Current Courses

Fall 2020 Term

This fall the Liberal Arts Studies Program is offering two courses that have not been taught in the program before or at the graduate level by the two professors. LAS is all about adventures in knowledge and intellectual and personal growth. And it’s not only you as a student who gains from it, but the teachers as well no matter how experienced they are.

One course addresses questions that could not be more timely as India wrestles with tensions between Hindu nationalism and the actual religious and ethnic diversity of the country. The experiment in democratic diversity spanning most of South Asia – the now 75-year-old modern nation of India – is among the most audacious and ambitious in the world. As the population has grown and the economy has modernized, many new conflicts and struggles have emerged and grown more resistant to resolution. This course will reach back into the 5000-year history of this continent to trace the emergence of its many peoples and cultures, as background for examining the current contest among ideas of what kind of place India should be. Professor Rais Rahman of the Department of History, a native of Mumbai and a member of the Muslim minority that remained in India when Pakistan was born, is both a masterful historian and an articulate teacher who speaks from experience.

The other course is quite different – more personal and yet universal in the questions it explores. What influences have shaped who I am? What is the character of the life I’ve lived? What do I want for myself? Authors have been writing their autobiographies and memoirs for generations to find ways of exploring these questions and more. In this course, students will have a chance to take up their own life-writing even as they give close reading to critical analysis of autobiography and memoir as a form. Professor Jenny Pyke of the Department of English is an expert guide for examining the art and practice of writing about oneself and one’s life and probing your own questions of life choices.

Enjoy the semester! It will be a memorable one.


LBS 720  Lifewriting: Autobiography in Theory and Practice

“It must all be as if spoken by a character in a novel.” (Roland Barthes)

What is autobiography? Does autobiography describe, create, or deconstruct an identity? If any story we choose to tell must in some way be a story –details omitted consciously or unconsciously, memory unreliable, our own eyes used, our perspective imposed– what makes one text a “real” life story, while another text is fiction?

We will study various theories of what makes a text an autobiography: Form? A pact between writer and reader? Intent? The elements of a single life organized into a whole? Or are there no rules? If so, when, if ever, is the reader justified in looking for a writer’s life within a work?  Is every person comfortable with the idea of writing a book driven by the word “I”? What are other choices writers have made?

We will redefine truth-telling. We will question traditions of coherent representation. We will read a variety of lives shaped into words by writers. In some of the works, the writer agrees to tell their life story, while in others, the writer’s life sneaks to the surface, oozes around the “real” story of the book.

You will learn to read some tough theory carefully and critically; you will personalize the syllabus by choosing and adding in one memoir or autobiography you would like to read and study; you will do some of your own autobiographical writing to understand the stakes involved; and you will bring your own ideas to difficult questions like, “Are we allowed to evaluate literary quality when we are reading a life?” and “How do we ‘story’ our lives while living them?”

Jenny Pyke, Ph.D.  is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of English at Wake Forest University and has taught courses in 18th and 19th century British literature and culture, 20th century Scottish literature, and autobiography and memoir. Her research is concerned with artistic representations of feeling, particularly texts that present feeling and sympathy as overwhelming and ineffable. She has written articles about Charles Dickens’s relationship to taxidermy, about contemporary art and roadkill taxidermy, about cartography and map metaphors in modern Scottish novels, and about the emotional narratives of objects in film, as well as work for the Journal of Victorian Culture Online. Her current book project focuses on women in the world of 20th– and 21st-century rock music who are called “muses” but are all creators and collaborators themselves.


LBS 723 The Idea of India: Diversity and its Challenges

Consisting of more than 1.3 billion people, India is arguably one of the most diverse nations in the world. Over the course of more than 5,000 years of history, multiple ethnic, religious, cultural, and linguistic groups have made India their home, making Indian history and culture a rich tapestry. In its religious diversity, India is home to millions of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, and Jains, among others. The country’s founding figures, including Gandhi, Nehru, Azad, and Ambedkar, laid the basis of a secular democracy and the idea of India as diverse and inclusive—a perception that has not gone unchallenged. The diverse ways in which India—one of the oldest world civilizations and yet a young nation-state— has evolved and how persistently the idea of India has been contested, challenged, and strained is the focus of this course as a way to understand diversity and its challenges in a sense comparable to our own surroundings. Considering both in its theoretical formulations and political doings, this course explores the idea of India since the time of India’s freedom struggle to the rise of populism today.

Raisur Rahman, Ph.D.  is Associate Professor of History at Wake Forest University and has taught various courses on India and South Asia. He is the author of Locale, Everyday Islam, and Modernity: Qasbah Towns and Muslim Life in Colonial India (Oxford University Press, 2015) and the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Sayyid Ahmad Khan (Cambridge University Press, 2019), in addition to several articles in peer-reviewed journals. He is currently working on a book on the city of Bombay and its emergence as a diverse space.


LBS 725  Sports and Cinema

Usually sports and theater are seen as opposite ends of some entertainment spectacle but often these two disciplines overlap. This course is a study of what happens when that overlap occurs. What do artists learn from the discipline of sport? What can sports learn from the discipline of art? We will examine representations of athletes and sports through the lens of global cinema, in a deep study of gender, race, economy, class, and national and personal identity.

The course will consist of watching films, classroom, discussion, readings, and creative exercises. No prior knowledge of film studies or sports studies necessary.

Possible films for study (depending on availability): Rocky, The Blind Side, Next Goal Wins, Dangal, Raging Bull, Hoop Dreams, Bull Durham, The Wrestler, Ali, A League of Their Own, Field of Dreams, Murderball, He Got Game, Chariots of Fire, Moneyball, Concussion, Ford vs. Ferrari.

Woodrow Hood, Ph.D. joined WFU in 2011.  As a member of the performance faculty, he specializes in on-camera performance.  Previously, he served as Dean of the Shuford School of Performing Arts, Professor and Department Chair of Theatre Arts at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina. Dr. Hood has also served for many years on the North Carolina Theatre Conference Board of Directors and he is a member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference. His research interests include film studies, pop culture, Japanese theatre and film, performance art, and copyright law.



Contact Us

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