spring semester have been working throughout Fall 2012 with Professor Friedman on refining their topic and project.



MLAS 260 03

Concepts of God

Instructor: Professor Michael Hodges
Location: Furman 106
Days and Time: From 6:00p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
First class: Wednesday, January 16

Course Description:
This course will involve a careful examination of alternative conceptions of God and the religious life. We will be concerned to ask whether the Judeao/Christian tradition is essentially tied to the view of God as a transcendent supernatural being and if so what grounds can be offered for and against such a view. As well as supernaturalism we will examine naturalistic and existential alternatives. We will deal with such questions as the nature, content and ground of religious belief, the limitations of religious knowledge over against science and the relation between religion and values.

There will be 4 papers, the first 3 will be 5 page papers and the final one a term paper which can be an development of one of the first. All papers will be typed and on time, barring a medical emergency.

The first 3 will carry 20% each and the term paper 40%. All three of the short papers may be rewritten. All optional rewrites are due two week after the papers are returned.

C.S. Lewis, Miracles; D. Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; S. Freud, The Future of an Illusion; M. Twain, Letter from Earth; S. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling; P. Tillich, Dynamics of Faith; and Hume’s “Essay on Miracles” (Handout).

Course Instructor:
Professor Michael Hodges received his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in 1967 and after a brief stop at the University of Tennessee has been at Vanderbilt for 39 years. He was Chair of the Department of Philosophy for 9 year and is currently Director of Undergraduate Studies. He has published two books—one with co-author John Lachs and many articles on subjects in American Philosophy, Wittgenstein, Philosophy of Mind and the Philosophy of Religion. This is the fifth time he has taught in the MLAS program which he finds one of the most rewarding teaching experiences in his career.