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Master of Arts Program in the Humanities


Faculty Director

  • Thomas Christensen, Avalon Foundation Professor of Music and the Humanities

Deputy Director

  • Hilary Strang, Lecturer, English Language and Literature


The Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH) is an intensive one-year interdisciplinary program leading to the A.M. degree. MAPH is designed to address the diverse needs and interests of intellectual generalists and specialists who may benefit from a year of intensive work in the humanities. Many MAPH students are recent college graduates. Others are professionals at mid-career, freelance writers, or performers. They hold undergraduate degrees from public and private institutions throughout the world in disciplines ranging from biology to English to marketing. Others come with extensive experience in non-academic fields, including independent film-making, politics, science, non-profit work, and business.

Many students in MAPH plan to continue their studies at the doctoral level in preparation for a career in teaching and research. For these students, MAPH provides an ideal setting for clarifying their academic and professional goals and offers a year of intensive preparation for competitive Ph.D. programs.

MAPH’s emphasis on critical writing, analytical thinking, scholarly research, and flexible cultural perspectives is invaluable for students interested in careers at cultural institutions, in publishing, journalism, business, politics, secondary and community college teaching, or the full spectrum of the nonprofit sector. 

Degree Requirements

Requirements for the degree include:

  • The fall quarter MAPH Core Course, Foundations of Interpretive Theory (known to MAPH students as “Core”). Core begins two weeks before regular University classes and covers seminal works by thinkers such as Freud, Lacan, and Marx. It is taught by the MAPH Faculty Director and Deputy Director and may include guest lectures by distinguished faculty members from different disciplines. The course is designed to give MAPH students a shared base for their further study.
  • Seven elective courses chosen from the Division of the Humanities, Social Sciences, or the other divisions and professional schools. The choice of these courses is left largely to the student, although a program of study will be designed in consultation with and approved by the student's preceptor and other faculty advisers. Some students concentrate their courses in one field of study; others take a wide-ranging variety of courses in multiple disciplines. Most programs of study fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
  • A master’s thesis of 25 to 35 pages, produced under the supervision of a faculty thesis adviser and a preceptor, and completed toward the end of the spring quarter. In conjunction with thesis preparation, students take a thesis workshop, which involves small group meetings focused on the development of thesis topics and the writing of the thesis. MAPH thesis projects range from traditional research papers to creative works accompanied by a critical assessment.

Two-Year Langauge Option

MAPH now offers students the option to intensively study language over the course of two academic years and three summers through the Two-Year Language Option (TLO). TLO students complete the traditional MAPH curriculum during their first academic year, but must also take one langauge course at the intermediate or advanced level each quarter. During the second year, students take nine courses, six of which must be continued langauge study. Students have the option to take courses through the Summer Language Institute or to study abroad for three summers -- the summer before the program begins, the summer between the first and second academic year, and the summer following the second academic year.   


Preceptors are advanced graduate students or recent Ph.D. graduates who oversee the progress of 10-12 MAPH students. Each student is assigned a preceptor for the academic year. In addition to serving as a general adviser, the preceptor leads small discussion groups in connection with the Core course and leads the winter and spring thesis workshops. Preceptors also may teach courses in the winter and spring quarters specially designed for MAPH students.


Applicants to MAPH must meet the general divisional requirements for admission and must submit a critical writing sample of no more than 15 pages. Students applying to the MAPH Creative Writing Option must also submit a substantial creative writing sample in their chosen genre (e.g., several poems, a short story, a chapter from a work of longer fiction in progress, a play, or a 10-15 page work of creative nonfiction). 

Information on how to apply

The application process for admission and financial aid for all graduate programs in the Humanities is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at:

Questions pertaining to admissions and aid should be directed to or (773) 702-1552.

International students must provide evidence of English proficiency by submitting scores from either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Current minimum scores, etc., are provided with the application. For more information, please see the Office of International Affairs website at, or call them at (773) 702-7752.

Contact Information
(773) 834-1201

MAPH Courses

MAPH 30100. Foundations of Interpretive Theory. 100 Units.

The MAPH Core Course, Foundations of Interpretive Theory, begins two weeks before regular University classes and covers seminal works by thinkers such as Freud, Lacan, and Marx. It is taught by the MAPH Director and Deputy Director and may include guest lectures by distinguished faculty members from different disciplines. The course is designed to give MAPH students a shared base for their further study.

Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 34100

MAPH 30200. Thesis Writing Workshop A. 000 Units.

MAPH students begin work on their MA thesis.

Terms Offered: Autumn Spring Summer Winter

MAPH 30400. Thesis Writing Workshop B. 100 Units.

MAPH students complete their MA thesis.

Terms Offered: Autumn Spring Summer Winter

MAPH 39900. Independent Study: MAPH. 100 Units.

Independent reading and research course; regular meetings with a faculty supervisor required.

MAPH 30300. Prep of M.A. Thesis: MAPH. 100 Units.

Preparation of MA thesis is a course only offered if a student has a special research component related to the thesis. It is very rarely used and there is no standing course description because it will vary with the student.

MAPH 34800. Poetics. 100 Units.

In this course, we will study poetry in the abstract and in particular. In addition to reading individual poems (and books of poetry), we will study various efforts on the part of philosophers, literary critics, and poets themselves to formulate theories of poetic discourse. We will examine a range of historical attempts to conceptualize poetry as a particular kind of linguistic and historical practice, from Plato to Poststructuralism and beyond. But we will also question the very enterprise of thinking about "poetics" as opposed to "poetry" or "poems." Is it possible to theorize the art form without doing violence to the particularity-and peculiarity-of literary works themselves? Are all attempts to construct a poetics necessarily polemical? Or does every poem arise from an implicit poetics, even when its author would disavow such theoretical ambitions? Contemporary debates between historical and philosophical poetics will be used as an entryway to our seminar debates, together with a small archive of poems.

Instructor(s): John Wilkinson     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 34800

MAPH 31414. MAPH Core Course: Contemporary Analytic Philosophy. 100 Units.

The goal of this course is to have MAPH students explore the historical origins of analytic philosophy. Beginning with Frege, we will look at the development of analytic philosophy through the work of figures such as Russell, Wittgenstein, looking also at the rise and fall of positivism and the philosophical traditions that emerged afterwards with figures such as Quine, Kripke, Putnam and beyond. At the end of the course, MAPH students should have a more solid understanding of the central issues that have shaped modern American-European analytic philosophy, and some of the important ways in which this tradition diverges from contemporary continental philosophy.

Instructor(s): K. Davey     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): This course is open only to MAPH students. MAPH students who wish to apply to Ph.D. programs in philosophy are strongly urged to take this course.
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 31414

MAPH 33000. Methods and Issues in Cinema Studies. 100 Units.

This course offers an introduction to ways of reading, writing on, and teaching film. The focus of discussion will range from methods of close analysis and basic concepts of film form, technique and style; through industrial/critical categories of genre and authorship (studios, stars, directors); through aspects of the cinema as a social institution, psycho-sexual apparatus and cultural practice; to the relationship between filmic texts and the historical horizon of production and reception. Films discussed will include works by Griffith, Lang, Hitchcock, Deren, Godard.

Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 48000, ARTH 39900, CMST 40000

MAPH 33600. History of International Cinema I: Silent Era. 100 Units.

This course provides a survey of the history of cinema from its emergence in the mid-1890s to the transition to sound in the late 1920s. We will examine the cinema as a set of aesthetic, social, technological, national, cultural, and industrial practices as they were exercised and developed during this 30-year span. Especially important for our examination will be the exchange of film techniques, practices, and cultures in an international context. We will also pursue questions related to the historiography of the cinema, and examine early attempts to theorize and account for the cinema as an artistic and social phenomenon.

Instructor(s): A.Field     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Prior or concurrent registration in CMST 10100 required. Required of students majoring or minoring in Cinema and Media Studies.
Note(s): This is the first part of a two-quarter course.
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 28500, ENGL 29300, CMLT 32400, CMST 48500, ARTH 28500, ARTV 20002, CMLT 22400, ENGL 48700, ARTH 38500

MAPH 33700. History of International Cinema II: Sound Era to 1960. 100 Units.

The center of this course is film style, from the classical scene breakdown to the introduction of deep focus, stylistic experimentation, and technical innovation (sound, wide screen, location shooting). The development of a film culture is also discussed. Texts include Thompson and Bordwell's Film History: An Introduction; and works by Bazin, Belton, Sitney, and Godard. Screenings include films by Hitchcock, Welles, Rossellini, Bresson, Ozu, Antonioni, and Renoir.

Instructor(s): R.Bird     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Prior or concurrent registration in CMST 10100 required. Required of students majoring or minoring in Cinema and Media Studies.
Note(s): CMST 28500/48500 strongly recommended
Equivalent Course(s): CMST 48600, ARTH 38600, REES 45005, ENGL 29600, CMST 28600, ENGL 48900, ARTH 28600, REES 25005, CMLT 22500, CMLT 32500, ARTV 20003

MAPH 36500. Advanced Theories of Gender and Sexuality. 100 Units.

Zerilli: This course examines contemporary theories of sexuality, culture, and society. We then situate these theories in global and historical perspectives. Topics and issues are explored through theoretical, ethnographic, and popular film and video texts. Simon: Our itinerary in this coursewill be interdisciplinary, ranging from political theory to science studies. Topics for discussion will likely include: the gendering of reason and passion in the history of philosophy; the power, persistence, and flexibility of norms; the relationship between eros and other forms of desire; the division of labor and other economic tributaries to gendered experience; openings for and challenges to the political aspirations of sexual (and other) minorities; and the pressures exerted by technology on erotic life. Students will engage key concepts in the field, and will be encouraged to experiment with new ones.

Instructor(s): L. Zerilli     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Completion of GNSE 10100-10200 and GNSE 28505 or 28605 or permission of instructor.
Equivalent Course(s): GNSE 31400, ENGL 21401, PLSC 21410, PLSC 31410, GNSE 21400, ENGL 30201

MAPH 41300. Our biopolitics, ourselves: feminist science fiction. 100 Units.

1970s feminist theory made a significant conceptual move in provisionally bracketing off biological sex from the historical/cultural work of gender. Feminist science fiction (in contrast), in its brief flourishing in the 70s and early 80s, finds its utopian moments in the biological, in genetic manipulation, reproductive technology, ecological forms of being and new bodies of a variety of kinds. This class will read science fiction, feminist theory and current critical work that concerns itself with biopolitics in order to ask questions about the divide between nature and culture, what's entailed in imagining the future, what gender and genre might have to do with each other, and just what science fiction is and does anyway. Authors include: Le Guin, Russ, Butler, Piercy, Haraway, Rubin, Firestone.

Instructor(s): Hilary Strang     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): GNSE 21310, GNSE 41300, ENGL 21310, ENGL 41310