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    General Admission Contact
    The New School for Social Research
    Office of Admission
    79 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor
    New York, NY 10003
    212.229.5600 or 800.523.5411
    [email protected]

    Admission Liaison
    Samuel Yelton

    Committee on Liberal Studies
    6 East 16th Street, room 711A
    New York, NY 10003
    Tel: 212.229.2747 x3026
    Fax: 212.229.5473 

    Mailing Address
    79 Fifth Avenue, room 711A
    New York, NY 10003

    Chair
    Paul Kottman

    Secretary
    Silvana Alvarez Basto

    Student Advisor
    Quinn Mason

    Liberal Studies Student Handbook

  • Admission

  • Courses in the Department of Liberal Studies survey modern society through groundbreaking thinkers and significant developments in the arts, social history, cultural theory, politics, and philosophy. Students will enhance their own ideas through nonfiction writing and criticism, improving the clarity of their thinking and analytical construction.

  • Please consult the New School Course Catalog for a full list of courses. Fall 2022 courses include:

    CULTURAL CRITICISM, GLIB 5112
    Melissa Monroe, Part-Time Assistant Professor

    This course focuses on the elements that constitute a strong writing style and on how writers concerned with political and cultural issues use various structural and rhetorical techniques to entertain and outrage, provoke and inspire. We look closely at texts by a variety of cultural critics, including Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cathy Park Hong, Joseph Mitchell, George Orwell, Zadie Smith, Susan Sontag, and Virginia Woolf, focusing especially on the relation between form and content, analyzing the reasons authors make the stylistic choices they do and how these choices help determine readers' responses. We will also focus on putting these lessons into practice: Students write several essays, and we often look at samples of student writing in class. 

    TRANS THEORY AS GENDER THEORY, GLIB 5150
    McKenzie Wark, Professor, Culture and Media; Program Director, Gender Studies

    Trans people have a unique relation to gender in that they have experienced being two (or more) genders, whereas most cis people have only ever been one. So what if we took the accounts and theories about gender created by trans people as central to thinking the concept of gender in general, rather than as as a subtopic to feminist or queer theory referring only to a special case? We build on pioneering work in trans studies (Susan Stryker, Sandy Stone, Leslie Feinberg) as well as recent contributions (Paul Preciado, C. Riley Snorton) as ways of constructing alternative pathways into the research on gender and sexuality of more standard accounts (Eve Sedgewick, Judith Butler). It may turn out that some aspects of transsexual experience and thought do not fit neatly in accepted conceptual frameworks. Besides theoretical texts, we look at selected examples of trans literature, art, and media that may transcend existing theoretical categories and call for novel concepts. 

    THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD, GLIB 5542
    Paul Kottman, Professor of Comparative Literature and Chair of Liberal Studies

    The course presents an interpretation and an evaluation of the fate of modernity, as understood by some of the most influential thinkers of the past 250 years—and involving different currents in the arts, social history, cultural theory, politics, and philosophy. "Modernity" is understood here to entail such things as the emergence of the nation-state; ambitious claims for the authority of reason in human affairs; the increasing authority of the natural sciences; the advent of a discourse of natural or human rights; aesthetic modernism; capitalism and the free market; and globalization and social movements that take up new demands of mutuality, from feminism to the labor movement. Each of these issues will be addressed through readings of works by Hobbes, Rousseau, de Beauvoir, Du Bois and others—alongside consideration of a range of cultural products and social practices. 

    ENLIGHTENED EXCHANGES, GHIS 5829
    Gina Walker, Professor of Women's Studies 

    This course reads published, private, and inter-textual conversations between select male and female thinkers to recover and assess more accurately women’s participation in the project of Enlightenment. While most of these exchanges and conversations will have been between contemporaneous figures, we will also consider some that have gone on across centuries, like the conversations Italian Renaissance humanists conducted with their antique predecessors. Machiavelli returned home in the evening, changed his clothes, and conversed with ancient authors by reading their books.[1] We ask whether there were any texts by women on his list? Why is female epistemological authority always contested so that accounts of the past are either ignorant or dismissive of named women’s contributions? We consider female thinkers’ ideas in the context of traditional Intellectual History and their interactions with their male contemporaries and each other. We draw on new research about “Revolutionary Women” Phillis Wheatley (1753–1784), learned enslaved poet, and Suzanne Sanité Belair (1781–1802), a young free woman of color who became a lieutenant in Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture’s army, to interrogate women’s resistance to canonical knowledge-ordering systems and their proposals for alternative structures and actions. We examine the conflicts and convergences between women and men’s theological, epistemological, political, and affective understanding; women’s networks and misalliances; the new knowledge that femmes philosophes produced; and, consequently, the volatile public reception to Poullain de la Barre’s Cartesian argument that “the mind has no sex” and his promotion of “the equality of the sexes.” We interrogate individual men’s and women’s responses to the ongoing Slave Trade and the concept of Enslavement. We map the female texts that consider gender and race as inextricably interweaved, and men’s resistance to or acceptance of this premise and practice. We speculate about how sixty years of feminist historical recovery has or has not made done more than just “add women into conventional historical narratives and stir.” In our discussions and presentations, we model what Enlightened Exchanges could look like. Finally, we ask what might a knowledge-ordering system that includes a female dimension look like? We ask whether and how the inclusion of previously eclipsed women thinkers or people of various races and nationalities in a reconceived canon transform the nature and history of Western thought. The set of “enlightened exchanges” we will investigate can be understood as part of a project of redressing epistemic injustice, defined by the philosopher Miranda Fricker as “a wrong done specifically to someone in their capacity as a knower. One of the two types of epistemic injustice Fricker analyses, testimonial injustice, occurs where a speaker’s report is taken less seriously by its hearer because of a dimension of that speaker’s identity such as gender, race or class. The women thinkers in these enlightened exchanges have largely been victims of the testimonial injustice Fricker thematizes. Beyond this dimension, however, we believe that Western thought and society have been epistemically injured by the testimonial injustice shown to these thinkers: the canon and its contents have been distorted and impoverished through the systematic exclusion of women’s voices. We hope in this course to begin to correct some of the damage. 

    MYSTICISM, GLIB 6125
    Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy, and Eugene Thacker, Professor of Media Studies

    Mysticism is a strange object of study. It is deeply engaged with theological doctrines, but it always seems to depart from or undermine them—mysticism is as much about heresy as it is about orthodoxy. In its attempts to articulate religious experience in thought, mysticism also borrows heavily from philosophy, but what often results is a strange philosophy of contradictions, confessions, and enigmas. In its will to render “the mystical” discursively, mysticism develops an entire poetics which frequently results in a poetry that works against itself and brushes up against the limits of language. This seminar examines mysticism primarily in its historical context, through an engagement with the mystical texts and the strange status both this text and its context have in relation to philosophy, religion, poetry, and politics. While the seminar will focus primarily on mysticism in the Judeo-Christian tradition, it will also invite a comparative perspective (e.g., with Buddhist and Hindu mystic traditions) and an engagement with the unique challenges entailed in such an approach. Texts that may be included in the seminar include those by Augustine, Dionysius the Areopagite, Meister Eckhart, Marguerite Porete, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and others. Particular attention will be paid to the tradition of female mysticism. The seminar will also include selections from Pascal, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, as well as more modern selections from Georges Bataille, Jacques Lacan, Simone Weil, and E.M. Cioran.

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