MLAS Course Roster

Spring 2014 Courses

MLAS 260 09

Music and Race in America

Instructor: Professor Melanie Lowe
Location: Blair School of Music, Room 2133
Days and Time: Thursdays, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
First Class: Thursday, January 16, 2014

Music and Race in America will explore challenging questions about relationships between musical expression, racial construction and identity, and the racial imagination in the United States.  Although questions of culture and ethnicity will come into the mix, we will attempt to keep race and racialization as the central issues of the course. Our exploration will center around a handful of select works, including George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, and Tan Dun’s The First Emperor. The work for the course will consist of weekly readings, listenings, viewings, along with some short essays and a final presentation/project.

» Syllabus



MLAS 260 87

The Problem of Evil

Instructor:  Professor John McCarthy
Location: Buttrick Hall, Room 310
Days and Time: Tuesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
First Class:  Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Evil can be found everywhere: in the religious fanaticism evident in the events of September 11, 2001, in the atrocities of the Shoa and tribal genocides in Rwanda or in the Balkans. Whether in historical event, cultic practices, religious extremism, or on the movie screen, evil continues to fascinate and terrorize us. Yet not a fixed Manichean or Thomistic dualism is our point of orientation, but rather the elusive periodic centers derivative of chaos and complexity theory. My intent is to shift the focus in asking after the nature of evil from the simple to the complex, that is, I wish to locate evil in its broader, interactive context. In particular I am interested in efforts since the Copernican Turn to situate evil ontologically in a world filled with motion. That, I suggest, is the ultimate meaning behind Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the mythic Garden of Eden. Hence we shall ask: What place does evil occupy in the total scheme of the universe, our understanding of which scientific inquiry since the 17th century has radically transformed? Thus, we will seek to fathom the nature of evil with excerpts from various vantage points: theological (e.g., Genesis, Martin Buber’s Images of Good and Evil), philosophical (e.g., Spinoza’s Ethics, Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil), ecological (e.g., Chas. Darwin, Origin of Species; Lyall Watson’s Dark Nature), psychological (John Oppenheimer’s Evil and the Demonic; Freud’s death instinct), and literary (e.g., Voltaire’s Candide, Goethe’s Faust, Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Twain’s Mysterious Stranger, Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray). While our focus will be on the philosophic-theological and its echoes in literature, attention will be accorded popular renditions of evil in such films as Alien and Silence of the Lambs. The choices are broad, but the discussions will emphasize essential components of evil in an altered universe and of its relationship to God and the Good.

Instructor: John A. McCarthy is Professor of German and Comparative Literature, emeritus. For years he taught courses in European Studies and Religious Studies as well as German and Comparative Literature at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Before coming to Vanderbilt, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania. Among his numerous books and articles of greatest relevance to the Nature of Evil course are his monograph on paradigm shifts in literature and science, Remapping Reality: On Chaos and Creativity in Science & Literature (2006) and articles on “The Little Divine Machine’: The Soul/Body Problem Revisited" (2009), “Nietzsche’s Philosophic Vitalism and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution” (2011), and “Cognitive Mapping: Adam, Venus, and Faust.” He has thoroughly enjoyed teaching in the MLAS program over the years. 

Tel. 615.417.1594


MLAS 270 35

War in Iraq

Instructor:  Professor Katherine Carroll 
Location: The Commons Center Room 320
Days and Time: Wednesdays, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
First Class:  Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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

Course Description:
The War in Iraq will examine various aspects of the conflict from its beginning to the present including Iraqi history and culture, US military organization and operations, and politics (Iraqi, American, and international). This course will cover many topics, but its guiding theme will be the experience of the US military on the ground in Iraq. What challenges has the military faced in Iraq? How has the military as an organization addressed these challenges? Students should leave the course with a better understanding of both Iraqi society and the US military.

Course Instructor:
Katherine Blue Carroll is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science with special interests in democratization, foreign policy, and the US military. Her doctorate is from the University of Virginia and her undergraduate degree is from Indiana University. At Vanderbilt she teaches courses on Middle East Politics, Comparative Politics, and Terrorism, and she has previously taught a course on Middle East Politics in the MLAS program. She has just returned from a year in Iraq where she served as a cultural advisor to three Brigade Commanders in Baghdad.

Course Syllabus: 
This course is about a lot of things – U.S. foreign policy, the U.S. military, counterinsurgency, Iraqi history, Iraqi politics, international relations, Iraqi society and culture, etc. The over-arching goal, however, is to understand how the war was experienced by Iraqis and, more often for us, by American soldiers. So, for the topics I have listed above (and others), we will try to get a general understanding of the issue and then we will move quickly to tracing its effects on the set of problems that faced Iraqis and Americans on the ground during the course of the war.


  • Eric Gustafson, A Brief History of Iraq (2006)
  • Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2003-2005 (2007) (You might also want to buy Ricks’ follow-up book, The Gamble, which will probably help in your papers and in studying for exams.)
  • Bing West, The Strongest Tribe:  War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq (2009)
  • Patrick Cockburn, Muqtada Al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq (2008)
  • Other readings will be available online and through OAK.
  • Powerpoints shown in class will normally subsequently be posted on OAK. Please do not share the Powerpoints shown in class with anyone outside of the class without permission from the instructor.

Grades will be based on the following assignments:

  • Paper (15 pages): 30%
  • Presentation:  20%
  • Class participation: 50% 

Students will determine their own topics for the paper in consultation with the professor. Please choose a topic that relates to the War in Iraq but that supports your personal interests.  Remember that while you may decide early what general topic or question engages your interest, your specific thesis will emerge only AFTER you have done a great deal of research, so choose your topic quickly and get started gathering information and reading.  The paper will not be an opinion or “think piece” but an in-depth research paper that defends a thesis and that uses diverse and multiple sources.

Papers will be graded on research and writing effort, the quality of your argument, the use of sources, and attention to the details of paper production.  I am happy to read through paper drafts provided you finish yours early.  I will also meet with you individually, or correspond with you by email, as you write your papers to provide you with assistance.  Papers should follow the APSA citation guide that is provided on OAK and here --  I will also give you a model article to use in structuring your citations.  Papers must have page numbers, a title page, and footers with your name.  Please cite tables and other data appropriately and include either in the text or in appendices.  A set of useful sites for paper sources is available on OAK under External Links. 

Each student will have an opportunity to present the progress of his or her research at some point in the semester.  (I will pass around a sign-up sheet at the beginning of class.)  These presentations should be approximately 35 minutes long, including time for questions.  You may use Powerpoint slides if you wish in your presentation, or you may create handouts for the class.  This presentation may be on the conclusions of your research overall or may simply teach us about something that you have learned in your research that you think would interest the rest of the class. 

Please do the reading in advance of class unless I recommend otherwise.  Your class participation grade will be based on attendance and your participation in our discussions. 
Course Schedule
January 8:
Iraqi History I
Gustafson, Chapters 1 and 2
January 15:
Iraqi History II
Gustafson, Chapters 3-5
January 22:
The Decision to Invade
Ricks, Chapters 1-6 (Part I: Containment)

January 29:
No Plan? Too Few Troops?
Ricks, Chapters 7 and 8
West, Chapters 1 and 2

February 5: 
The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA)
Ricks, Chapters 9 and 10
CPA Orders Number 1 and 2

February 12:
Early Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) and the Abu Ghraib Scandal
Ricks, Chapter 11-13
“Nightmare on Wazir Street,” Center for Army Lessons Learned Newsletter, June 2008. (Don’t print this out – it has a lot of ink-heavy graphics.)

February 19:
Fallujah I and II
West, Chapter 3 and 4
Ricks, Chapter 14-18

February 26:
Iraqi Religious and Tribal Structures
Cockburn, Chapters 1-7
Thomas Hegghammer, "Global Jihadism after the Iraq War," from The Middle East Journal, Winter 2006.  We will be looking at this paper as a piece of writing to help guide the construction of your own papers.  I will email you questions to answer about its argument and style prior to coming to class.  Please bring a hard copy or a copy on your computer to class.

The First Week of March is Spring Break!!

March 12: 
Writing the Iraqi Constitution
West, Chapters 5 and 6
Ricks, Chapter 19
The Constitution of Iraq
Available online at I will bring a hard copy for each of you to class so that we will have it in hand as we discuss.

March 19: 
The Jaysh Al Mahdi (JAM or, The Mahdi Army) and Al Qaeda
Cockburn, Chapters 8-17
West, Chapters 7-14
International Human Rights Law Institute, “Victim Testimony: Zahraa” (September 2008).

March 26: 
West, Chapters 15-17

April 2:
COIN on the Ground
West, Chapters 18-23

April 9:  
More Changes on the Ground:  Technologies, TTPs, and Detention Reform
Rick Atkinson, Left of the Boom website, Washington Post,
West, Chapter 24

April 16: 
The Future of the U.S. Military: Counterinsurgency? The Future of Iraq: Democracy?
West, Chapter 25
Ned Parker, “The Iraq We Left Behind,” Foreign Policy, April 2011
Read afterwards of Ricks and Cockburn




MLAS 290 08

Interventionism, Cooperation, and Revolution: Latin America and the United States (Core Seminar)

Instructor:  Professor Frank Robinson
Location: Buttrick  206
Days and Time: Mondays, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
First Class:  Monday, January 13, 2014

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

Relations between the United States and its neighbors to the south, from the Rio Grande to Cape Horn, have been marked by friendship and cooperation, neglect and indifference, and, at times, hostility and fear. This core course is about the relationships, exchanges, and tensions among the people and nations of the Western Hemisphere, focusing specifically on the connecting points between the United States and the nations of Latin America.

Primary attention will be given to Latin America’s relations with the United States, from state-to-state interactions at the level of diplomacy and military intervention to questions of culture and perception in inter-American affairs. We will examine the eras characterized by the Monroe Doctrine, the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the Big Stick and Dollar Diplomacy, the Good Neighbor Policy, the Cold War, the Alliance for Progress, human rights concerns, the Reagan Doctrine of counterinsurgency, and debates over policy. Rather than looking only at the influences at work on officials in Washington, we will consider Latin American initiatives and responses, from the attempts by various nationalist regimes to find an alternative to the traditional model of dependence on the United States, to critiques by intellectuals such as José Martí and José Enrique Rodó at the turn of the century and Eduardo Galeano and Subcomandante Marcos today.