Skip to main content

MALS Seminars

Our students must complete at least two seminars, which model interdisciplinary modes of thinking across a range of topics.

Seminar Requirements

We require students to take at least two MALS seminars. We strongly advise you to take one during your first semester of enrollment.

We offer five seminars per year on a range of topics, all taught by NC State faculty from various disciplines. We develop new seminars regularly, and often repeat the most popular ones. Our seminars are interdisciplinary, have no prerequisites and are limited to 15 students.

Recent MALS Seminars

What do we collect, both as individuals and as societies? What motivates us to collect, and informs our choices about what to keep and preserve? In the largest sense, what do the things we collect, and the ways we collect them, tell us about our relation to the world around us? 

This interdisciplinary course looks at collecting from a broad range of perspectives, tracing it from the early modern “cabinet of curiosities” through contemporary digital archives.

What is creativity? Where do original ideas come from? What is the relationship between inspiration and craft? Between medium and message? How do artistic traditions generate new works? How does “academic” training support (or hinder) creativity?

This seminar explores these and other questions. Along the way, students complete two semester-long projects and readings from a variety of disciplines.

What crisis could cause the European Union to collapse? Could the recent financial crisis actually weaken the EU to the point where members like Greece or Portugal are no longer allowed to be members? What happens if a referendum in the United Kingdom leads to their withdrawal from the EU?

While it’s difficult to predict future outcomes with any great degree of certainty, this class examines how the European Union has responded to a multitude of crises over the past thirty years. Any crisis certainly presents a number of challenges, but it may also offer an opportunity to reinforce partnerships.  

The seminar serves as an introduction to the growing field of environmental humanities and to social ecology in contemporary Western cultures. Important topics include climate change, industrial agriculture, energy and sustainability, and animal rights.

The course explores impact of those questions in contemporary Western societies, with a specific, double focus on the United States and a Western European country such as Spain. The seminar incorporates theoretical readings from disciplines such as philosophy, economics, psychology, ecology and other sciences; documentary as well as fiction films; literary texts; and a range of journalistic materials.

This course explores the ethical foundations and parameters of individual choice through an in-depth examination of two contemporary cases: reproductive/genetic choice and school choice/segregation.

As a whole, the course is fundamentally interdisciplinary, drawing on resources from philosophy, religious studies, sociology, education policy and science and technology. 

What are we scared of, what do we laugh at — and why? What roles may horror and humor play in contemporary western society? Are horror and humor always opposites to each other?

This seminar explores horror and humor as cultural, historical, ideological phenomena as well as individual feelings and emotional states. Through the analysis of films, literary texts and many other cultural products together with a variety of critical and theoretical readings ranging from psychology to anthropology and philosophy, the seminar inquires into the sources of horror and humor, the forms they may take, the responses they may elicit, and how all of those may vary across cultures and historical periods. 

This interdisciplinary food studies course takes students from the French foundations of modern gastronomy (the invention of the restaurant, start of modern food writing, birth of the celebrity chef, etc.), to the fascinating paradoxes of food production, consumption and appreciation in our increasingly globalized world. Classroom sessions include guest speakers, tastings and site visits (farms, markets, laboratories, production facilities, etc.). 

How do individuals, communities, and nations partner to achieve increased freedom of choice – the freedom to choose one’s preferred path to achieving one’s hopes and dreams? What is required for sustainable human development to occur, both in more – and less – industrialized societies? How can we know when we are “partnering-in-development” in a sufficiently healthy way so that increased freedom of choice is happening for all partners?

This course seeks to identify the strategies most likely to lead to elevated freedom of choice for all partners seeking to break the poverty-hunger cycle so endemic in much of our world.

“Immigrant” and “migrant” are terms that are neither neutral nor self-evident. Instead, the spaces, contexts and semantics through which they surface reveal deep-seated anxieties that contradict both the “nation of immigrants” narratives that ground U.S. national history and our daily consumption of goods and services that are the direct products of globalized economies. Far from speaking for itself, the “immigrant issue” exists on a continuum that reveals cultural distress around issues of space and resources as well as wellbeing and identity.

This course explores the themes of migration and immigration with a primary focus on cultural representations (films, media, news, literature, art and performance) — and also situates the U.S. experience globally by exploring current developments in other geographical and political contexts. 

Discussions of the ethics of human enhancement typically address a variety of issues focused on developments in biomedical technologies, including knowledge of the science underlying current and prospective methods of human enhancement, as well as their social and political contexts.

In this course, we will focus our discussions on particular case studies (athletic, cognitive, mood, moral enhancement and human-machine interface) in order to reflect on some important cross-cutting themes, including the distinction between therapy and enhancement, questions about safety and fairness, issues about governance and the regulation of new technologies, concerns about justice, human nature, authenticity, and the pursuit of the good life.

The analysis of human enhancement requires an inquiry into past, present, and possible future technologies, their applications, and their ethical, social, economic, legal, political, and ecological implications. It also requires recognition of the fact that social and cultural values, as well as ideologies, influence certain types of enhancements and enhancement biotechnologies over others.

This seminar examines critical points of convergence between science, medicine and the arts. Each of the three modules consider a variety of approaches to literature and film that draw on discussions of topics ranging from the sciences to sociology.

The aim is to develop understanding of the symbiotic relationship between technological and scientific change, and the necessary artistic process of imagining a changed world. 

Reading assignments include a number of well­-known women writers who deal with the ways in which gender, race, sexuality and class intersect and function in the construction of identity, and, in particular, female identity. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the production of identity was often chronicled by writers of fiction who showed that it was haunted by the threat of what was seen by many individuals in power (scientists, social theorists, physicians, politicians, husbands) as an innate disposition toward madness — a propensity that, according to them, posed a menace to the very fabric of civil society.

Through fictional and nonfictional texts, this course explores how this “female malady” was as often imaginary as it was real, and when real, was often imposed upon women by its very diagnosticians.