Current Courses

Spring 2023

LBS 720 AG
How Languages Really Work

Professor Luis Gonzalez

This class will show that speakers are not using subject, direct object, and indirect object to understand and produce language, as we have believed since Greek grammarians proposed these notions 22 centuries ago. Students will see with everyday sentences how and why we, as native speakers, learn our language without instruction before going to Kindergarten. Students will understand how grammar is not a set of arbitrary rules (when does one use whothatwhich?) but a smaller set of principles that help learners process (on the fly) the complexity of language. Why do regular speakers do the natural pauses in their normal speech, yet many college students fail to represent those pauses in their writing–by omitting necessary commas or putting them where they cannot be? Students will apply the new concepts discussed in class to explore in some detail a point of grammar in English or in a second language that they might know. Students are not expected to know a second language. Students will write one to two double-space pages about the reading for each class to be turned in at the beginning of each class. The reading will typically be a chapter of a book. Students will have the option of taking two to three tests during the semester or writing a paper that applies the concepts discussed in the readings and in class.

Luis Gonzalez, Ph.D. is a professor of Spanish and linguistics at Wake Forest University. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis. His main areas of research are semantic roles, case, reflexivization, clitic doubling, differential object marking, dichotomies in languages, Spanish linguistics, and second language learning. He is the co-author of one book and the author of four other books in his areas of expertise.

LBS 720 BG
Imagining the Planet: Literature and Climate Change

Professor Ron Von Burg

At this late moment, we have entered an era of climate change in ways that many perceive as irreversible. How did we get here? In what ways have thinkers, writers, and artists envisioned the current crisis and the future of the planet? And what is to be done, both locally and globally?

This seminar conducts a broad study of climate change in range of documentaries such as Lowland Kids, Before the Flood, Chasing Ice, and Blowout, in environmental scholarship by Rob Nixon and Jedediah Purdy, in reflective essays by war veteran Roy Scranton, in visual art such as Art in the Anthropocene, and in science fiction and dystopian novels such as Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower and Cynan Jones’s Stillicide. Overall, this seminar will introduce you to key debates over climate change across a range of perspectives and explore the possibilities for imagining a sustainable planet in the future.

LBS 728
What is a Photograph?

Professor Ashley Givens 

Throughout the course of the semester, we will reveal the depth and complexity of a seemingly straightforward question: “What is a photograph?” According to the French philosopher and theorist Roland Barthes, “photography evades us” and yet it is “unclassifiable.” We will attempt to grasp hold of photography even as we seek to understand why it continues to “evade” us today as artistic practice, as social practice, and as an proliferating part of daily life thanks to the digital camera. Our discussions will examine the contested status of the photograph in relation to reality, authenticity, and discourses of power. A central question will be: who was taking the photograph and why? This class will introduce students to an array of well-known photographic works, provide strategies for interpreting photographs, and foreground the critical issues connected with the medium through the discussion of theoretical texts. We will not only discuss famous photographers like Walker Evans and Diane Arbus, but also the social uses of the medium, from magazines to Instagram.

Dr. Ashley Givens (Emory University, B.A.; The Courtauld Institute of Art, Ph.D.) is a part-time assistant professor at Wake Forest University. She specializes in portraiture of the nineteenth century and is particularly interested in the intersections between painted and photographic works. Dr. Givens worked for many years as a museum curator (both in the US and UK) and previously taught as an adjunct professor at George Washington University.


If you have questions about the Liberal Arts Studies M.A. program, please contact us so we can help you!

April Strader Bullin
Program Assistant
Liberal Arts Studies M.A./Lifelong Learning