MALS Program Works in Progress Presentation
The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program hosted the Works in Progress presentation on Wednesday, November 6 at the Hanover Inn. Fellow MALSians and faculty attended the event to support the four MA candidates who presented the research they have undertaken in their respective academic concentrations: Henry Paige (Cultural Studies), Karl Yaeger (Creative Writing), Ron Bucca (Globalization Studies), and Zach Williams (General Liberal Studies). The MALS program boasts students who have come to MALS with a variety of research interests and diverse academic and career backgrounds; these students help make the program itself more rich and well-rounded.
After teaching in Boston’s public school system for seven years, Paige joined MALS in the summer of 2012. MALS has served as a space for Paige to explore his love of Hip Hop and quest for knowledge. His thesis, “Radical Gangstas and Villainous Intellectuals” challenges popular misrepresentations of Hip Hop culture and the superficial understanding of Hip Hop as a genre. “Hip Hop,” Paige argues, “is a global and social movement.” Paige is currently exploring the dynamics of the genre in places like India, Australia, East Africa, China, and Japan to show that in spite of largely maintaining its American aesthetic, Hip Hop serves as a space for inter-cultural communication. Paige argues that although Hip Hop is often represented as violent and misogynistic, a deeper examination reveals that artists use it as a tool to re-appropriate the forces of oppression.
Karl Yaeger has been working under the guidance of Professor Barbara Kreiger to perfect a travel writing narrative based on his backpacking excursion through Europe during the fall and winter of 2011. “Travel is easily hyperbolized,” Yaeger said. Thus, his aim is to offer a fresh perspective on the genre of travel writing. Yaeger mentioned iconic writers from this genre who have inspired him, including: Jan Morris, Bill Bryson, Freya Stark, D.H. Lawrence, and MALS’s very own Christopher Wren. Yaeger, who regards himself as a “homebody” and a “reluctant traveler,” probes the pragmatics of finding oneself in the midst of foreign cultures and unfamiliar languages. His writing reflects not just on his personal travel experiences, but also on the broader nature of travel. “In the tech age,” Yaeger asks, “can anyone ever really get away?”
Ron Bucca is similarly concerned with the tech age, albeit in a vastly different context. His thesis, “Social Media and Revolution” examines the role of social media protest movements across the globe. Bucca uses historical and theoretical analyses to compare the French Revolution of 1789 with the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. He asks: What does social media do? Why does revolution occur? And how do people know that they are being treated unjustly? His research is an exercise in creativity to draw parallels between the influences of the printing press and newspapers in the French Revolution to the role of social media networks in the Egyptian Revolution. Bucca argues that on some level to participate in social media is to practice the ideals of democracy. He finds that increased information and participation within the political public sphere accelerates the formation of public opinion and revolution. As Bucca puts it, “Social media acts as a public microphone.”
Finally, Zach Williams has been working under the guidance of Professor Klaus Milich to explore the concept of patriotism. The idea of patriotism is both elusive and loaded. Williams’ thesis, “The Presidents’ Patriotism” is based on the premise that “patriotism” is an unstable idea with a multitude of meanings. He looks at presidential rhetoric and analyzes presidential speeches during five memorable presidencies: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan. These presidencies, Williams suggests, represent times during which patriotism was most visible and American identity was both questioned and redefined. In an age when presidential rhetoric is abundant, Williams’ research is a call for reflection on what it means to be patriotic and what it means to be American. According to Williams, “Ideas carry political power largely because people do not know how to define them.”
The success of the MALS Works in Progress would not have been possible without the tireless work of the candidates’ respective advisors: Donald Pease, Barbara Kreiger, Jack Shepherd, and Klaus Milich. Additional gratitude must go to MALS Alumni Association Vice President Lyn Lord, who first proposed the idea to hold Works in Progress sessions. It was certainly a night of eloquence and intellect, but more importantly, it was an opportunity for fellow students, faculty, and community members to engage and support the exciting research of the burgeoning scholars of MALS.
by Paola Ortega