Nov. 27, 1995
Vol. 15, No. 6

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    Humanities to introduce new master's program

    Program responds to student needs, recent trends The University has approved a new Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH), to begin next fall. The program is in response to recent intellectual trends in the humanities, as well as an increased demand for master's-level courses.

    "The program will provide students with increased opportunities to pursue diverse and interdisciplinary issues," said MAPH Director Gerald Graff, the George M. Pullman Professor in English Language & Literature and Education. "It is also designed to meet the needs of students who hope to pursue further graduate study, as well as the needs of students interested in a variety of nonacademic careers who wish to continue their humanistic education."

    Students in the new one-year program will take eight courses, including a required core course on fundamental humanities issues. They will also attend a series of symposia on interdisciplinary topics and participate in a continuing colloquium on professional writing that will culminate with a master's essay in the student's individually tailored field of study.

    "Recent changes in the humanities -- including such intellectual trends as multiculturalism, gender studies, popular culture studies, postmodernism, postcolonialism and the turn toward 'theory' -- have stirred up controversy both across disciplines in the university and in the broader world outside," said Graff. "The MAPH degree provides students with a road map to these controversies and a vehicle for exploring them, either within a particular department or in more wide-ranging interdisciplinary concentrations. Graduates of the program will gain not only a firmer preparation in the generalized competencies of writing and critical thinking but also a deeper knowledge of their chosen fields or interdisciplinary specialties and a larger sense of the issues, conflicts and debates that define the humanities today."

    The required MAPH core course, The Humanities: Visions, Revisions & Contested Issues, will survey the history of attempts to define and justify the humanities, including recent debates about the status of the humanistic canon, objectivity in interpretation and the function of culture. A second MAPH core course in interpretive methods -- Critical Methods & Approaches in Humanistic Studies -- is strongly recommended but not required.

    The core courses, symposia and writing colloquium are designed to provide students with a firm basis for organizing their own courses of study around electives. The electives may be chosen from the offerings of any of the departments in the humanities and social sciences, and, where feasible, from other departments in the University.

    Students may focus their study within a single department, concentrating, for example, in philosophy, art or one of the literature departments. Alternatively, they may opt for a concentration that is explicitly interdisciplinary. Students, working with faculty advisers, are free to design their own concentrations, but can also work within a wide range of currently existing interdisciplinary programs, such as African-American studies, cultural and aesthetic theory, classical archaeology, colonial and postcolonial studies and gender studies.

    For students whose career goals include pursuing a Ph.D., the MAPH degree is designed to help them develop the aptitudes and graduate-level records to compete successfully for admission to Ph.D. programs at top-tier graduate schools.

    For students whose career goals lie outside academia -- in business, government, public policy, secondary-school teaching, publishing, foundation work or journalism -- the MAPH emphasis on writing and research skills will provide preparation for a wide variety of jobs. Recognizing this, a number of Chicago-area businesses have agreed to create paid, yearlong internships specifically for MAPH graduates.

    "The program will offer wide-ranging opportunities for study, but will also provide a focus for students' diverse interests," said Graff. "In this way, we hope the MAPH degree will represent the best that master's-level graduate programs have to offer, and, with luck, will set a standard for the rest of the nation."

    -- Jeff Makos