The New School for Social Research

Degree Programs

  • The Program

    The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies is awarded for the completion of ten courses and a written master's thesis. There are two required courses: Eros and Civilization (GLIB 6001), normally taken in the student’s first semester, and the Proseminar in Intellectual and Cultural History (GLIB 5301), taken after the student has an approved thesis topic. The remaining 24 credits are electives selected from the courses developed by the Committee on Liberal Studies and those offered by other academic programs of The New School for Social Research: Anthropology, Economics, Historical Studies, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology.

    Each student is assigned a faculty advisor, who helps students clarify their research interests and take advantage of the educational resources available at The New School to design a program of study that meets their needs and goals.

    Required Courses

    GLIB 6001 Eros and Civilization

    This course will introduce students to some of the most significant and influential critical contributions to our understandings of love and desire, from classical times to the present. Through readings from a range of disciplines, we investigate how changing conceptions of Eros have shaped key social, psychological, political, philosophical, aesthetic, and economic formulations about history and culture in the West. These readings form the basis of class discussions designed to help students think through major critical paradigms and a variety of methodologies associated with Liberal Studies at the New School, an intrinsically interdisciplinary approach to intellectual history and critical thought. Tracing the long arc of significant statements on love and sexuality will serve to highlight certain continuities and ruptures in our own self-portraits concerning human nature and culture. Specific themes, topics, and key terms will include mythopoetic origin stories of love, courtly love, strategies of love, seduction, auto-affection, Eros/Thanatos, melancholia, ars erotica/scientia sexualis, libidinal economies, fetishism, the repressive hypothesis, gendered dialectics, jouissance, queer love, liquid love, mediated desire, and desiring machines.

    GLIB 5301 Proseminar in Intellectual History and Cultural Studies

    In this intensive writing workshop, students with an approved thesis topic come together with peers and an experienced faculty leader and discuss one another's work-in-progress, learn how to provide constructive criticism, and develop an appreciation for inquiry as a collaborative process. The faculty leader offers professional advice on the process of self-editing and revising. The goal is for each developing scholar to sharpen his or her research strategies, work out ideas and arguments, and produce a piece of polished writing that will appeal to a wide audience of educated readers.

    The Elective Curriculum

    Apart from the two required courses, students can choose from a wide range of course offerings approved by the Committee on Liberal Studies to promote interdisciplinary expertise and an independent approach to learning. The faculty is particularly strong in the four areas of study described below, but students are free to take any combination of approved courses they desire.

    • Literature, the Arts, and Aesthetics
      Students with an interest in word, image, and culture will find a broad array of courses in literature, cinema, visual art, gender and sexuality studies, and aesthetic theory. Some courses focus on a particular writer, artist, or time period; others take an integrated approach to aesthetic movements or topics.
    • Intellectual History and Modern Thought
      Courses in this group enable students to develop competence and facility with the ideas that shape our history and our times. Some courses examine historical perspectives; others look closely at the intellectual life of the modern period.
    • Criticism and Publishing
      The means by which thought and art are communicated with the public is constantly changing. Courses in this area address the history of means of communication and their current and emerging forms. These courses offer not only practical instruction in current cultural media but a context within which to understand the shifting terrain of media forms.
    • Media and Culture
      The slow eclipse of traditional print and broadcast media raises questions about the nature of media in general and its influence on culture, politics, and daily life. Courses in this area cover both the classics of media theory and pressing questions in contemporary media and culture.

    The Master's Thesis

    A written thesis is an opportunity to explore and critically analyze a text or set of texts, period or contemporary, in a way that sheds fresh light on the subject and/or transcends established disciplinary boundaries. A completed thesis is a significant body of work that can become the foundation for further research and writing, including a doctoral dissertation, or the first draft of a work intended for publication.

    What do our students write about? Almost anything. Here are some recent thesis titles:

    • Franz Kafka and Hannah Arendt's Image of Totalitarianism
    • Futurism, Fascism, and Henri Bergson's Philosophy of Time
    • “And they even took pictures!” Photographs of the atomic bomb under the American occupation
    • Anticommunism in Action: The American Jewish Committee Reacts to the Rosenberg Execution
    • Women on Wall Street: Hypermasculinity in the Workplace Culture from the late 1950s to the 1990s
    • Arthur Danto's Interpretation of Andy Warhol
    • Constructing Taste: Forecasting Services and the Sociology of Fashion

    Students begin working with their faculty advisors in their first year to develop ideas for a thesis. They decide on a topic in the first semester of their second year. In their final semester, students write the thesis and present it to the faculty for approval.