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Master of Arts Program in the Humanities


  • Malynne Sternstein, Associate Professor of Russian and East European Studies, Associate in Cinema and Media Studies, Affiliate in Germanic Studies and Chair of the Fundamentals Program in the College

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.

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

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 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.


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).

To apply, click here.


MAPH Website:
Phone: (773) 834-1201

Master of Arts Program in the Humanities 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.

Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Required by MAPH students. Others by consent only. Register by Preceptor Section.

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 31414. Contemporary Analytic Philosophy. 100 Units.

The goal of this course is to explore the historical origins of analytic philosophy. Beginning with Bolzano and Frege, we will look at the development of analytic philosophy through the work of figures such as Russell, Wittgenstein and Carnap, looking also at the rise and fall of positivism. At the end of the course, 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. We will use Coffa’s ‘The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap: To the Vienna Station’ as our main textbook, supplementing it with other materials when necessary.

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 31515. Ethics of the Enlightenment. 100 Units.

This course provides an introduction to the major ethical positions from the Enlightenment era, with primary focus give to Hume, Smith, Rousseau, and Kant. These positions have shaped our popular thinking about ethics, moral psychology, and moral education. They also continue to directly inform dominant views in contemporary philosophy. As we read through selections from major works, we will be guided by questions about the foundations of morality and the nature of moral motivation. For example, what is the source of our distinction between good and bad? Is our moral judgment grounded in reason or the senses? How can we make sense of motivation to do the right thing, sometimes even at great personal cost? As we will see, the answers to these questions are directly tied to the larger question of how to understand human nature and the relationship between our capacity to reason and our capacity to feel.

Instructor(s): J. Tizzard     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 21515

MAPH 32209. Philosophies of Environmentalism and Sustainability. 100 Units.

Many of the toughest ethical and political challenges confronting the world today are related to environmental issues: for example, climate change, loss of biodiversity, the unsustainable use of natural resources, pollution, and other threats to the well-being of both present and future generations.  Using both classic and contemporary works, this course will highlight some of the fundamental and unavoidable philosophical questions presented by such environmental issues.  Can a plausible philosophical account of justice for future generations be developed?  What counts as the ethical treatment of non-human animals?  What do the terms “nature” and “wilderness” mean, and can natural environments as such have moral and/or legal standing?  What fundamental ethical and political perspectives inform such positions as ecofeminism, the “Land Ethic,” political ecology, ecojustice, and deep ecology?  And does the environmental crisis confronting the world today demand new forms of ethical and political philosophizing and practice?  Are we in the Anthropocene?  Is “adaptation” the best strategy at this historical juncture?  Field trips, guest speakers, and special projects will help us philosophize about the fate of the earth by connecting the local and the global. (A) (B)

Instructor(s): B. Schultz     Terms Offered: Autumn
Note(s): Course is open to Undergraduates and MAPH students.
Equivalent Course(s): HMRT 22201,ENST 22209,GNSE 22204,PLSC 22202,PHIL 22209

MAPH 32819. Philosophy of Education. 100 Units.

What are the aims of education? Are they what they should be, for purposes of cultivating flourishing citizens of a liberal democracy? What are the biggest challenges—philosophical, political, cultural, and ethical—confronting educators today, in the U.S. and across the globe? How can philosophy help address these? In dealing with such questions, this course will provide an introductory overview of both the philosophy of education and various educational programs in philosophy, critically surveying a few of the leading ways in which philosophers past and present have framed the aims of education and the educational significance of philosophy. From Plato to the present, philosophers have contributed to articulating the aims of education and developing curricula to be used in various educational contexts, for diverse groups and educational levels. This course will draw on both classic and contemporary works, but considerable attention will be devoted to the work and legacy of philosopher/educator John Dewey, a founding figure at the University of Chicago and a crucial resource for educators concerned with cultivating critical thinking, creativity, character, and ethical reflection. The course will also feature field trips, distinguished guest speakers, and opportunities for experiential learning.

Instructor(s): B. Schultz     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): Course is open to Undergraduates and MAPH students.
Equivalent Course(s): PLSC 22819,CHDV 22819,PHIL 22819

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.

Instructor(s): D. Morgan     Terms Offered: Autumn
Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 48000,CMST 40000

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

MAPH 34515. Introduction to Videogame Studies: Art, Play, and Society. 100 Units.

This course is intended as an introduction to the study of videogames in the humanities. Topics include videogame form (visual style, spatial design, sound, and genre); videogames as a narrative medium; embodiment and hapticity in videogame play; issues of identity/identification, performance, and access related to gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, ability, and class; and rhetorical, educational, and political uses of videogames. Just as the videogame medium has drawn from older forms of art and play, so the emerging field of videogame studies has grown out of and in conversation with surrounding disciplines. With this in mind, readings and topics of discussion will be drawn both from videogame studies proper and from other fields in the humanities - including, but not limited to, English, art history, and cinema and media studies.


Undergraduates should be prepared for an MA-level reading load but will write final papers of the standard length for upper-level undergraduate courses (8-10 pages versus 12-15 for MA students). MA students interested in pursuing a particular research topic in-depth will be given supplemental readings. This course will also be designed to take advantage of the University of Chicago's videogame collection, and will require game play both individually and as part of group play sessions.

Instructor(s): Christopher Carloy     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 24515,CMST 27915

MAPH 34800. Poetics. 100 Units.

In this course, we will study poetry “in the abstract.”  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 language practice, from Aristotle to Adorno and beyond.  But we will also question the very project 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 individual poems themselves?

Instructor(s): S. Reddy     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): MAPH Poetics Core
Equivalent Course(s): CRWR 34800,ENGL 34800

MAPH 36000. History of International Cinema I: Silent Era. 100 Units.

This course introduces what was singular about the art and craft of silent film. Its general outline is chronological. We also discuss main national schools and international trends of filmmaking.

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

MAPH 37503. Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason. 100 Units.

In this course we will read through the Critique of Practical Reason, a short but dense work which contains the most complete expression of Kant’s mature practical philosophy. We will go beyond the famous formulations of the categorical imperative found in the more widely read Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, and try to understand the problems Kant aims to address in his moral investigations. We will be guided by questions like the following: what distinguishes good from bad willing? What role does sensible desire play in the life of the virtuous person? How does our capacity to reason shape the way we desire and experience the world? What is the nature of moral motivation? How do the ideas of freedom, God, and immortality of the soul figure in Kant's philosophical system? And finally, how does Kant’s view relate to those of his early modern predecessors? In addition to the Critique of Practical Reason, we will look at excerpts from Kant’s other practical works, as well as contemporary secondary source material.

Instructor(s): J. Tizzard     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Completion of the general education requirement in the humanities. One prior philosophy course is strongly recommended.
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 27503

MAPH 40110. Literature and Citizenship. 100 Units.

What we think of as modernity can be said to begin with the birth (or rebirth) of the citizen. During the 17thand 18th centuries, revolutions in Britain, France, and North America sought to recast political society as a structure built upon social contracts and natural rights of the people rather than the divine right of kings. Yet the category of citizen was (and remains) exclusionary as well as inclusive, frequently deployed to mark those outside its boundaries and protections. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the constructions of race, gender, and nation continued to shift into new forms, and many literatures of these centuries focus on how “the citizen” is conceived and reinvented into the present. This interdisciplinary, transhistorical, and transatlantic course will discuss how these tensions and debates influence literature and political discourse over four centuries, a breadth that will allow us to trace the concepts and critiques of citizenship as they have come to shape our contemporary world. Primary readings will include William Shakespeare, Tobias Smollett, Olaudah Equiano, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright, Miné Okubo, and Claudia Rankine. Secondary and theoretical readings will include Michel Foucault, Raymond Williams, Benedict Anderson, Ian Baucom, Lord Mansfield, C. L. R. James, Paul Gilroy, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Achille Mbembe, Emma Goldman, and Harry Harootunian.

Instructor(s): Tristan Schweiger and Megan Tusler     Terms Offered: Spring
Equivalent Course(s): ENGL 40110,ENGL 24119

MAPH 42002. Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations. 100 Units.

Human rights are claims of justice that hold merely in virtue of our shared humanity. In this course we will explore philosophical theories of this elementary and crucial form of justice. Among topics to be considered are the role that dignity and humanity play in grounding such rights, their relation to political and economic institutions, and the distinction between duties of justice and claims of charity or humanitarian aid. Finally we will consider the application of such theories to concrete, problematic and pressing problems, such as global poverty, torture and genocide. (A) (I)

Instructor(s): B. Laurence     Terms Offered: Spring
Note(s): Undergrads enroll in sections 01 through 06. Graduates enroll in section 07.
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 21002,PHIL 31002,HIST 29319,HIST 39319,LLSO 21002,LAWS 97119,HMRT 31002,INRE 31602,HMRT 21002