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New School for Social Research Master of Arts Liberal Studies program theses

Identifier: NS-02-04-05


Collection consists of theses submitted by graduate students in the New School for Social Research's Master of Arts Liberal Studies program.


  • 1993-2022



1.95 Gigabytes (107 theses)

Language of Materials


Scope and Content of Collection

This collection consists of theses submitted as a requirement of graduation from the New School for Social Research's Master of Arts (MA) Liberal Studies program. All of the Liberal Studies theses held by the New School Archives are digital surrogates created by the Liberal Studies department from the original printed submissions. The original print theses have been retained in the Liberal Studies administrative office.

It is possible that not all theses submitted during a particular year are present in the collection, and no submissions for 1994 or 2013 are present. As of 2020, The New School Archives staff has not reconciled this guide's inventory with official graduation rosters. For confirmation of graduation, it is necessary to verify with the university's Office of the Registrar. Please alert The New School Archives to any inaccuracies. Additionally, this collection does not contain theses from the joint Parsons School of Design-Liberal Studies master's program in Architecture and Design Criticism.

Researchers should be aware that the Liberal Studies program situated within the New School for Social Research is a different entity from both the former Parsons School of Design Liberal Studies Department and the University Undergraduate Liberal Studies Curriculum.

While a variety of faculty members acted as thesis advisors, James (Jim) Miller is the thesis advisor most represented within the collection. Other frequent advisors include Jay Bernstein, Elzbieta Matynia, Melissa Monroe, Jed Perl, Dominic Pettman, and Vera Zolberg.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. One thesis is restricted to onsite access only.

Use Restrictions

In accordance with The New School's Intellectual Property Rights Policy, copyright is held by the author of each thesis. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the user.

Historical Note

The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies is an interdisciplinary humanities degree offered by the New School for Social Research, a graduate division within The New School in New York City. Founded by American intellectuals in 1919, The New School served as a hub for progressive academics fleeing totalitarian regimes abroad during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1933, The New School established the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science. Known as the “University in Exile,” the newly-founded institute offered courses and seminars in economics, philosophy, political science, psychology and sociology. In 2005, the Graduate Faculty assumed the name, New School for Social Research.

The MA in Liberal Studies (MALS) was inaugurated in the Fall of 1966 and was the first new degree program developed since the founding of the Graduate Faculty. Made possible through a grant from the Ford Foundation, the interdisciplinary program was conceived as an alternative approach to the departmental rigidity of traditional graduate education. Liberal Studies sought to bridge a broad study of the humanities with critical social science research. Psychology professor Joseph Greenbaum served as the chairman of the development committee, which also included Dean Norman Birnbaum and Professors Hans Jonas, Benjamin Nelson, and Adamantia Pollis. Described as “a latter day microcosm of the University in Exile,” students were encouraged to pursue their academic interests independently. The cornerstone course, a seminar on intellectual history, was designed by philosopher Richard McKeon and conducted by sociologist Benjamin Nelson, the chairman of the Committee on Liberal Studies until 1977. Among the first programs of its kind, the MA in Liberal Studies was intended as a pilot for other schools, including Wesleyan University, Georgetown University, and St. John’s College.

Unlike other advanced degree programs in the Graduate Faculty, Liberal Studies was developed for adult learners who were not seeking careers in academia, ranging from artists to business executives. The part-time program was completed over the course of three years and students were required to attend a weekly seminar, supplemented by independent study. The program initially offered only one academic concentration, in Philosophy and the Arts. Beginning in Fall of 1967, MALS introduced a second track in Psychology and Sociology. A concentration in Economics and Political Science premiered in Spring of 1968. In the interest of maximizing self-directed learning, students did not receive grades for any of their coursework. Degrees were granted upon the completion of a comprehensive examination at the end of the program.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, the Liberal Studies program underwent a series of restructurings, which included the implementation of a traditional grading system in 1979 and the replacement of the final examination with a required master’s project. The academic focus expanded to include communications, postmodern theory, and the emergent field of cultural studies, attracting more recent college graduates. In addition, the weekly seminar structure was replaced by two required courses, one on the history of modernity offered during the first semester of the program, and a writing skills workshop taken during the final year. Both courses are still required as of 2020.

In 1986, the Liberal Studies department established a separate program in Architecture and Design Criticism in cooperation with Parsons School of Design, which bridged critical theory with technical design strategies. This program was discontinued after the last student graduated in 1997. In 1992, the Committee on Liberal Studies developed two additional masters programs, in Social Science and Psychoanalytic Studies and in Social and Political Thought. Students were also offered the option to continue their studies at PhD programs within the Graduate Faculty.

Beginning in the late 1990’s, the Liberal Studies program increased its emphasis on the development of literary voice, inviting poets, journalists, and essayists to serve as visiting faculty members. This was considered unique, as most Liberal Studies departments combined cultural studies and intellectual history but did not include courses on technical writing. As of 2020, this remains a crucial aspect of the program. A number of distinguished scholars have held faculty positions in the department and sat on the Committee, including Slavoj Zizek, Christopher Hitchens, and Simon Critchley.


“Our History,” The New School,

The New School Bulletin collection, NS.03.01.02, The New School Archives, New York, NY.

Executive faculty meetings, 15 January 1964, 6 April 1966, Box 1, Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research minutes, The New School Archives, New York, NY.

Self-Study Report: New School for Social Research and Parsons School of Design, February 1981, NS010105_000007, Box 2 Folder 34-37, New School central administration collection, The New School Archives, New York,

The New School course catalog collection, NS.05.01.01, The New School Archives, New York, NY.

Organization and Arrangement

Theses are organized chronologically by year of completion, and within each year by student last name.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Theses dated between 1993 and 2019 were digitized from print copies and transferred as PDF files to The New School Archives by Jeff Feld, program administrator of Liberal Studies, in 2019. Feld stated that the department digitized all of the theses that were in the office at the time that he undertook the project and that none were omitted from the project.

Related Materials

The New School Archives holds a separate grouping of theses from the joint Parsons School of Design-Liberal Studies master's program. The Parsons School of Design MA Architecture and Design Criticism program theses (PC.02.04.01) consists of 11 theses by ten authors written between 1987 and 1995. Unlike the MA Liberal Studies program theses, the MA Architecture and Design Criticism program theses were never digitized and are only available in print format.

Processing Information

Historical note researched and written by New School Archives student employee Ray Self, 2020. Metadata for the collection -- student author names, thesis titles, advisor names -- was created and supplied to The New School Archives by the Liberal Studies office.

Guide to the New School for Social Research Master of Arts Liberal Studies program theses
Ray Self and New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
January 21, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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