The New School for Social Research


Liberal Studies

  • IMG - Liberal Studies

    MA in Liberal Studies

    An Open-Curriculum Interdisciplinary Master's Program

    We live in the grip of powerful ideas and forms of expression. The MA in Liberal Studies helps you achieve an in-depth understanding of these ideas, our world, and your place in it. You are taught to grasp the core issues of our time, and to express yourself meaningfully on them. The MA in Liberal Studies offers practical writing tools and guided in-depth study in cross-disciplinary courses taught by renowned faculty at The New School for Social Research, who share the values of rigorous critical inquiry and thoughtful expression.

    Design Your Own Course of Study

    The core courses ground you in the history of ideas and in the practice of sustained writing while helping you form a peer community. From there, you can branch out, taking advantage of the rich offerings and distinguished faculty of The New School. You will work with both a faculty advisor and a student advisor to create a pathway tailored to your individual needs and ambitions. The New School offers a rich selection of courses with world-class professors who can extend your command of critical theory, the history of ideas, aesthetics, philosophy, politics, anthropology, media theory — wherever your curiosity takes you. Courses are available in both the daytime and the evening to fit into even the busiest schedule.

    Core Courses:

    At the heart of the program are two core courses. The first — The Making of the Modern World — considers the origins and fate of modern societies as understood by key thinkers who have explained and championed modern social developments, as well as those who have harbored grave anxieties about the shape of modern life. We cover significant currents in the arts, social history, cultural theory, politics, and philosophy. Our second core course — the Master's Critical Writing Seminar — helps students work on nonfiction writing and criticism, so that they can better express their views with clarity and force. Students often use this course to write the required MA thesis, exploring a topic of their choice in depth and producing a substantive and polished work of prose.

    Focus Areas

    Liberal Studies combines the New School’s tradition of critical and socially engaged inquiry with an interdisciplinary approach to problems in culture. Here are some of the areas in which we have concentrations of expertise and offer elective courses.

    Critical Media Theory: In these courses, we ask fundamental questions about how evolving media forms and technologies shape our world and ourselves. We look for concepts that can guide our actions in a world seemingly dedicated to constant innovation but also prone to reinforcing old forms of power and new forms of inequality.

    Criticism in Literature and Arts: In courses on criticism, students are taught to engage with artworks and texts, not just as passive mirrors for social realities but in such a way that criticism becomes a source of new realities and novel understandings of the world.

    Aesthetics: We see artworks and practices as fundamental way in which human beings make sense of the world, of one another, and of the claims of nature. In courses on aesthetics, which take advantage of our New York City location, we treat artworks as essential to understanding our most basic and pressing questions — from political crises to environmental catastrophes. 

    Gender: We are living through one of the most profound shifts in human history: the breakdown of a gender-based division of labor and the ongoing collapse of gender-based social roles in our most basic institutions. Our courses on gender critically engage with this immense shift, drawing on resources in historical studies, philosophy, feminism and gender theory, and political theory.

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